Debra Lynn Dadd

Handling a Flea Infestation


We are seeking information on how to handle a flea infestation problem with also mites that were brought into the house from the yard on cats. We don't want to bomb or use toxic chemicals, but cleaning and removing furniture and carpet hasn't handled it. What do you recommend? A quick response would be appreciated, as it is overwhelming! Thanks!

POSTED BY P.K. AND C.L. :: UTAH USA :: 08/09/2005


Being a cat owner for many years, I've had to deal with the flea problem myself. Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy solution. It requires some vigilance and ongoing attention, but you can bring the fleas under control and keep them out of your house. It's best to make a plan and follow it, and make sure to do all the steps.

The Life Cycle of Fleas

In order to control fleas, you need to understand their life cycle. Fleas reproduce faster than bunnies--in one month, ten females can generate over 267,000 offspring. They are tough and tenacious and know how to survive, but you can outsmart them if you know how to do it.

When you see fleas on your cat they are in the adult stage. Their average life span is about 6 weeks. As an adult, the flea spends almost all of its time on your pet and will not leave voluntarily unless their population becomes excessively large, and then they will look for another animal to live on, which is usually the nearest human. Since an animal body is their natural environment, if you want them to leave you have to kill or remove them yourself.

A female flea can lay 20 to 28 eggs a day, which can multiply to several hundred eggs over her lifetime. The eggs fall off you cat and develop where they land, which could be anywhere your cat goes, including your carpet. your sofa, your bed, and even in cracks in wood floors and other small crevices. A larvae then hatches from the flea egg.

The larva forms a pupae and begins to grow. It can take from as few as 9 days to as long as 200 days for it to grow and for conditions to be ideal for it to hatch. They prefer the temperature to be between 65 and 80 degrees and the humidity 75 to 85 per cent. For some areas of the country this is all year, and in others, the flea season is relatively short. This is the stage that makes flea control difficult because the pupa is resistant to just about everything. Even if you kill all the adults, eggs and larvae, your flea infestation will return as the pupae begin to hatch.

Fleas emerge from the pupae as full-grown adults, who lay eggs and the cycle starts again.

You can estimate that for every adult flea found on your cat, there are about 10 developing fleas in her environment. So to entirely solve your flea problem, you must eliminate all stages of the flea life cycle on your pet, in your home, and in your garden. Even if you kill all the adult fleas, there are still flea larvae waiting to hatch, so they are sure to return unless you follow a maintenance system all season long.

The Easiest But Not the Best Solution

The easiest thing to do is to use one of the topical flea products that can be applied monthly. These stop fleas from biting in three to five minutes, and start killing fleas within an hour. Within 12-18 hours of initial application, 98-100 percent of all existing fleas on pets are dead. They also kill flea larvae and protect your cat from fleas for a full month before reapplication is required.

Sounds great, but these products have their problems. They are lauded for their safety and effectiveness by the pet industry, but their active ingredients are still pesticides, including Imidacloprid and Fipronil.

This is one of those situations where you need to decide for yourself the trade-off between having instant relief from fleas for yourself and your cat but using a product that is more toxic to you, your pet, and other critters in the environment, or taking the longer and more time-consuming route and handling fleas for good using natural methods.

Rather than choosing one or the other, if you have an immediate infestation it might be best to get immediate relief and then use the natural methods to prevent an infestation from recurring. Biting and scratching can be just as harmful to health as the toxicity of the product, if not more. Fleas can also cause allergy dermatitis in some cats and may be carriers of diseases. But I wouldn't rely on applying these products to my cat for the rest of her life. Only in an emergency. But perhaps not even then. One dog owner almost lost his pet after using a topical flea product.

Ultimately the question becomes "What will result in the greatest good?"--for your cat, for yourself, for your family, and for all life. Only you can weigh the pros and cons and make that determination.

Remove Fleas From Your Cat

Since your cat is where the fleas like to live, the first step is to remove them from her body.

Use a flea comb daily. If you suspect your pet has fleas, go to the pet store immediately and get a flea comb. They come in all sizes and have teeth that are very close together to trap the fleas. When you use a flea comb, you remove both the adult fleas and any larvae and eggs that are still on your pet. Because new eggs may be hatching continuously, you'll need to comb your pet daily to catch new fleas and break the life cycle. Just run the comb through your cat's fur, and drop the fleas that remain on the comb into a bowl of soapy water flush the water down the toilet when you are through. Even if your cat doesn't have fleas, it's good to have a flea comb on hand anyway. Cats like to be combed and if you comb her regularly, you can catch fleas and begin to control them before they begin to multiply.

