a big fluffy cat

Q. I’d like to relate my experience with 20 Mule Team Borax, which my vet suggested after I had problems with pesticides. He said I’d drop dead if I kept using flea sprays, as I’m extra sensitive to such things.

My indoor kitten came from the pound absolutely loaded with fleas. I put Borax on the carpet and carefully vacuumed it up. It worked beautifully and I haven’t had to do the Borax treatment again. I very rarely find a flea on my cat even though outdoor cats come near her on the screen porch. The powder did not make her sick, nor did it make my bronchitis flare up, so I’m sold on 20 Mule Team Borax.

A. Thanks for your story. We have heard from many readers who wanted to know whether Borax was really toxic to cats, as they read in our column. To say we are confused would be putting it mildly. Borax is sodium borate, which is not the same as boric acid. Boric acid is used as a pesticide, while borax is not. (This is not meant to dispute your report that 20-Mule Team Borax got rid of your kitten’s fleas.)

Boric acid can be used for flea control but it should only be used in areas that cats or small children will not come into direct contact with it. Here is a story from another reader of our newspaper column:

“I just finished reading your column about using borax for flea control. Let me tell you what happened with our cat. Our 15-year-old Siamese started having seizures. Tests revealed a tumor in the brain. Surgery was successful and she is now doing well.

“When the tissue was sent for analysis at the pathology lab they had trouble figuring out the exact components of the specimen. Further study revealed it was a granulomatous tumor caused by inhaling boric acid.

“We had used a well-known commercial product on our carpet to control fleas. Needless to say, we will never use boric acid again.”

Another reader recommended spreading borax on the carpet and carefully vacuuming it up. The residue was supposed to solve a flea problem. Regular, even daily, vacuuming (with or without borax) can be an excellent way to get rid of fleas. The vacuum cleaner bag should be removed from the house immediately after each cleaning so that the fleas do not escape. Diatomaceaous earth can also be used for flea control, but it too should be applied where the cat cannot get to it and breathe it in. A veterinary pharmacist has told us that any powder can be a problem if a cat inhales it regularly. Some exterminators use sodium polyborate, which probably should not be applied where the cat can be in direct contact with it.

After all this, the bottom line seems to be that you should always check with your vet to determine the safest flea control method for your pet!

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  1. Ben

    The testimonial sighted in the initial response deserves skepticism:
    “…When the tissue was sent for analysis at the pathology lab they had trouble figuring out the exact components of the specimen. Further study revealed it was a granulomatous tumor caused by inhaling boric acid…”
    ‘Further study’ is highly unlikely to be able to conclude definitively what caused a tumor.
    Beyond that the entire premise is unlikely. Why are they sending a non-metastasized tumor that was totally resected to the pathology lab for investigation?
    Even if it were sent, if the results were initially inconclusive, why would anyone be so driven to solve this mystery as to continue? Who is footing the exorbitant bill that doesn’t really help at all?
    Borax and boric acid have very low toxicity with ld50 around a gram per kilogram or more. These are certainly far safer options for you and your pets than usual persistent toxic pesticides.

  2. chris

    as seen on you tube, set a sheet pan of water on floor where investigation is at. add a couple drops of dish soap to break water tension and yer flea problem will be gone.

    • Randy
      New Jersey

      I felt I had to address the owner of the 15 year old Siamese cat.
      Firstly, how soon after and how much of the more toxic Boric acid, as opposed to the Borax, was used did these seizures begin? A brain tumor takes time, usually MONTHS to form, is I highly doubt that borax would have anything to do with the brain tumor if you took any kind of precautions, but it seems you are oblivious to the word “Precaution” since you mixed up boric acid and Borax.

      It is much more likely that the tumor had been developing long before you tried to poison your 15 (fifteen) year old cat from other environmental conditions she had to endure living under your watchful eye.

  3. Nanette

    I live in Florida & have & always had many animals. 9 indoor cats to date. At one point my home & animals were really flea infested. Heavy bombing & nothing else tried worked. I was recommended to use Borax in the carpet.

    I sprinkled the borax in, but actually removed my anumals from the home, swept it into the carpet with a broom. I used a bandana, as not to breath in the dust, because it went everywhere. I made sure the dust settled realy good, then brought my animals back in.

    This ine time treatment with Borax did the trick. I am getting ready to do the same thing & also wash my cats in vinager & dishsoap (dawn) as this works to attrack & kill nats etc. I will research the use of this prior though.

    • Theresa

      Nanette, I am so confused by what unread on here. Use dawn, don’ t use. Use vinegar, don’t use. Same with borax. I have been sick, and this whole mess started at the vet for 1 of my cats. He just needed check up…i feel stupid.

      So I would like to ask you, that I have 4 cats, I’ve been vacuuming. Can’t do furniture and carpet and wipe down walls every thing that has been suggested. Not all in one day. So I vacuum and put borax down? Then how long to wait to vacuum? Can I do one or two rooms one dsy, then do rest on next day?

      Like I said, apartment usually spotless. I get sick, can’t do All my work in one day….and this happens. And 1 cat is allergic. Been to vet. If they walk on it. Will it be alright? Sorry for all the questions….thank you

      • Pita

        My vet told me to wash my kitten with Dawn dish soap

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