When fleas attack: Flee!

For about two years in college I lived with my friend Will. His Dad had purchased a house adjacent to campus as an investment and many of us rented rooms in it over my years at Wooster. It was a great investment for him I guess, and it’s actually now a part of the college campus. During the summer between the first and second years in the house, Will rented it out to some folks, a couple of whom were friends of ours. These friends agreed to take care of the cats of other folks who had headed home for the summer, so the house ended up with a large cat population. In the latter half of the summer the folks living in the house decided to make a road trip to the west coast. They couldn’t figure out what to do about the cats, so the geniuses bought several huge bags of cat litter and dumped them into what had been the coal room in the basement of the house. They then bought the largest sack of dry catfood they could find and slit it open and left it laying in the middle of the kitchen. Then they split for the west coast.

Will and I knew none of this when we showed up a couple of days before classes were to start to settle into the house. We opened the house and gods, the stench! Dust bunnies, dry cat food, and hairballs were all over the kitchen, and aside from the cat food, scattered through the rest of the house. The worst though was the basement, which was so rank it was hard to go into it without gagging on the smell. Meanwhile there were no cats to be seen.

Needless to say, we were pissed. We spent hours shoveling the ugly mess in the basement into bags, vacuuming, wiping up dried cat yuck, and mopping out the kitchen. During this we both noticed there were fleas around but it was all part of the broader mess and we didn’t think much of it. After a couple of hours we finished a first pass on the house and went out to pickup a pizza. When we got back we settled into the living room with some beer and the pie.

What happened next was mind blowing. Within 5-10 minutes of settling into the couch we were both attacked by hordes of ravenous fleas. I’m not talking dozens or hundreds, I’m talking hundreds of thousands of the little bastards. We both were starting to frantically scratch ourselves and while so doing I pulled down my sock and my ankle was literally black with fleas, it was astounding. We ended up running from the house in a frenzy to escape, out in the backyard scratching and spraying ourselves down with a hose. We both feared to reenter the house. I ended up staying with my Aunt and Uncle. I can’t remember where Will headed off to.

It took us weeks to completely purge that house of fleas. We had to go through several rounds of bug bombing which required us to abandon the house for a day then return to vacuum and scrub.

As to why they all suddenly attacked, all I can do is speculate. We had been in motion for the rest of the time in the house, so maybe the fact that we were finally still for a while gave them the chance to all beat a leaping path to us. Or maybe the couch was the locus of the infestation. I don’t really know. As to our friends and the state of the house, basically no one would fess up. When they got back and discovered how pissed off we were it turned into a finger pointing game with no one willing to admit they were responsible.

Meanwhile, not that I was ever a fan, but MAN do I loathe fleas after that experience.

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