Get on and Shine with Holly Honeychurch

Get on and Shine with Holly Honeychurch

The Life Cycle of a Flea

Recently I’ve found housesitting more challenging than ever before. Partly because I’m ready to settle down, have my own place, make my own rules. But partly because I end up in some houses where the people are absoluely nuts. I wrote this a few months back. I went a bit nuts too at this one. So much so that I was left in a great deal of pain. I’m fine now. And I learnt lots of lessons too….Mainly about standing up for myself and trusting my instinct.

This is a subject I never wanted to be proficient in. But here I am. All researched. Slightly squeamish. And realising that each person in this life has a different standard of living.

My reaction to fleas is understandable. In Australia I ended up with over 60 bites all over my body after moving into a house with a cat who had fleas. It was a wake up call. Australian fleas seemed more ferocious too. Or at least left me scratching like a crazy woman. A chemical bombing of the house was necessary. I stayed away 2 days and then went back and cleared up the leftovers. It wasn’t pretty.

So arriving at this housesit and realising that each cat was dropping hundreds of flea eggs each day, every time they scratched and walked anywhere, began to do me a major concern.

These cats were supposed to have had protection. You know, that super poisonous liquid that goes onto their neck, then into their blood and affects the fleas in all kinds of ways. I used to think it was too extreme. I preferred natural protectors using herbs and spices. But right now, when I’m battling to keep a flea population from exploding, I’m gonna go with the poison for quick results. Sorry cattos.

But I can’t. Because apparently they’ve been treated. So why are they still itching. All. day. long?

And then emotion hits me. Disbelief, shivers, ‘heebie jeebies’, past trauma, survival mode, confusion. And anger! So much repressed anger. Because we’ve ended up staying in a hive of vermin. Because this isn’t a new problem. I see the signs. There are seats and stools with blankets on them, covering up flea eggs and dirt underneath. And the worst feeling ever when I lift up the main sofa blanket to discover wriggling larvae all over the seat cushion. All kept warm by our lovely body heat each night. Until they were discovered anyway.

This is a wealthy housesit. Things appear tidy (neurotically tidy). And neat. And expensive. But underneath the facade there are problems. Too much ocd. Too much control. Attention focused in the wrong places. These poor cats scratch so much. They’re dropping eggs everywhere. Why isn’t this being addressed?

So we address it ourselves. And deep clean the whole house. For free. While they’re off galavanting the globe. I float in and out of anger. Dancing helps pacify me. I’m cross. In my British sort of way, which means fuming privately and being polite in public. Damn I wish I were more outspoken sometimes. This is a bad sit. This is the kind of sit that makes me want to stop altogether.

We keep in contact with the owner about all this. We’d rather not have to. They’re on holiday. But there are some things that can’t be left unsaid. We want to educate. Gently. So we inform them of the facts. I hope we say enough and in the right way to effect long term change. ie try a different flea repellant for a start!

Through close observation of the space gradually we see more and more eggs. All over the rooms where the cats go. In cracks, in corners, on surfaces, behind sofas, on chairs, cushions, tables. There’s a white rug in here too. Prime territory for flea eggs. In one area, where a cat brushes by each day, hundreds of eggs have dropped down onto the hard floor surrounded flea dirt for the larvae to feed on when they hatch. The bowl of infested pot pourri is definitely out of here. The place is covered. We sweep an area and see hundreds of white iridescent eggs in the dustpan. They’re beautiful things. But unwelcome.

I’m angry because I feel the situation is unfair. I expect a certain standard of living as a housesitter. Fleas on cats isn’t one of them. I’m told to pick the fleas off with a comb and kill them. Every house cat has a few fleas apparently. Not the ones I’ve lived with. And it’s the lack of treatment to end the cycle which is so frustrating.

So we’re hoovering. Lots. And sometimes spraying insecticide. Hideous stuff. But effective when you’re feeling desperate. And keeping the cats contained for the time being. One room. Their room. A nice airy room. And outside. It feels safer that way.

While all this happening, I’m getting messages from the person. Not about how we are. But how our efforts are progressing with the cat choosing to live outdoors. Are we managing to get her back into the house again and onto our laps? You know, the cat who scratches all day and is full of fleas. That one. Oh fine. We’re really happy to sit down with her on our laps while she sheds eggs and dirt onto our clothes. Yes, that’s all going really well. 😳

Being a full time housesitter is a serious business. We’re having to be meticulous about not transferring eggs onto our clothes and into our suitcases. Another reason to feel cross with this housesit.

If I could leave right now I would. I want to protect myself. I want to run.

But I have to stay. And look after. And stay lighthearted. And keep hoovering. And keep things in perspective. And dance.

One more week. Then freedom. It’ll taste delicious.