If you love your cat and hate fleas as much as I do, then this article is for you. Fleas make my kitty’s life miserable and that makes me unhappy, so it has been my quest to find the best flea treatment for cats and to share it with you.
There are many good flea and tick products available these days but that’s where the confusion starts. Which product is the right choice for your cat and what is the best way to administer it? If you are as confused as I am then I don’t blame you!
This article will explain the life cycle of cat fleas, how your cat can get a flea infestation and the best ways to treat and prevent it. We will highlight the pros and cons of the best flea medicine for cats that is available today, and this will allow you to make an informed decision before you decide to make a purchase.
- 1 How did my cat get a flea infestation?
- 2 How do I know if my cat has fleas?
- 3 How Do I Find The Best Flea Control For Cats?
- 4 Best Cat Flea Medicine Types And How They Work
- 5 Our Verdict On The Best Flea Medication For Cats
- 6 Conclusion
- 7 Do flea infestations pose a danger to my cat’s health?
How did my cat get a flea infestation?
The best way to answer this question is to take a look at the life cycle of fleas in cats. Most folks believe that fleas jump from one cat to another to spread a flea infestation but this is actually a myth. Fleas jump on your cat from the environment (indoors and outdoors) and once a flea has infested your cat it will stay there for it’s entire life.
When a female flea has jumped on your cat it will start biting it’s skin almost immediately and start feeding on your kitty’s blood. This sounds gross, but fleas need to ingest blood to grow and start reproducing. It only takes 24 hours for a female flea to start laying eggs and they can lay up to 50 eggs a day.
As your cat roams through your house it drops flea eggs wherever it goes, just like a salt shaker sprinkling grains of salt around your floors, furniture and bedding where it sleeps or rests. The flea larvae hatch out within a week and in an effort to avoid light they crawl between the floorboards, and into carpets and upholstery.
After 5 to 10 more days the larvae start spinning cocoons and quickly develop into pupae. It only takes 1 to 3 weeks for the baby fleas to emerge from the cocoons. They are sensitive to vibrations and as soon as your cat walks by they will hop on and hitch a ride. And so the flea life cycle begins again.
We also know that fleas live in your yard and garden but it’s a myth that cats who only live indoors never get fleas. These parasites are opportunistic and when we are outdoors they can jump onto our clothing and hitch a ride into our house where they hop off onto the floors and then onto our cats.
How do I know if my cat has fleas?
Looking for visible signs of a flea infestation is easier than you might think and you can follow these few easy steps:
Excessive Scratching – the first sign of trouble is when your cat gets itchy skin and starts scratching excessively. A bit of scratching now and then is normal but non-stop scratching is a sign that you should examine your furry friend for fleas. Excessive chewing, gnawing, licking and nibbling are other clues that all is not well with your kitty.
Look For Flea Dirt – if your cat has a serious flea infestation then it’s easy to see the fleas by parting their fur with your fingers or a flea comb. But often it can be more difficult and no fleas are actually visible on your cat. The clue is to look for the presence of flea dirt or flea poop on the skin of your cat.
Flea dirt usually looks like small grains of black pepper and there is a neat trick to identify these tiny black specks of dirt – just take a moist paper towel and comb the flea dirt onto it. Flea dirt contains old digested blood from the intestinal tract of the fleas and it will leave red stains on the moist paper towel as it dissolves. So your diagnosis can be easily confirmed using this simple method.
Excessive Shedding – seasonal shedding is normal for all cats but if you see signs of hair loss appearing then you should take a closer look. Patches of missing hair around the neck or tail areas are tell-tale signs of a flea infestation. This is the result of excessive scratching caused by the itching and irritation of the flea bites and the saliva of the fleas which can irritate the sensitive skin of your cat.
More Serious Signs – in extremely severe cases of flea infestation your cat will start showing signs of illness which first manifest themselves in subtle changes of behaviour. Look out for signs of loss of energy, tiredness and loss of appetite. A lacklustre cat could have a serious flea problem but allow your vet to check for other diseases as well.
How Do I Find The Best Flea Control For Cats?
It’s much easier to make informed decisions about the best cat flea treatment by first finding out what types of treatment are available and how they actually work. There are many very effective products available these days but it’s important to remember that different products work on different parts of the flea life cycle so sometimes combining two products can also be a good idea.
