Flea treatments are an important part of your cat’s health.
Fleas are biting insects that can leap over two feet in the air and travel from body to body, drinking blood from their hosts in order to survive and reproduce. These insects, along with ticks, lice, and biting flies, can irritate your pet’s skin and cause not only discomfort, but also some potentially harmful infections or diseases.
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Most animals are allergic to the saliva that fleas produce, which causes their skin to have a reaction similar to the one that occurs when a human or animal is bitten by a mosquito.
Flea treatments for cats work to kill the active fleas that are hiding in and under their fur, as well as to kill any larvae or eggs that may be present. Most treatments protect your cat from fleas for a month at a time, stopping the spread of fleas they already have and preventing new populations from forming. These treatments are available as pills, tablets, topical applications, collars, shampoos, and dips.
We have compiled a list of the top ten best flea treatments for cats available now, so you can find the one that is right for you and your cat.
1. Advantage II Flea Control Large Cat
Advantage II Flea Control for Large Cats is designed to protect cats over nine pounds from fleas. It kills 98-100% of fleas within twelve hours of applying the topical ointment, and lasts for a month between doses. Fleas are killed before they can lay their eggs, meaning that it nips the flea population in the bud as soon as possible. This particular package comes with enough medication to keep your pet safe for an entire year.
2. Cheristin for Cats Flea Treatment
Cheristin for Cats promises 100% elimination of fleas within twelve hours of application. The applicator is specially formulated to be easy to use and gentle on your cat, making for a much quicker and more efficient application process. Each dose protects your cat for a month, and the box includes enough doses for half the year.
3. Vectra for Cats
Vectra for Cats kills fleas in every stage of life, from adult fleas to their eggs, larvae, and pupae. The formula is quick-acting, killing fleas in under six hours. It also dries quickly after its topical application, meaning that your cat has less of a chance of rubbing off on the furniture (or his or her owner). Vectra for Cats can be used on cats as young as eight weeks old, and can protect them from parasites like tapeworms that can be transmitted via flea bites.
4. Program Green for Cats
Unlike the previous entries on this list, Program is administered orally once a month. The formula renders flea eggs sterile, so that they are unable to hatch and spread a new population of fleas within and beneath your cat’s fur. This treatment works best if your cat takes it with food, so it doesn’t upset his or her stomach.
5. Frontline Flea and Tick Treatment Dog/Cat Spray
Frontline’s flea and tick treatment is safe for both cats and dogs. You can spray it directly onto your cat (or dog) to kill fleas quickly and efficiently, with a treatment that lasts up to a month between sprays. Frontline’s formula kills fleas and ticks before they can lay eggs, so once the adult fleas are gone, there will be no subsequent re-infestation. This treatment is approved for cats and kittens over eight weeks of age.
6. Catego Flea and Tick Control
Catego Flea and Tick Control is made specifically for cats. Its long-lasting formula kills ticks in under six hours, and keeps your cat safe from new fleas for up to thirty days. It also protects your cat from ticks ad chewing lice with a combination of potent ingredients like Dinotefuran, Fipronil, and Pyriproxyfen. It is dispensed with an easy-to-administer topical application, with your choice of three or six applications per box.
7. Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Gentle-Mist Spray
Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Gentle-Mist Spray is a greener alternative to its chemical-based competitors. Vet’s Best’s formula uses natural essential oils and plant-based extracts to protect your cat from fleas and ticks without exposing them to harsh chemicals that can be toxic to your furry friend. It has a pleasant smell as well, but don’t let that fool you – this flea treatment is strong enough to repel not just fleas and ticks, but mosquitoes as well.
8. SENTRY Capguard
Sentry Capguard comes in an easy-to-administer tablet form that your cat can eat like a treat. The tablet contains Nitenpyram, the same highly recommended ingredient found in other, more expensive, vet-prescribed flea treatments. One tablet is enough to take care of an entire flea infestation, and starts working within thirty minutes of consumption. Sentry Capguard is a less-messy alternative to topical applications, which can easily rub off on hands or fabrics.
9. Advecta II Flea Treatment
Advecta II Flea Treatment is another lower-cost alternative to the more expensive flea treatments for cats. Containing the same active ingredients as Advantage II, this topically applied formula is just as effective, but better for your budget. It interrupts the life cycle of fleas, killing them at all of their four stages of life and bringing a quick end to their infestation. Fleas are eliminated after just twelve hours, and this package provides enough medication to keep kitty flea-free for four months.
