By Jennifer Kvamme, DVM
Removing ticks is undoubtedly one of the least fun summertime activities we have to look forward to every year. Not only are these blood-suckers nasty to look at, all filled up with your cat’s hard won blood as they are, they are also notoriously difficult to dislodge, making it so you have to get up close and personal to assure success. Because left too long or not removed entirely, these buggers can cause some serious diseases. So, what can you do to keep your cat tick-free this season? Here are a few ideas to consider ...
1. Spot-on Treatments
Using an over the counter spot-on medication that you purchase from your veterinarian, pet store, or online can be a very effective method for controlling both ticks and fleas. These medications are very effective at keeping parasites at bay for up to a month. While these medications are great, you still need to be very careful about which one you use. Make sure you read all labels carefully. If you have any doubts about treating your cat with a spot-on, be sure to get advice from your veterinarian before application.
2. Oral Medications
Once a month pills are not as readily available cats as for dogs, and most tick prevention pills used for cats are actually pills made for small dogs. It appears that a tick pill made specifically for cats is a product that is still in development at the major drug makers. You will need to talk to your veterinarian about whether your cat can safely use a product that is designed for a small dog. One of the benefits of using a once a month pill is that you won’t have to be concerned about small children and coming into contact with the cat immediately after application, or with the cat leaving traces of the pesticide on the furniture, as you might with spot-on treatments.
Bathing your cat with a shampoo that contains medicated ingredients will generally kill ticks on contact. This can be an inexpensive (though labor-intensive) method of protecting your cat during the peak tick season. You will also need to repeat the process more often, about every two weeks, as the effective ingredients won’t last as long as a spot-on or oral medication. Depending on how your cat responds to baths, this may or may not be a practical solution.
4. Tick Dips
A dip is a concentrated chemical that needs to be diluted in water and applied to the animal’s fur with a sponge or poured over the back. You will not rinse the pet after application of a dip product. They can be very strong so labels need to be read carefully before use. You should not use a dip for very young animals (under four months). Ask your veterinarian for advice for treating puppies and kittens.
5. Tick Collars
Collars that repel ticks are an additional preventive you can use, though they are mainly only useful for protecting the neck and head from ticks. The collar needs to make contact with your cat’s skin in order to transfer the chemicals onto the cat’s fur and skin. When putting this type of collar on your cat, you will need to make sure there is just enough room to fit two fingers under the collar when it’s around the cat’s neck. Cut off any excess length of collar to prevent your cat from chewing on it, and watch for signs of discomfort (e.g., excessive scratching) in case an allergic reaction to the collar occurs. Make sure you read the labels carefully when choosing a collar to be sure that it is appropriate for your cat. Collars impregnated with the chemical Amitraz should never be used on cats.