Bathe your cat weekly. Fleas prefer unhealthy, sour-smelling, dirty animals, so you can prevent their presence by keeping your pet clean. Most cats are fastidious and will keep themselves clean anyway, but if she doesn't you need to step in and help her. Fleas may also be a sign that your pet is ill and needs attention. For her bath, you can use an herbal shampoo with flea-killing and –repelling properties, however, fleas will die if they are simply immersed in the soap from sudsing up your cat, so you can use any shampoo that is safe for cats.

Apply a natural flea repellant. Between baths you should treat your cat with a herbal flea powder. The easiest thing to do is simply rub ground cloves, eucalyptus oil, or strong wormwood tea purchase wormwood leaves at a natural food store directly into your cat's fur. Or purchase an herbal flea powder that contains wormwood, rosemary, bay, mint, lavender, lemongrass and rue. You may need to apply the powder every day or two during flea season. The powders seem to work better than herbal flea collars because the repellant is more evenly distributed throughout the fur where the fleas are. You can also use citrus oil to repel fleas.

  1. Place 4 cut lemons in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  2. Cool and strain the liquid, and store in a glass container.
  3. Apply the liquid liberally to your cat's fur while brushing her coat, so the citrus oil penetrates all the way down to her skin.
  4. Dry your cat with towels and brush again.

Establish one regular sleeping area for your pet. Fleas tend to accumulate where animals sleep, so establishing one sleeping area will make it easier for you to collect them. Also, if your cat likes to sleep on your bed like ours does! establishing a separate sleeping area will keep fleas out of your bed. Choose an area that can be cleaned easily and regularly. Bedding materials such as blankets or rugs should be removed and washed frequently.

Remove Fleas From Your Home

Use a natural flea spray. A friend of mine, who recently had a bad flea infestation in her home, used Bioganic Crawling Insect Killer and said it completely handled the problem. In her case, fleas were living in the cracks between tiles in the bathroom, so a spray such as this can get into such tiny crevices.

Bake fleas out of your house. This is the quickest way I know of to destroy fleas. They can't live above about 80 degrees, so you only have to heat your house to about 90 degrees to ensure that you will kill them. Remove children, plants and pets, close up your house, and turn up the heat to the highest setting. Go on an outing for the day; when you return, the fleas will be dead.

Use a dehumidifier. This will reduce the humidity in your home to a level where fleas can’t survive. Get the humidity down to less than 70 percent, the fleas will leave and you’ll be more comfortable, too.

Vacuum frequently. At least several times a week, and daily if necessary. Use a strong canister-type machine, and vacuum all areas to which your cat has access. Use a crevice tool for corners and out-of-the-way places and vacuum thoroughly—not just carpets, but hard floors, upholstered furniture, and pillows. Seal the vacuum bag in a plastic bag immediately, and discard it away from the house. Severe flea infestations may require an initial shampooing or steam cleaning of rugs and upholstered furniture. And, as drastic as this may sound, to completely solve a flea problem, you may need to remove wall-to-wall carpeting altogether.

Apply repellants. Natural pyrethrum powders are very effective and can be used safely indoors. Apply powder on floors, along baseboards, under pet sleeping areas. Use pyrethrum indoors only, as it breaks down quickly and harmlessly when exposed to sunlight. You can also use repellant essential oil such as lavender, citronella, pine, rose, and others. Sprinkle two ounces of oil over two quarts of rock salt. Let the salt sit to absorb the oil, then sprinkle it under dressers, couches and rugs, and in other areas that don’t move a lot. You can also mix any of these oils with water in a spray bottle and spray infested areas. These will not kill fleas, but will make the environment less inviting.

Block entrances to the house. Close off pathways fleas can use to get inside, Make sure that any doors and windows that are usually left open have secure screens.

Remove Fleas From Your Garden

If your cat is an outdoor cat, there may be flea larvae in your garden soil. To kill them, look for beneficial nematode products that, when applied to the soil, will specifically control flea larvae. In addition, nematodes will control many other types of pests that have part of their life cycle in the soil. Check with your local nursery for appropriate products.

