9 Best Cat Flea and Tick Treatments

By: Monica WeymouthUpdated:

best flea treatment for cats
Chewy Studios

Famously clean and self-grooming, cats aren’t commonly associated with fleas and ticks. After all, unlike their canine counterparts, our feline friends are more likely to spend their afternoons napping on sunny windowsills, not romping through leaf piles at the park. However, cats—even those who never venture outdoors—aren’t immune to contracting these pesky pests, and they should be on a cat flea and tick treatment.

"It’s a common misconception that indoor cats do not require flea and tick prevention," says Dr. Bethany Hsia, DVM, a California-based veterinarian and co-founder of CodaPet. "Indoor cats can still be at risk for fleas and ticks, as they can be brought into the home on clothing, shoes or other animals. It is still important to protect your cat from these parasites."

Tiny as they may be, fleas and ticks can cause significant health issues, from inflamed skin and hair loss to more serious conditions, including anemia and Lyme disease—so prevention is key. Fortunately, there are plenty of high-quality cat flea and tick treatments on the market, and effective options for every cat (yes, even that cat).

Types of Cat Flea and Tick Treatments

Each type of cat flea and tick treatment has pros and cons. Consider this your handy cheat sheet.

Topical Treatments

Applied directly to the skin, topical products—also known as “spot-on treatments”—are applied directly on the cat’s skin, typically between the shoulder blades to prevent licking or scratching. Available over-the-counter and by prescription, topicals are absorbed into the cat’s skin. They typically kill adult fleas, flea eggs and flea larvae as well as ticks. Some also protect against mites, hookworms and roundworms. “Topical treatments are convenient and easy to apply, making them a popular choice among pet owners,” says Dr. Hsia. “They provide about a month of protection against fleas and ticks.”

Best for: Cats who don’t like taking medications orally; multi-pest protection; and killing fleas, flea eggs and larvae

Oral Flea Treatments

If your pet isn’t picky about pills, oral cat flea treatments can be a great alternative to topicals. “Oral treatments come in the form of chews or tablets, and are ideal for cats who dislike topical treatments or have skin sensitivities,” says Dr. Hsia. Oral treatments are absorbed into the bloodstream, killing fleas and ticks after they bite your pet. Some oral medications, such as Capstar, begin working within 30 minutes, making them ideal for cats who already have fleas.

Best for: Cats with skin allergies; cats with active flea infestations; and cats who easily take oral medication

Flea Collars

Although not typically used as a first-line of defense against parasites, flea collars can be effective for cats who need added protection, such as cats with outdoor access. “Flea collars are most effective when used in combination with other prevention methods, such as topical treatments or oral medications,” says Dr. Hsia. Collars typically offer longer-term protection (up to eight months) and kill fleas and ticks on contact, as well as repel them.

When choosing a flea collar, look for one that is specifically designed for cats and provides protection against both fleas and ticks, Dr. Hsia says. “Additionally, ensure that the collar fits properly and is not too tight or loose around your cat’s neck,” she adds. (The general rule is you should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and your pet’s neck.)

Best for: Cats who need extra parasite prevention; cats with outdoor access; and pet parents who want longer-term coverage

Flea Shampoo for Cats

Bathing a cat probably wasn’t on your pet-parent Bingo card, but flea shampoos can be effective pest problem-solvers. These formulas typically kill fleas on contact, making them ideal for pets with active fleas; many also contain skin-soothing ingredients. “Rinse your cat thoroughly to ensure all shampoo residue is removed from their fur, and monitor your cat for any signs of irritation or adverse reactions,” Dr. Hsia says.

Best for: Cats who actively have fleas; cats who tolerate baths

Flea Spray for Cats

Flea sprays are applied to a cat’s coat, killing adult fleas and ticks on contact. Sprays can be great fast-acting solutions for cats who won’t happily bathe or accept an oral medication, and can be effective for up to 30 days (although some formulas need to be applied more often). However, they aren’t ideal for cats with skin allergies, and some pets might not tolerate being sprayed.

Best for: Cats with flea infestations; cats who don’t tolerate baths or oral medications

How to Find the Best Cat Flea and Tick Treatment

Overwhelmed by the amount of cat flea and tick treatments? It’s understandable! There’s no shortage of flea and tick control products on the market, and not every product is right for every pet.

