It's that time of the year...the birds are nesting, the fleas are flea-ing, the ticks are tocking, and people are asking for my homemade anti-pest spray recipe. I'm so organized (not) that I always have to search the 'net to find it - but here it is once more.

cougarSeveral people have asked if I would share my recipe for a homemade anti-pest/grooming spray for dogs and horses. May they live to regret it.

My original recipe was half apple cider vinegar and half Listerine mixed in a spray bottle. For the latter, I use generic amber-mouthwash from any "Dollar Store," or both from a discount grocery store. Then I got the brilliant idea that adding a large dash of baby oil would assist in making a good grooming spray for horses and dogs. (The scientific discovery process awes me and I realize this is how Madame Curie probably started.) You don't want to use that or any of the following on a cat, since they lick themselves (including in locations that embarrass us), or you will have a Tom-Sawyer-giving-the-cat-castor-oil experience.

Eventually, I heard about the anti-pest properties of Avon "Skin-So-Soft" bath oil and added a couple of ounces of that to the mixture. True, it includes a few chemical names I don't recognize (be glad I'm not your pharmacist), but it also includes carrot-seed oil. I have a "to-do" list that dates back to 1973; I am so impressed that a company has time to squeeze oil from itty, bitty carrot seeds. I am even more impressed that unassuming carrots can scare insects.

We all know about the anti-pest properties of citronella oil and I found 10 oz. bottles of pure citronella oil through a mail-order equine supply house. Later, I discovered a citronella-based equine fly spray at the local farm supply by "Bronco" (sale price, usually under $6), and simply divided that among four spray bottles.

Then I found at my local pharmacy half-ounce bottles of essential oils for about $1.10 a bottle, including peppermint, spearmint, wintergreen, lemon, and orange, and thought, "Why not?!" A little of this, a little of that (somebody at the FDA just fainted).

In the cold winter months, I stick to the vinegar/fake Listerine/couple of oils enough to make a dog smell good recipe. (You can also thoroughly spray the dog, rub him all over with an old towel, and it makes a good dry-bath spray.) In the warmer months, I use the whole arsenal.

I have a horse, "Cynnamon," and I use the spray on her daily; I spray my dogs with it two or three times a week (you don't want to get it in their eyes, so spray your hand and wipe some on the animal's face and ears, and don't spray anything located under a tail). I've noticed that even on hikes with my dogs, insects do a "Matrix-Reloaded-dance-fight" to get out of our way. Before I ride my horse, I spray her and my clothes. My horse is a former dressage champion, not a cow pony, and she sees imaginary cougars in every tree, ready to pounce. A sweaty, prancing horse who rears and jumps creeks would normally be the ultimate attractant for biting flies the size of barn owls. However, if we ever pass you on a trail, among the first things you'd notice is how pest-free we are. The next thing you'd notice is that your eyes are watering. (I understand ... there are few things more beautiful than the sight of a frightened man clinging to a horse - symmetry in motion.)

I know that some scientific smart-aleck is going to write and ask if my spray recipe has been subjected to a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. And I will reply, "Dear Scientific Smart-Aleck. No, it has not. I have at least ten loads of pet laundry to do this weekend. But thank you for writing and good luck paying off your student loans by working at a convenience store."

I'll admit, in a country where morbidly obese people sue fast food restaurants for making them morbidly obese, I am hesitant to share any of my homemade concoctions. If my spray takes the hair off your pig, don't waste time trying to sue me - about all you are going to get is a bunch of animals to care for and some of them are cranky (they think that just because I can walk into a room and make light appear, I am also responsible for the weather).

I have shared my spray recipe with a few people and they tell me it works. The best testimonial of all would come directly from my horse. In all these years of using the spray on her and me, we have NEVER been pounced on by a cougar.

©Copyright Jim Willis 2003

Jim's book "PIECES OF MY HEART - Writings Inspired by Animals and Nature" benefits animal rescue efforts. For samples, info on fundraising and to download "HOW COULD YOU?":, or click here to order through
**Some of the most important things in life are not "things"! Please use personal pronouns (not "it") when referring to animals.**


A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure

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