10. PETARMOR for Cats
PETARMOR for Cats is a pretty simple topical treatment for fleas that is specifically formulated for cats. While it works reasonably well, it’s somewhat slower to take full effect compared to some of the other options on the market, so it landed lower in our rankings as a result.
Who should buy a flea treatment for cats?
Is your cat grooming an excessive amount? Have you noticed red bumps or scab-like marks on your cat’s skin? If so, your cat might have a flea infestation.
Once you start looking through your cat’s fur, you’re likely to find adult fleas, larvae and pupae, and eggs (usually a lot of eggs—adult fleas lay an egg once per hour, on average). Once you get to this point, you should definitely spring for a flea treatment for your cat. If you don’t take action, flea infestations tend to get worse over time, and moreover, they can spread to your home, your other pets, and even to you!
Flea treatments for cats are either topical or oral. A topical solution is like a lotion you apply to your cat’s fur and skin, which quickly dries and kills fleas in all stages of life. Oral treatments are more like medication: you feed them to your cat and they will kill off new flea eggs that are laid on your cat’s skin.
Getting a flea treatment can help stop a flea infestation in its tracks, but you’ll also need to take care to address any ways your cat’s fleas may have spread. For example, if you also have a dog, you’ll want to get a flea treatment for dogs, too. You’ll also want to check your home for fleas, and get a flea treatment for carpet or a flea trap if necessary.
How we ranked
To formulate our rankings of the best flea treatments for cats on the market, we focused on two main factors: efficacy and safety. When your cat has a flea infestation, you want to get rid of it sooner rather than later, as fleas can spread to your carpet, your furniture, or other pets.
We defined efficacy in both absolute and time-dependent terms. In other words, we looked into how fast a flea treatment for cats would take to kill fleas, and also what proportion of fleas it would kill, and in what phases of their life cycle. The best flea treatments were those that killed fleas in under 12 hours, and at all phases of their life: egg, larva, pupa, or adult.
Typically, for rapid efficacy, a product that you apply directly to your cat’s skin works best. Oral treatments tend to take a little longer to work, so while these tend to be a cleaner option, they ended up lower in our rankings. Oral treatments also may not kill fleas at all points in their life cycle.
Some just render flea eggs sterile, so while this treatment strategy does work, you have to wait for all of the larvae, pupae, and adult fleas to die off or get groomed away by your cat (or you, if you are particularly diligent about combing through your cat’s fur.
In terms of safety, we looked at the active ingredients in the flea treatments to make sure they did not contain any compounds that are unsafe for pets. The biggest outcome of our safety review was that we removed all flea collars from our rankings—these collars have pesticides embedded in them that are not safe for pets or for humans, and the nature of the flea collar makes it very easy for these nasty chemicals to get everywhere: all over your home, all over you, and all over your other pets.
Compounds like organophosphates are often found in flea collars, and these compounds have known to have deleterious health effects both in animals and in humans. For all of the above reasons, we tossed out flea collars from our rankings.
Finally, we looked at ancillary features, like the duration of treatment provided in one package, and any endorsements by veterinary or animal advocacy groups. Combining data on the efficacy, safety, and other perks, we sorted flea treatments by their overall quality, resulting in our final rankings of the best flea treatments for cats on the market.
Cats are just as susceptible to fleas as dogs. While most people think that dogs are more prone to getting fleas due to the fact that they go outdoors more often than most cats, cats are just as susceptible to a flea infestation as their canine counterparts (1).
Fleas are flightless insects who feed on the blood of mammals and birds (2).
This feeding causes the animal’s skin to react and become very itchy, but this is just the beginning of the problem. In addition to being a big enough nuisance on their own, fleas can also carry and spread diseases and parasites like tapeworms (3).
Cats are especially prone to getting tapeworms transmitted by fleas, because the flea must be ingested internally in order to bring the tapeworm into the body (4).
Since cats spend a lot of time licking their fur (especially when their skin is itchy), it is very easy for them to catch a flea on their tongue and swallow it. Once it is swallowed, the tapeworm is transported to the stomach, where it can grow exponentially and cause some very serious or even fatal consequences.
Most flea treatments for cats work by using a mild insecticidal agent that acts as a neurotoxin to kill fleas. Some of the chemical compounds commonly used in flea treatments are Pyrethrins (or their synthetic counterparts, Pyrethroids), Imidacloprid, Fipronil, metaflumizone, and Selamectin (5). As seen in the list above, there are also all-natural options, although these are still fairly new and not as well-studied.