So, where to start? Before beginning any treatment, have a conversation with your veterinarian, who can help you select a medication that suits your concerns and your cat’s needs. Together, you’ll consider the following:

  • Your cat’s age: If your cat is very young or very old, conventional treatments may not be appropriate. Most flea and tick medications are unsafe for kittens under 8 weeks, and senior animals with certain health conditions may need special consideration.
  • Your cat’s health: Some health conditions will influence which type of prevention you choose for your cat. Some cats with food allergies cannot tolerate the flavoring in chewable tablets, while cats with sensitive skin may need to avoid topical treatments.
  • Your cat’s weight: Flea and tick medications are dosed by weight, so be sure to select the appropriate dosage for your pet. (Important: Never use your dog’s medication for your cat. Even if your pets are similar weights, some dog medications contain ingredients that could be toxic to cats.)
  • The target pest: While most dog treatments target fleas and ticks, some cat treatments only address fleas. Read the label carefully to ensure it kills the correct parasites.
  • Your cat’s personality: Consider which flea products your cat will best tolerate. Are they likely to eat a chewable? Can they tolerate wearing a flea collar? Will they rub the topical gel right off? Does the phrase “flea bath” seem reasonable, or ridiculous?
  • Your lifestyle: You’ll also want to take your household into consideration. For example, if you have young children, topical gels or collars might be too tempting for curious little hands.

How to Get Rid of Fleas and Ticks on Your Cat

Is your feline friend hosting some unwelcome guests? If so, you’ll want to get rid of the current flea infestation as well as prevent another one from recurring. This requires a multistep approach:

  • Comb your cat with a flea comb, starting at the head and working your way to the tail. Place the removed fleas in a bowl of isopropyl alcohol to kill them.
  • Bathe your cat with a flea shampoo after using the flea comb. If you’ve never bathed a cat, consult our expert guide. (Still not confident? Leave it to the professionals, and book an appointment with your groomer or veterinarian; don’t risk injuring your cat or yourself.)
  • Use a year-round flea and tick preventive treatment and stick to the schedule. If you’ve lapsed on regular treatments, now is your time to get back on board!

Flea-free is the way to be! For more tips and tricks, check out this step-by-step guide.

How to Get Rid of Fleas and Ticks From Your Yard and Home

Now for the bad news: If your cat has fleas, it’s likely that your home and yard has fleas as well. To get rid of them for good and prevent a reinfestation, consider the following:

  • Washing all bedding in hot, soapy water
  • Vacuuming rugs, carpets and upholstery frequently, using a flea spray as necessary
  • Vacuuming hard surfaces frequently, concentrating on areas near food bowls, litter boxes and pet beds
  • Treating your yard with flea spray or hiring a pest management company

For more tips on flea prevention in the home, consult our down-and-dirty cleaning guide.

How We Chose These Products

Fleas and ticks prevent cats (and cat owners!) from living their happiest, healthiest lives. That’s why we rounded up these best-of-the-best products, as chosen by satisfied Chewy customers. Backed by thousands of ratings and reviews, these bestellers have proven themselves to be effective, trusted tools in keeping kitties comfortable.

Talk to Your Veterinarian

Every cat is an individual, so every cat responds to fleas, ticks and treatments differently. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health, medications or side effects, work with your veterinarian  to devise a personalized plan for your one-of-a-kind feline.

Cat Flea and Tick Treatment FAQs

Q: What are the symptoms of fleas and ticks on cats?

A: Signs of fleas include intense itching, scratching and biting; changes in behavior; hair loss; excessive grooming; and, in severe cases, pale gums. Signs of ticks include licking, chewing and biting at the area; inflamed skin and/or scabs; hair loss; and, in the case of tick-borne illnesses, lethargy and lack of appetite.

Q: What instantly kills fleas and ticks on cats?

A: Flea shampoos and flea sprays kill fleas and ticks on contact. You can also use a flea comb to find and kill fleas instantly. Some chewable treatments, such as Capstar, kick in quickly, killing fleas in as little as 30 minutes.

Q: How does flea and tick medicine work?

A: Topical treatments are absorbed through the cat’s skin, killing fleas and ticks on contact. Oral preventives are swallowed and absorbed into the cat’s bloodstream; adult fleas and ticks die after biting the cat and ingesting the pesticide.

Q: Are there home remedies to treat and prevent fleas and ticks?

A: There are some home remedies—including Dawn dish soap, lemon, apple cider vinegar and baking soda—that may help to kill or temporarily repel fleas and ticks. However, even natural flea treatments can irritate the skin or cause serious health problems if used incorrectly. Consult your veterinarian before trying any home remedies.

Flea and Tick Control: Next Steps

There’s no denying it: Fleas and ticks are major buggers. Fortunately, with a little know-how and the right products, you can keep the bugs at bay and ensure your cat is happy, healthy and comfy. Have an itchy cat and aren’t sure whether pests are to blame? Learn more about what signs to look for that would indicate a flea infestation.


Expert input provided by Dr. Bethany Hsia, DVM, a California-based veterinarian and co-founder of CodaPet.