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!