How to Repel Roaches Without Harming Dogs (and Other Pets)

 |  Aug 4th 2011  |   12 Contributions


Roaches are an unpleasant part of life, but if you live with dogs, your goal should be to avoid toxic pesticides at home. Just say no to the exterminator: According to the ASPCA, every year thousands of pets suffer and many die due to accidental ingestion of household poisons, especially insecticides.

There are plug-in roach repellents, such as Riddex, but I have found they don't work nearly as well as their hype says they do. Following folk wisdom, I've tried sprinkling bay leaves in the corners of my cabinets as a deterrent; but the leaves are just no match for tough urban roaches.

You can clean like a demon and bathe your dogs every single day, but keeping immaculate pets in a spotless home simply isn't enough to repel roaches. In fact, you can clean all day long and still have roaches, because these creepy-crawlies are attracted by odors - the smells of dog food, dog bedding, your bedding, your laundry. And in the good ol' summertime, all those odors are magnified and made more pungent by high temperatures.

Happily, there are non-toxic alternatives to conventional cockroach control.

The most effective weapon in the anti-roach arsenal is diatomaceous earth, available for sale online. This white powder consists of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It's completely harmless to pets and people, as long asyou buy the food-grade kind (please do not use diatomaceous earth made for use in swimming pools). In fact, food-grade diatomaceous earth may be safely eaten by pets to fight internal parasites;it's also effective at repelling mosquitos, fleas, and even ticksif rubbed into an animal's coat.

Here's how it works: The microscopic particles in the powder actually cut up an insect's waxy exoskeleton, effectively dessicating them. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth (also known as diatom flour) wherever you've noticed roaches. It's especially effective if placed behind kitchen appliances and inside cabinets. No need to use gloves - it's perfectly safe to handle.

Don't be discouraged if at first you seem to notice more roaches then before; for about a week after treating a roach-infested area with diatomaceous earth, you'll actually see more of the crawling nasties. That's because, as the diatomaceous earth works to dessicate them, the dehydrating bugs will be actively on the move, hunting for water.

If you live withcats, diatomaceous earth is also an excellent way to extend the life of kitty litter. As any cat person knows, littertends to poop outin high-humidity weather conditions; as it becomes damp and soggy, it stops absorbing odors and doesn't clump as effectively. But diatomaceous earth's naturally dessicating property helps cut down on odors by working to keep cat droppings dry.

Speaking of cats, another way to deter roaches is catnip. Yes, believe it or not, kitty's favorite herb is a natural roach repellent! The active ingredient in it is nepetalactone, which is non-toxic to people and pets. Simply pinpoint where the roaches are meeting up at your place, and leave out small sachets of catnip (or brand-new catnip toys designed for cats, such as these cute ones by Harry Barker, pictured.) Obviously, if you live with cats, this method won't work because Kitty will get busy relocating those catnip toys before they can deter any roaches!

Roaches happen to gravitate to high places, such as the tops of kitchen cabinets or shelving. Break out your ladder and put boric acid up there; the roaches will take the powder with them back to their nests. However, boric acid is harmful to dogs and people if ingested, so keep it far away from kids and pets. If your cat, say, can access the space between your cabinetry and your ceiling, do not use boric acid - use only diatomaceous earth instead.

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