Some products target the adult fleas by killing them quickly and giving immediate relief while others disrupt the flea life cycle by destroying the larvae and flea eggs, so the reproductive cycle is disrupted and the entire flea population is wiped out. It’s also important to never use dog flea products on your cat as they can be poisonous and remember to always follow the product instructions closely.
Remember also that ticks on cats are rare depending on the environment your cat lives in. But sometimes it’s wise to look for the best flea and tick prevention available so you can cover all bases.
Best Cat Flea Medicine Types And How They Work
Flea Sprays And Shampoos:
- less expensive and quick acting
- kill fleas on contact and last for 30 days (Frontline Spray)
- soothe the skin and are a natural flea treatment for cats
- contain natural and additional ingredients that also repel fleas
- can be messy to apply and stress out your cat
- are only effective for a week or two
- not as effective as oral or other topical treatments
Topical Spot On Products:
- easy to apply liquid medications (to the back of the cat’s neck)
- spread quickly through the oil glands of your cat’s skin
- act rapidly after spreading over your pet’s skin to destroy and repel fleas
- long acting and remain effective for 1 to 3 months
- some products destroy ticks, heartworm and other worms as well
- can be messy to apply
- can irritate your cat’s skin and have a slight odor
- not water resistant in the first 24 hours after application
- not the cheapest products (but not the most expensive either)
Oral Treatment Products:
- very effective in killing fleas quickly using insecticides that destroy adult fleas
- they also contain hormone growth regulators (HGRs) that disrupt the flea life cycle
- a no-mess type of treatment in pill form that is long lasting (1 to 3 months)
- some products also kill and protect against worms and ticks
- some products only contain one or the other (insecticides or hormone growth regulators)
- in some cases combinations of two products need to be given
- oral pills are difficult to administer to some cats
- they tend to be the more expensive types of products
- kill adult fleas quickly by spreading over the skin of your cat
- water resistant and remain effective for 7 to 8 months (Seresto cat flea collar)
- destroys all stages of the flea life cycle including eggs and larvae
- protects against ticks as well
- safe and cost effective
- can be placed into a vacuum bag to kill fleas when vacuuming
- most brands are not waterproof (except Seresto which is water resistant)
- can sometimes cause allergic skin reactions in the neck area
- sometimes they can be pulled off by accident
- the cheaper brands are not very effective and only repel fleas around the neck area without spreading over your pet’s skin to kill fleas over the animal’s entire body
Our Verdict On The Best Flea Medication For Cats
Best Topical Treatments:
- monthly topical treatment for cats 8 weeks and older
- simple to use and easy to apply
- safe mode of action (penetrates the cat’s skin and enters the bloodstream)
- kills adult fleas effectively
- breaks the flea life cycle by preventing flea eggs from hatching
- protects against heartworm, hookworms and roundworms
- also used for the treatment of ear mites
- safe to use in pregnant cats and nursing female cats
- a monthly topical treatment for cats 8 weeks and older
- kills the existing adult fleas on cats in 12 hours after application
- also acts as an insect growth regulator (IGR) that disrupts and stops the flea life cycle
- ticks and chewing lice are also killed within 48 hours
- spreads easily and naturally over the skin of your cat
- a safe once-a-month topical application
- effective for the prevention and treatment of fleas in cats
- kills fleas within 24 hours of starting treatment
- also prevents any further flea infestations for up to 4 weeks
- contains only one active ingredient (Imidacloprid) which kills fleas through contact
- assists in the treatment of flea allergy dermatitis
Advantage Multi (Advocate)
- a safe and convenient once-a-month topical application for cats
- fleas don’t need to bite your cat and adult fleas are killed on contact
- controls flea infestations as well
- effectively treats ear mites in cats
- treats and protects against heartworm, hookworm and roundworm infestations
- also safe for the treatment of fleas and heartworm in ferrets
Bravecto For Cats
- safe and easy to use topical treatment for cats
- 100% of fleas are killed within 8 hours after treatment has been administered
- effective against fleas and ticks
- provides 12 weeks (3 months) protection with a single dose
- one dose is sufficient to break one 3 month flea life cycle
- safe to use in cats or kittens that are 6 months or older
- also protects against two main species of ticks
- penetrates the skin to enter your cat’s system and fleas die after biting your pet