Keep Your Cat Healthy

This really is the cornerstone of long-term flea control. Healthy cats don’t have flea problems. Only animals that are sick or weak will have trouble with fleas. I learned this from a dog breeder, and she showed me her animals as proof.

When a cat is healthy, it does not "taste" or "smell" good to the fleas and therefore will not attract them. If your cat does get fleas, take it as a sign that something is out of balance--their diet needs to be changed, or hygiene improved. Simply using a product to get rid of fleas--whether toxic or natural--might cause you to overlook nature’s signal that something is amiss.

Debra :-)


I have another solution to flea problems--that is, a preventive solution--keep your cat away from fleas. Our cats are indoor cats, and haven't once contracted fleas. For cat-people who are also wildlife enthusiasts, this is really the best long-term option. Visit for way more information on the ecological and health benefits of keeping a cat indoors.

Also, I was a bit concerned about some of the ingredients listed in your natural flea repellants, and the effect on a cat's mental and physicl well-being about being rubbed down with them. Some of the herbs you mention, like rosemary, cloves, mint, lavender, lemongrass, and especially rue, are themselves considered cat repellents! Usually, anything with very strong aromatic oils is quite off-putting to cats. In Desmond Morris' "Catwatching" he describes his cat's reaction to a bit of rue rubbed between his fingers. The cat hisses, leaps backwards, and won't come near him for the rest of the day!

Have you used these on your own cats with no such ill effects? I know different cats react differently to strong smells, but mine hate it when I have rosemary on my fingers from cooking with it.

Anyway, keep up the fun newsletters! I always read the FAQ!


Actually, I haven't used any of these herbs on my cat. These are just the commonly recommended herbs, so I'm happy to have your comments. If anyone else has experience with these herbs, I would love to hear it.

Our cat is an outdoor cat and we haven't had a flea problem since not living in a house with carpet. She doesn't like to stay inside. While I personally have observed that cats can and will attack, kill, and eat wild birds--as noted on the website your recommended--I'd rather that cat owners take responsibility for their cats and their behavior, rather than make it law that cats should be kept indoors or on a leash. I tried putting a leash on a cat once and will never repeat that experience. We let our own cat come and go as she pleases and she does not attack the birds. I do believe that cats and their owners can communicate telepathically. We have told our cats that we want her to leave the birds alone and she does.

I've said this before, but would just like to repeat that many years ago I met a dog breeder who raised very beautiful borzois. She told me that fleas will not live on healthy animals and proved it by showing me her dogs. So the best solution to flea problems may simply be to maintain good health.



I love your site with all the great information and recipes and your daily quotes !!!

I found a great website for PETS:

They do sell products for pets but mostly they give advice on how to keep your pet heality, or return your pet to health, even when the vet has given up hope.

Their website says: "for forty-five years, the Pet Medicine Chest's Professionals have solved thousands and thousands of pet health problems...Pet Medicine Chest has incorporated centuries of proven natural remedies, thousands of years of folk lore, and the wonders of modern scientific technology into solving pet health issues...The Pet Medicine Chest is the first company in America to master the art of all natural herbal health remedies for pets of all species, all ages and all breeds."

I have e-mailed them about problems with my senior cats and was amazed that they kindly responded in 2 days.

They write wonderful articles about pet health which I find very interesting.

I would love to hear your comments on the pet site.

They did cover flea problems and were not in favor of the poison collars.

I hope this helps someone.

Thank you,


COMMENT FROM DEBRA: Thanks for letting us know about this, Marianne. It looks like a great resource!



I got two cats from a friend, where they had been barn cats and I didn't realize they came with fleas. How I got rid of them was with the help of the All In One Flea Remedy from - this gave me an alternative to giving my cats baths as I could rub this natural powder into their skin and also into my furniture. With that and persistent vacuuming for 6 weeks it did the trick.


POSTED BY KELLY :: HAMTRAMCK, MI USA :: 11/22/2006 2:24 PM

I once lived in an area of Southeast VA close to the beach. Neighbors told me that some years they had a problem with "sand fleas" and that they could come in on visitors; shoes.

