We look forward to the warmer times of the year since that often means time spent by the pool, backyard barbeques and longer days. Unfortunately, it is also the time when many outdoor invaders find their ways into homes. From ants on our counters to mosquitoes in the yard, insects are often a big problem in the warm spring and summer months.
It’s easy to pick up a can of bug spray and zap the pesky critters, but what do you do when you have pets around? What if you have a new puppy or suddenly start seeing roaches or rodents? Instead of reaching for the poisons or bug bombs, there are some great pet-friendly alternatives that will help keep you and your family (including the four-legged members) pest-free this summer.
What is Pet-Friendly Pest Control?
Pesticides are especially hazardous to pets for a variety of reasons. Animals are more likely to be on the ground where many pesticides are applied or where residue may remain after a fogger or other application. Our furry family members frequently lick their paws and fur, meaning that they can consume anything applied topically. Unlike people, your cat or dog may not recognize something like a roach motel as poisonous or otherwise dangerous. Because our pets are smaller than humans, much less poison can cause harm to their systems.
Since many pests are experts at hiding, some homeowners use total release foggers, otherwise known as bug bombs, to deliver pesticide to a large area at one time. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends taking preventative measures to keep pests out of your home before resorting to other measures. Some ways you can prevent pests from getting inside are to remove food sources and fix leaks around your home. Keep problematic insects and other animals out by removing nesting areas and breeding sites in your yard, which means keeping your grass neat and tidy and free of leaf litter, firewood and plant debris.
The EPA advises homeowners to use bug bombs carefully to avoid a fire, explosions or health risks to your family and pets. If you use a fogger to treat pests in your home, make sure your pets and family are out of the area you are treated for as long as the label recommends, which is usually two to four hours. Leave adequate time to air out your home, and set up bombs at least six feet away from gas or appliances. Avoid using more foggers than you need, as this increases the chance your pets and family could be impacted by the more concentrated amount of chemicals that the product will release.
Now that we’ve talked about dangers to Fido and Fluffy from foggers, what happens if your pets are infested with fleas?
Treating Pets for Fleas
When Fido and Fluffy get itchy from fleas, you want to find an option that’s pet-friendly to keep them from suffering.
The first way to prevent a flea infestation is to keep your dogs and cats groomed and bathed. There are non-toxic pet shampoos that kill fleas, or you can even try a diluted solution of Dawn dishwashing detergent on your dog. Leave the shampoo on for at least three to five minutes to kill the fleas. For cats, a good alternative to bathing is using a flea comb, which can remove fleas from the cat’s fur. Keep a container of soapy water handy to drown the fleas as you remove them.
You can keep flea populations down with regular vacuuming and by laundering pet bedding. Vacuuming and laundering not only removes fleas, but can get rid of eggs, which are a big part of controlling a flea’s life-cycle. Flea traps can also help. These devices employ an incandescent light bulb that attracts fleas, which then get caught on the sticky surfaces within the trap.
Around the home and garden, when pets aren’t present, you can sprinkle boric acid, borax or diatomaceous earth around baseboards and on carpeting and bedding to control fleas. Wait several hours for these products to work and then vacuum them up. These chemicals dehydrate fleas and can act as a stomach poison, but these products are far less toxic than commercial pesticides. Even so, be careful not to breathe in the dust when you are applying these powders, as too much can cause respiratory issues in humans and pets.
Finally, some pets owners have luck using products containing cedar (shampoos, cedar oil, topical sprays and cedar-filled sleeping mats) for repelling both fleas and other insects, such as biting flies.
Pet-Friendly Insect Control in the Home and Garden
Although fleas might bother your pets the most, many homeowners would argue that the most annoying insect pests in the summertime are mosquitoes. These bloodsuckers seem to work overtime to ruin our cookouts, pool parties and other outdoor activities.
To control mosquitoes, the single most important thing you can do that won’t impact your pets is to drain all standing water sources. Change birdbaths, wading pools and your pet’s water bowl regularly to address possible breeding areas. Remove yard items such as planters, tires or buckets that may collect water. For ponds and birdbaths, you can purchase biological controls such as mosquito dunks that will prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the water, but are otherwise non-toxic to pets and wildlife.
In addition to dealing with standing water, keeping your lawn mowed and controlling tall weeds will reduce your mosquito problems. Encouraging birds and bats to visit your yard, with bird feeders, bird houses, bird baths and bat houses, can also help reduce your mosquito and other insect issues.
If you still have mosquitoes after all of your preventative measures, don’t give up! Burn citronella candles or torches to repel the insects from your porch or patio. Small amounts of cedar oil, citronella oil or lavender oil on cotton balls tucked into your patio furniture will help banish flies and mosquitoes from your next picnic.
For troublesome flying insects, especially bees and wasps, rather than reaching for toxic bug sprays that kill these pollinating insects, try a homemade repellent. A mix of water and dish soap (Dawn is biodegradable and nontoxic), a few drops of peppermint oil and ⅛ teaspoon each of cinnamon and cayenne will work just fine. Put this solution in a spray bottle and spray your porch, doors frames windowsills to repel the insects.
If your home is overrun by ants seeking food or water this summer, try adding a few drops of orange or peppermint oil to a spray bottle with water. Wiping down kitchen and bathroom counters with this homemade spray will kill and repel ants while remaining nontoxic to your pets.
ABC Practices Pet-Friendly Pest Control
The best way to practice pet-friendly pest control is by taking steps to prevent pests from entering your property in the first place. ABC Home & Commercial Services has been working for decades to help pet owners address pest problems while keeping furry friends healthy. By listening to your needs and creating a pest control plan that’s customized for your home, ABC can help you get rid of what’s bugging you and what insects and other creatures might be bothering your furry family members.