Think you can forgo flea and tick treatment for cats? Think again! Your cat is a target for both fleas and ticks even if their only experience with the great outdoors is watching it through the window. “You go outside, so there is a small chance that you could bring in an infestation to your pet. So to be safe, it’s best to just protect cats in general,” says Dr. Carly Fox, DVM, staff doctor in emergency and critical care at the Animal Medical Center in New York City.
Once they’re inside the house, these pests will make a beeline to your cat, latching on to feed and reproduce. Not only are they a nuisance, but fleas and ticks can cause serious health issues in cats, like anemia. But that’s not all. Some cats are allergic to flea saliva, becoming so itchy that they run the risk of injuring themselves from scratching and chewing the site of the bite.
And don’t think this is just a warm-weather problem. Fleas and ticks have no problem surviving the winter months as long as the temperatures don’t dip below freezing. So, if you live in temperate climates (and that’s most of us now, thanks to climate change), you’ll want year-round protection.
Before you start looking, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind that can make the decision of what to use on your cat much easier.
What to Know Before You Buy
- Your vet’s suggestions: You really want to discuss your options with your pet’s veterinarian, says Dr. Fox. That way you can better ensure it’s the safest choice for your cat. So, for example, if you’re thinking about a cat flea collar, see if your vet has any suggestions—some collars contain ingredients that are toxic, even lethal, for cats.
- Your cat’s age: Many products specify that your pet should be at least 8 weeks old before you start any kind of tick and flea control for cats. Products meant for older cats can be harmful to young kittens.
- Your cat’s health: Some products can make health problems worse. “If your pet has known beef or chicken allergy—which is rare, but definitely can happen in cats—then an oral tablet might not be the right way to go because those are all usually based in beef or chicken,” says Dr. Fox. On the flip side, if your fur baby has sensitive skin or asthma, you might want to avoid a topical product that might irritate their skin and their respiratory system even more, she adds.
- Your cat’s weight: “The biggest toxicities that I see as an emergency clinician all have to do with administering a product that’s meant for a larger animal to a smaller animal,” Dr. Fox says. This is another reason why it’s good to go with a vet-recommended flea treatment for your cat.
- What pest is being targeted: Ideally, you want a product that kills both fleas and ticks. But there are some products that just treat for fleas, especially those that are made for cats, says Dr. Fox. So, don’t make any assumptions and read the label.
- Your cat’s personality and habits: Some cats are easier-going than others, and some are much more finicky. If giving a pill to your feline is your definition of torture, no matter how cleverly you disguise it, then it makes sense to stay away from oral tablets and go for a topical treatment or cat flea collars instead. If your cat is an indoor-outdoor cat, you might want to think about putting a flea and tick collar on them for added protection, Dr. Fox suggests.
- Your own personal preferences: Yes, your needs count too when you’re choosing the best flea and tick treatment for your cat. You’ll want to consider cost of course. And how easy it is to apply the product to your cat—topicals can get messy and, if you don’t apply them correctly, may not work as well as a tablet. Also, some products last longer than others, so if memory is not your strong suit, you might opt for treatments that last for several months. And if you have very young children, you may want to stay away from a cat flea collar. Little kids can take the collar off and stick in in their mouth.
Ready to shop? Let us guide you to the perfect pick for your cat.
Oral Flea and Tick Treatments for Cats
It’s not always easy to pill a cat, but if yours takes to tablets, then they are a simple solution to pest control. You just open the package and give your pet the pill. And most are so tasty you don’t have to disguise them. Some kill fleas while others prevent them, too. If your cat already has fleas, consider Capstar Flea Tablets for Cats, which is formulated to start to kill these pests in 30 minutes. To kill and prevent fleas from coming back, try a good monthly preventative like Comfortis Chewable Tablets (you’ll need a prescription from your vet for this treatment).
Perfect for: Most cats, especially those who need treatment right away or need a reliable and easy-to-use monthly preventative
Topical Flea and Tick Treatments for Cats
Topical treatments come in a tube. You apply it by parting the fur on our cat’s neck and squeezing the liquid onto the skin. OTC topicals, like Advantage II Flea Treatment for Cats, are a great option for people who can’t get to a vet for routine care, says Dr. Fox. Prescription topical treatments usually target more pests than just fleas. For instance, Revolution Topical Solution for Cats protects against heartworm as well as ear mites, hookworms and roundworms. (Just be aware that your pet has to have had a negative heartworm test before you give them this topical.)
Perfect for: Cats who don’t have respiratory or skin allergies or who hate taking oral meds
Sometimes the best flea treatment for cats are these prescription-only medications that kill more than one type of pest. Most combo medications kill and prevent fleas and ticks and prevent other parasites too and even last longer than regular treatments, like Bravecto Plus Topical Solution for Cats. Besides fleas and ticks, this topical prevents heartworm, roundworms and hookworms—and it lasts for two months, which is a plus!
Perfect for: Most cats, especially those who go outdoors or have canine housemates who can bring in ticks
Cat Flea and Tick Collars
Looking for long-lasting pest protection that you don’t have to think about? Then look no further than cat flea and tick collars. You simply attach the collar snugly around your cat’s neck and the flea-and-tick killing ingredients get released slowly into your pet’s body. The Seresto Flea & Tick Prevention Collar works for eight months—and it has a safety release in case your feline gets their head stuck in a tight place and is in danger of choking.
Perfect for: Most cats, especially those who go outdoors or live with other animals
Flea Shampoo for Cats
Cats hate baths, but sometimes you have no choice—especially when it comes to flea control for cats. These special shampoos can kill fleas when you’re unable to get an oral treatment or need to wash off the dead and dying fleas (and flea dirt) from your kitty. Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor has the added advantage of being able to kill ticks and lice, too—plus, it has such soothing ingredients as coconut, oatmeal and aloe so it’s ideal for pets with sensitive skins. Just lather your cat up, work it in for 3-5 minutes and thoroughly rinse them off, and they’ll be left pest-free and sweet-smelling.
Perfect for: Most cats, especially those with sensitive skin
Flea Combs for Cats and Other Tools
Tools are good to have on hand if you spot fleas or ticks on your pet, even if your furball is on a vet-recommended flea treatment for cats. And even if you’ve given your pet a flea bath, the shampoo doesn’t always kill the sticky flea eggs. “Then you have to comb them out,” says Dr. Fox, who adds that flea combs for cats, like the fine-tooth, easy-to-grasp Hartz Groomer’s Best Flea Comb for Dogs and Cats, are good diagnostic tools—you run the comb through your cat’s fur and it will pick up adult fleas, eggs and flea dirt (aka flea poop). If you need to remove a tick and don’t want to use your own tweezers, try a tool like ZenPet Tick Tornado.
Perfect for: Most cats (and dogs too), especially younger ones who aren’t on pest-prevention yet.
House and Yard Treatments
You might be diligent when it comes to giving your cat vet-recommended flea treatments, but that effort should also extend to your home and yard. “Practicing good hygiene to prevent those things from getting out of control in your environment is always a good idea,” Dr. Fox notes, which means vacuuming carpet and furniture inside the house and washing your and your pet’s beddings on a regular basis. Also consider spraying your yard and patio with special pest-killing solutions, like Vet’s Best Flea + Tick Yard and Kennel Spray. Even if your kitty never goes out, feral cats, raccoons, and other critters visiting your yard can have fleas and ticks, making it easier for you to carry these bugs into the house.
Perfect for: Anyone who owns pets and has a patio or yard
Preventing and treating fleas and ticks on cats usually involves a multi-pronged approach. Be sure you talk to your vet to make sure you pick the best method for your fur baby.