I had 2 longhaired cats who constantly scratched at the first outbreak, and I tried in vain to rid us of the fleas with all kinds of sprays, etc. Finally bathing them seemed to end the invasion, BUT the fleas that survived took up residence in the carpets. Somehow we got through the first invasion.

Came the next and it was really bad. This time my poor cats had no rest and I had bites to my knees that never stopped itching. I was more desperate than the cats! Then someone told me what to do and it worked better than any of us expected.
I bought a large box of laundry Borax and 'broadcast' it over the carpeting & overstuffed furniture in the rooms. Then I put on my sneakers and 'skated' over the carpet so the Borax would go deep into the carpet fibers until I couldn't see any residue on the surface. An hour later we had few flea bites. Next day we had none. It was supposed to last 3 months, but after 2 years, I repeated the procedure, just in case. It never recurred, no matter how many san flea invasions neighbors had. It was so good to see my cats at peace and relaxed.

Supposedly, it works by dehydrating the adult fleas and the newly hatched ones. I know it sounds inhumane, but it came down to them or us! I paid $3 and change for the Borax and never saw another flea, while I saw ads for flea extermination for $100 guaranteed for 1 year. But when I used it, I wasn't very aware about green living. My cats didn't have any but positive reactions, and it didn't damage or fade the carpets.
So, Debra, do you know if that remedy harms animals or humans or environment?

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: I've been recommending Twenty Mule Team Borax for years and know of no harm to health or the environment. I've even been to the borax museum out in the desert in California where they mine it. Interesting place.

POSTED BY DORIAN :: NEW JERSEY USA :: 11/22/2006 2:40 PM

I just want to share that you should never use the lemon rinse on cats. It is toxic to them. This coming from my natural vet and several written sources. It is fine for dogs though.

POSTED BY SADIE :: HAWAII USA :: 11/29/2006 5:28 AM

I had a serious flea problem, 12 years ago. I got a new puppy, and he was really suffering from the flea invasion. I used traps, and combed him a couple of times a day. I also used a bit of diatomaceous earth on the carpet. I also applied beneficial nematodes to the lawn. Finally, the flea problem came to an end. I use the beneficial nematodes on the lawn, every couple of years. We have not had a flea problem since, and I do not have to do anything else to deal with fleas.

POSTED BY DONNIE :: MICHIGAN USA :: 12/09/2006 7:06 AM


While searching for information on how to prevent flea bites on my pet, I ran across your Q& A Page.

On it, you say that fleas cannot live above 80 degrees.

I beg to differ. I do not know where you live but I can tell you that here in Texas and "The South" Fleas LOVE THE HEAT!

They do not survive well in the cold weather here in Texas but come out as temperatures rise. We frequently have over 100º days here and fleas abound.

They are attracted to the heat so that is why the trick of luring them to a light bulb and water beneath works to kill them ( but is not very effective for a major infestation but is only a "fun" science project)

I hope that you will reexamine your page on fleas and edit this info. Having been bitten several times by fleas myself and even attacked by them when housesitting for a family, I would hate for anyone to be misled by this information.

POSTED BY PROPTART :: TEXAS USA :: 04/14/2008 2:53 PM

Hello Everyone,

I just wanted to post my experience with fleas and my cat.

I have scoured the internet to find a natural remedy that would take care of fleas as I don't like to use Advantage which is so far the only thing that works and works fast but it makes my cat very uncomfortable in some way too. However, my cat is getting older and when I give her the dose, something makes her sick....very uncomfortable, she runs to hide, and obviously is freaking out quietly. I don't like this at all.

So, Last week she was acting weird, tired, meditative too much more than usual, and breathing a little heavier and scratching alot. I have noticed that when she gets fleas she acts this is not just scratching and itching she feels but an illness which is clear in her behavior. Because this is so uncomfortable for her I want to alleviate her discomfort and illness combined.

I combed her with the flea comb and found fleas...the source of both her itch and ill feelings. I've read about all the natural remedies and tried most but they don't work....Advantage works, but makes her sick and scared for some reason. Knowing she is ill and not knowing how Advantage makes her feel makes me also not want to use it.