Flea treatments for cats kill adult fleas that bite and spread disease. Fleas are everywhere, especially in the summer months. Once a few of them hitch a ride on your cat, they can multiply and spread from that cat to any other cats (or people) that may be in your house. Flea treatments kill the adult fleas that bite your pet and irritate their skin. Getting rid of the fleas also lowers your pet’s risk of catching parasites like tapeworms or heartworms, and the same medications can even eliminate ticks and lice as well (6).
Flea treatments for cats kill larvae, pupae, and eggs as well. It is great to get rid of the adult fleas that bite, annoy, and possibly infect your cat, but the problem doesn’t end with their elimination. In order to stop the population from spreading, flea treatments also kill flea eggs, as well as fleas in any of their other life stages. Once the eggs are gone, no more fleas can hatch on the cat’s body, and the infestation ends.
Flea treatments keep fleas from spreading. A flea infestation isn’t just a problem for your cat, it is a problem for your entire household. Fleas can jump very high and cover long distances, so they can easily spread from your cat and cover your entire house. Most flea treatments offer protection for the cat that lasts for months. Without the option of feeding on your cat, the fleas have no reason to come into your house and take over your furniture and floors (7).
Due to the fact that most flea treatments for cats are made using some fairly potent chemicals, the potential for side effects is always present. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a study to test the possible toxicity of certain flea medications for both dogs and cats. This study was prompted by many anecdotal reports from owners listing side effects such as hair loss, skin irritation, and even tremors (8).
While most flea treatments have been deemed safe, cats have been found to be particularly sensitive to formulas that include pyrethrins and a synthetic version of these natural compounds called pyrethroids. Signs of pyrethroid toxicity include agitation, excessive drooling, vomiting, facial twitching, bodily twitching, diarrhea, muscle tremors, warm skin, and even death (9).
If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat after an application of flea treatment, contact your vet right away.
Also keep in mind that, aside from a few treatments that are formulated to be safe for both animals, the same flea treatment that you would use on a dog can be very harmful or even fatal to a cat (10).
The recommended dosage for flea treatments varies based on the size of your cat, as well as on whether you choose to administer the treatment monthly, tri-monthly, or biannually.
Be sure to check the packaging to make sure that you have the appropriate flea treatment for your cat, to avoid any possible side effects or negative reactions.
Q: How are fleas spread in cats?
A: Cats typically get fleas from other animals; they are passed on from the fur of one animal on to the other one. However, it’s also possible to get fleas or flea eggs from soft surfaces like carpets and furniture if they haven’t been cleaned off. Your cat can even get fleas from a human who has fleas!
Once fleas take root, they start laying eggs and will continue to do so for their entire life cycle. Flea eggs hatch into larvae and develop into a pupa phases, and eventually adult fleas.
Q: How can you tell if your cat has fleas?
A: Fleas can be hard to spot, but there are some telltale signs that your cat may have a flea infestation. The first is the presence of fleas anywhere in your house or on any of your other pets.
If this is the case, it’s highly likely that your cat has fleas as well. If you see your cat doing an increased amount of grooming, or if you see any tapeworms in your cat’s stool, it’s also likely that your cat has a flea infestation. You might also notice red lesions or bumps on your cat’s skin, which are indicative of flea bites.
Q: What is the safest flea treatment for cats?
A: In terms of safety for you, the best treatments are oral medications. These tend not to leave chemicals anywhere else other than inside your cat’s body.
On the other hand, topical treatments may be a bit safer for your cat, because a smaller amount of flea killing compound is needed, and it is only applied where the fleas actually live: on the surface of your cat’s skin and fur.
The only downside to a topical flea treatment is that it tends to get on your hands, and anything your cat touches soon after having the flea treatment applied. The only flea treatments that we do not recommend for safety reasons are flea collars: these contain heavy-duty pesticides that can be harmful to both your cat and to you.
Because of the design of a flea collar, these chemicals are slowly leaked out, causing these potentially toxic chemicals to get all over your pet, all over you, and all over your home. There are far better strategies for curing or preventing fleas in cats than a flea collar.
Q: What is the fastest way to get rid of fleas on a cat?
A: If you want a flea treatment that will start working right away, either an oral or topical flea treatment is a great choice.
Make sure you get a high quality product and apply it correctly—if you do so, the flea treatment will start killing fleas on your cat within under an hour. It will, however, take up to a full day to come into full effect, so be patient while the flea treatment works.
Q: How does an indoor cat get fleas?