- a monthly spot-on treatment against fleas
- safe for use in cats and kittens over 8 weeks old
- kills adult fleas and disrupts the flea life cycle by killing flea eggs and larvae
- ingredient activated using bioactivation (using the flea’s own enzymes to activate the product)
- dries quickly and is odorless (fragrance free)
- completely waterproof
- quickly spreads over your cat’s skin and coat
Vectra For Cats
- a once-a-month topical application for cats and kittens 8 weeks and older
- kills fleas 6 hours after the first application
- effective control of adult fleas and destroys the flea life cycle (eggs, larvae and pupae)
- comes in a convenient applicator, is quick drying and non-greasy after application
Best Oral Products:
- a safe monthly chewable beef flavored oral flea treatment
- for cats older than 12 weeks
- kills all fleas before they lay eggs
- prevents flea infestations (disrupts the flea life cycle)
- environmentally friendly
- starts killing fleas 30 minutes after the first administration
Best Flea Collars:
Seresto Cat Flea Collar
- a good safe alternative to monthly topical flea treatments
- can be used in cats of all weights and kittens 10 weeks and older
- slow release formulation that spreads over your cat’s body and protects against fleas for 8 months
- works immediately after application of the collar
- kills fleas before they lay eggs and kills flea eggs, larvae and ticks
- repels fleas and ticks and so prevents transmission of diseases
- no odor, convenient and non-greasy
Best Sprays And Shampoos:
- Suitable for cats over 8 weeks
- 30 day control over fleas and ticks on your cat
- kills all fleas within 24 hours
- effective against chewing lice
- water resistant for 1 month
- easy application: ruffle cat’s coat while spraying lightly onto skin
The above overview has given you a brief summation of the most popular and trusted flea treatments for cats. They represent most of the best flea medicines for cats that are tried and trusted and used by vets around the globe to treat cat flea infestations on a daily basis. For more detailed product descriptions of the individual brands please click on the links under each product description to read our more comprehensive cat flea treatment reviews.
Do flea infestations pose a danger to my cat’s health?
The importance of finding the best flea and tick medicine for cats becomes apparent when you research the diseases that can be transmitted to your kitty by these parasites. Fleas have tormented us for centuries and apart from making cats itch they are known to cause serious health problems.
Some folks prefer homemade flea treatment for cats but whether you use the well known flea remedies mentioned in this article or rather go for natural cat flea treatment, it is important to protect your cat against the more serious diseases that flea infestations can initiate.
Cat Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Flea bites are irritating to your cat’s skin but there is more to it than that. Fleas also inject their own saliva into the skin when they bite and some cats can develop a serious allergic skin reaction called Flea Allergy Dermatitis. This causes serious itching and scratching with raw patches and welts developing on your kitty’s skin. Treat the fleas with a good flea remedy like Advantage which is recommended for FAD (Flea Allergy Dermatitis) and a mild cortisone skin spray.
Blood Loss (Anemia)
Fleas suck and ingest your cat’s blood. Whilst this sounds really gross it can have serious health implications. Dozens of fleas biting your cat can cause serious blood loss over time which eventually results in anemia. When this happens to small kittens they sometimes require a blood transfusion to survive. The symptoms of anemia to watch out for in your cat are lethargy, loss of energy, weight loss, pale gums and sometimes breathlessness. Treatment to eradicate the fleas is essential as well as good nutritional supplements.
Fleas can carry the eggs of tapeworms in their systems and these can be transmitted to cats. Cats love to groom and lick themselves and sometimes they can swallow a flea which could be a carrier of tapeworm eggs. The tapeworm eggs hatch in the cat’s intestinal canal and the adult tapeworms then develop in your cat’s intestines. There they can deprive your cat of essential nutrients and lead to weakness and weight loss. Treatment with a good oral wormer like Milbemax, Drontal For Cats or Profender Cat Dewormer is required.
Bartonella (Cat Scratch Disease)
The organism that causes Bartonella (B. henselae) is usually passed on from one cat to another by fleas that are carriers of the disease. Most cats that are infected with Bartonella show no signs or symptoms but in severe cases some cats can show signs of illness like enlarged lymph nodes, loss of energy, fever and eye inflammation. Treatment can be complicated and should be initiated by your vet with a combination of antibiotics and can last from 4 to 6 weeks.