So I decided to do 'my own' thing until I found something works. And what I did was comb her repeatedly as thoroughly as I could to remove all fleas possible, and she loves this...then I put about 15 drops of pure Grapefruit Seed Extract into her brush, and brush her from her head down....fleas seem to group around her head area....she loves all this grooming. Now she is taken care of as best as I can and I go to her food and water. I put about an ounce of colloidal silver in her drinking water to boost her immune system, since she is obviously not just scratchy and itchy but weak and ill in some way. And in her food I added an open cap of Kroeger Herbs "Wormwood Combination" for humans, into her food with a small amount of fresh chopped garlic. She ate this strange combination and wasn't crazy about the garlic but this made her drink alot of water which was good!

Within 24 hours, she was scratching less, sleeping more and much less uncomfortable as she was the past 2 weeks. I keep combing her to remove the fleas and they are less and less....and she is definitely more relaxed and peaceful.

This makes me happy....and she loves me more for this as she knows I did something for her. This one time treatment seemed to have done the job amazingly because as I keep combing her every few hours, there are less and less fleas, until I only come up with one...but more importantly, she is relaxed, and peaceful and sleeping more....and her body seemed to have strengthened and become stronger...since I noticed she was feeling too soft and weak before. I am amazed that this worked and I am typing all this in case anyone else may want a natural that treats the 'attack' on all levels....and this worked. Blessings of health to all....Serena.

POSTED BY SERENA :: FLORIDA USA :: 03/09/2009 9:33 PM

I had the same excellent results with plain old table salt instead of borax...basically, the salt and borax work the same way, they dehydrate the flea by cracking open the carapace...and I'm the same way, if it's them or me, it's them. We ended up with a flea festation by dogsitting a friend's dog while they moved in. We were fortunate that it was only one room as there were hardwoods all around that carpeted room. I washed my son's bedding in the hottest water possible and dried it the same way and had to throw out the pillows and get new ones. We did it several times over a couple of weeks to get their life cycle. Vacuumed thoroughly and threw away the bag outside the house. I wish I had known about this years ago when we lived in Tx.

Another alternative is to move somewhere cold in the winter ;D We've been here 7 years last week and no fleas, even with foxes running through the back yard and a stable across the way.

POSTED BY SUSAN :: COLORADO USA :: 03/16/2009 2:44 PM

We moved into a small cottage with wall to wall carpeting everywhere except for the 4' x 8' "kitchen" and the tiny bathroom (which would get earthworms on the floor when it rained, but that's another story).

The people before us had animals, and so the carpet had famished fleas that multiplied. We didn't want to use poison and at first we were wishful, but as the days went by, we couldn't stand it. So, while we were researching, we started vacuuming everything about 3 times a day.

It worked. We never had to apply anything. The fleas were gone after some days and they never came back.

POSTED BY KATHY :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 04/20/2009 10:20 AM

We had an awful year last year when our Jack Russell terrier as well as our 3 cats brought fleas into our basement. It's a long story, but working in a natural food store, I was not about to use anything toxic on them or on their bedding or surroundings. I tried many many things at great cost!

Please go to the Organix-South website and read about neem oil. I can put the oil on the pets as well as give them Supercritical CO2 Extract of neem internally. The site also tells out to make a spray with the oil. It has worked wonders on ridding the basement of fleas as well as healed the skin of some very bitten pets. Our dog was practically naked as she just scratched herself constantly. The neem truly worked miracles with no ill effects for the pets or me. The oil is great for many purposes.

I am currently also testing black seed oil which can be used on pets as a flea and tick repellent. It is good for the skin of pets and humans. The smell of both oils is not particularly pleasant at first, but it is a lot more pleasant than having a house full of fleas. Fortunately, the pets don't mind either one. . .even when it is sprayed on their bedding.


This is to Debra and Serena in Florida who posted about how she treated her cat with fleas. You mentiond adding chopped fresh garlic to her food, and I have heard before that garlic can be a natural flea nd tick repellant, however, my vet told me that onions and garlic are TOXIC to cats. I was advised that I should never give them garlic in any form. I wonder if this is true. What do you two know about this? Thanks.

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: Thanks for this correction. You are indeed correct. This is verified by many vets all over the web. And there are other foods you should not feed your cat: list of foods that are toxic to cats.