A: It’s surprisingly easy for indoor cats to get fleas—if any part of your home has a flea infestation, your cat can easily pick them up. Cats are naturally curious, so they tend to explore the dark crevices in your home that tend to play host to fleas.
If you have more than one pet, your cat can also pick up fleas from a pet that does go outside more often, like your dog. It can be surprisingly difficult to get rid of a flea infestation in your house, so it’s not uncommon for indoor cats to pick up fleas, get treated, only to get another flea infestation.
Q: Do all outdoor cats get fleas?
A: Fleas are common on outdoor cats, but aren’t inevitable. Outdoor cats are good candidates for prophylactic flea treatments—special treatments you can get from your vet that prevent fleas from taking hold in the first place. While you do need to get these treatments every month, and they can get expensive, they are quite effective.
Q: What happens when a cat brings fleas inside?
A: When your cat comes down with a flea infestation, the fleas can start spreading fast. A full life cycle for fleas is only about three weeks, and it only takes a few days for flea eggs to hatch.
Once a flea becomes an adult, females will start laying eggs once per hour, and will continue doing so until they die. As you might imagine from these numbers, it’s quite easy for a flea infestation to get out of hand very quickly! Fleas can take root in your carpet, in your furniture, in your bed, on your other pets, and even on you.
Many people find that they can kick a flea infestation in their cat, but it returns within a few days or a week. This should be a strong indication that fleas are lurking somewhere inside or outside your house. You may need to get a special flea treatment
Q: What kind of flea treatments do vets recommend for cats?
A: Vets typically recommend either a monthly flea capsule or a combined flea and heartworm treatment that is given once a month. While these treatments are effective, they can also get costly. Over the counter flea treatments are also effective, and are recommended by many vets as well.
The only type of treatment that vets generally discourage are flea collars. These are discouraged not so much out of concern for your pet, but for you—the imprecise nature of a flea collar means that insecticides get everywhere: all over your pet, all over your hands, and all over your house.
Flea collars are also notorious for containing toxic broad-spectrum pesticides that may cause health harms. You should definitely heed your vet’s advice when it comes to flea treatments, as they’re bread and butter for most veterinary practices.
Q: Does an oral flea treatment for cats work better?
A: Oral flea treatments will start working within under an hour, but they don’t have any real distinctive advantages over a topical treatment.
Topical treatments are also fast-working as long as they are applied correctly. An oral treatment is nice if you don’t want to get flea treatment all over your hands, or if you have small children in your house who might pet your cat soon after you apply a flea treatment.
An oral flea treatment ensures that the flea-killing chemicals don’t get all over your house, which is good if you want to avoid exposing your family members to chemicals.
Q: How long does it take for a flea treatment to work on a cat?
A: Both topical and oral flea treatments begin working rapidly, within an hour or so, but it can take a full day or thereabouts to fully kill off the fleas on your cat. If you find that your flea treatment isn’t working quickly, there are two possibilities.
The first is that you are using a sub-par flea treatment that doesn’t kill fleas like it’s supposed to. The other possibility is that your cat is getting re-infested, possibly by a prolific source of fleas.
If your cat is an outdoor cat, it’s likely that your cat is running into other animals (possibly other pets of yours) that have flea infestations.
Even an indoor cat can pick up fleas if they live somewhere in your house. Fleas especially like warm, dark places with plenty of “cover” to hide. That’s why they love pet fur, but you can also find them in carpeting and in furniture if you have a particularly bad flea infestation.
Q: How do you apply a flea treatment for cats?
A: Applying a flea treatment to your cat correctly is important to get maximum efficacy. The method of application will vary depending on the style of the product.
For a topical treatment, you’ll want to apply the product as directed on the back of your cat’s back or neck, where your cat cannot easily reach and scratch it off. Make sure you do not get any of the solution in your cat’s eyes, ears, or mouth. For an oral medication, all you have to do is feed it to your cat (and make sure your cat does not spit it out or cough it up).
For oral medications, one capsule is usually enough to kill off a flea infestation. With either method, if your cat gets fleas again, it probably means that there is an environmental source of fleas causing an infestation again, because a good flea treatment is typically very effective at killing off fleas that are currently on your cat.
Flea treatments for cats are beneficial, not just in wiping out a flea problem when it arises, but in preventing future fleas from taking up residence on your furry friend. Flea treatments kill fleas and other pests in all stages of their life, ending their spread and keeping your pet safe, usually for a month or longer between applications. It is important to remember, though, that these treatments can have serious side effects, and that you should never use a dog’s flea treatment on a cat.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 flea treatment for cats recommendation, click here.