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
Topical Flea and Tick Treatments for Cats
Cat Flea and Tick Collars
Flea Shampoo for Cats
Flea Spray for Cats
Flea Combs for Cats and Other Tools
House and Yard Treatments
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.