POSTED BY LAURA :: MISSOURI USA :: 04/29/2009 7:33 AM

I have used the Twenty Mule Team Borax in my own home in the past and a friend of mine has used it as well and it does work. You must also vacuum frequently. Be sure and vacuum all the furniture carpets etc. and change the vacuum bags frequently too.


I'd not heard lemon baths are toxic to cats, as they are not at the concentration of essential oils (which are toxic). As far as I've read, flower essences are safe, which I believe are the same concentration level as are infusions. Lemon baths aren't even that, I don't think, as one doesn't boil the water, but I may be wrong. That said, eucalyptus oil is considered toxic by many, as are all other essential oils. As with others, I've used salt and vacuuming. That works better if you have a carpet. (I have concrete floors.) I've used food-grade diatomaceous earth when things really got bad, but it's very hard on human lungs, not to mention cats'. (You can feel it almost right away.) Finally, my MD/homeopath told me about black walnut leaves. I put some out in big tea balls all over and the fleas left.


For killing fleas ON dogs or cats (but does not repell them more that 24 hours later, nor does it kill them in the environment), CAPSTAR tablets (Nitenpryam) when fed to the animal, kills all the adult fleas on them within a few hours. I am a Ph.D. biochemist, and I have Chemical Sensitivities, and so I researched Capstar and found that it has very very low toxicity - it is not in the usual classes of pesticides, which I consider not an option. It is in the chemical class of neonicotinoids. Capstar can be given to puppies, kittens, pregnant or nursing animals, etc, with seemingly no short or long term affects. I would never use pyrethrins, Program, Advantage, or Frontline, but I give my dogs Capstar whenever the fleas start accumulating - about once every 3 weeks. They say it is safe to give even more frequently. Lowest price I have found is $22. for 6 tablets. With frequent sweeping or vacuuming, washing the towel on top of my dogs' bedding twice a week, and the fact that I have no carpets at all, my three dogs, which spend half their time inside and half outside, are kept comfortable.


I share the concern expressed by one or two others that several of the herbs mentioned for treating/bathing cats are toxic to them. In addition, essential oils should never be used on or near cats as they contain terpenes, which a cat's unique physiology cannot metabolize. They are subject to both liver and lung toxicity if regularly exposed. I have firsthand experience with this, but you can also go to the website, which was founded and is operated by the author of an excellent recently published book on holistic care for cats. She has done tons of research over many years. There are recommendations for safe and natural flea prevention there and on the accompanying bulletin board. Do not assume that herbs or essential oils that are safe for humans and even for dogs are also safe for cats. Your cat's life could literally depend on this.


I wanted to ask some questions about using salt for flea control in my home. I seem to have gotten fleas although I have no animals.

So far I have been vacuming every other dayand throwing away the bag. I have mcs so I think salt is about all I could use. So: How long do you leave it on befor you vacumn. How often? And I assume it would take a few weeks. Is it dusty like some of the other things? Do you use a lot? Is it just for the carpet or do you use it on the kitchen and bathroom floor too?

I'd really appreciate any input.

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: My educated guess is that the flea would encounter the salt and dry up from contact. I would probably put the salt in places you don't walk, like under chairs and beds, and leave it there for a week or so, then vacuum, and then put down new salt. Salt isn't dusty and you could use it on any kind of floor.

POSTED BY MM :: PENNSYLVANIA USA :: 10/16/2009 1:07 PM

Warm--hot temperatures DO NOT BOTHER FLEAS. If they did, we could certainly get rid of them easier here in the South. Fleas actually seem to thrive in hot climates. I comb my cats as often as I can to cut down on the fleas. Normally, I never find a flea anywhere except on my cats.


Hi, I would like to mention DE. To use food grade (only) diatomaceous earth can really control the fleas. I have two dogs and five cats. Well I noticed that one of the dogs had fleas this past week. She is a collie and long haired, but I do keep up with her. I put DE on all the animals (it is non toxic to cats) and it got rid of the fleas, I did not see any on the cats. A couple of days later I bathed my dog-which I do about every week or so and have not found any more. I did not vacuum for about a week so that the DE could get into the cracks in the floor that the vacuum might miss. The floor looks a little dusty but I can live with that if I can get rid of the fleas without chemicals.


One quick warning about DE. It's pretty safe, especially as compared to chemical flea products, but be careful your animal doesn't have the opportunity to inhale it, as it can be hazardous to the lungs.



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