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How to Choose the Safest Flea Treatment for Your Cat

If you’re concerned that your cat has (or might get) fleas, you are probably in the market for a flea preventative medicine. However, safety is a big concern when it comes to treating pets for fleas—especially with cats.

And many flea treatments that are made for dogs can actually be extremely toxic to cats, so it is important to find one that is labeled for cats.

Here’s how you can find a safe flea treatment for the cats in your home.

What to Consider When Choosing the Safest Flea Treatment for Cats

If you are looking for the safest flea treatment for cats, here are several factors that can help you and your veterinarian decide which option is best:

  • Your cat’s lifestyle: Outdoor cats are at higher risk for flea infestations, but indoor cats are also susceptible.

  • Age: Different flea preventatives have different age restrictions.

  • Health history: Your veterinarian needs to be aware of your cat’s health status and all medications and supplements that your cat is currently taking to recommend the safest type of flea preventative.

  • Breed: Coat length can influence the type of treatment.

  • Where you live: Resistance to certain types of flea preventatives is a problem in some areas. Your veterinarian will know which treatments will be the most effective.

The safest flea treatments for cats are those that are formulated for cats, dosed appropriately (based on weight) and recommended by a veterinarian who is familiar with the particulars of your cat’s case.

Do NOT Use Flea Preventatives for Dogs on Your Cat

Many flea treatments for dogs are toxic for cats. Ingredients like permethrin are commonly included in dog flea and tick treatments, which can actually kill cats.

Always follow the instructions on the product’s label with regards to dosing amounts and frequency unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian.

Types of Safe Flea Treatments for Cats

While you need to be careful when selecting a safe flea treatment for your cat, you have plenty of options to choose from. Between collars, spot-on topical treatments and chewable tablets, you can work with your veterinarian to discuss which one suits your cat’s health and lifestyle.

Here are some things to consider about each of these flea preventative options.

Flea Collars for Cats

Flea collars have been staple flea treatments for decades, but older collars were not very effective. However, the newer flea collars, like Seresto, have proven to be reliable flea prevention options—some even protect against ticks.

The Seresto collar is a safe cat flea collar that can last for up to 8 months (water exposure can shorten its length of effectiveness). It uses two active ingredients—imidacloprid and flumethrin—and is approved for cats of all weights as long as they are over 10 weeks of age.

The collars work by continually releasing the flea-killing ingredients, which can help eliminate infestations. This cat flea collar also has a quick-release feature, so pet parents do not have to worry about the collar catching on something and hurting their cat.

However, if you have young kids in the house, a flea collar may not be the best option. These collars contain strong chemicals, so children should not be allowed to play with or touch them.

Topical Flea Treatment for Cats

Topical treatments are applied to the skin on the back of the neck (base of the skull). They will kill fleas for either one or three months, depending on which brand you choose.

The site of application is important because it prevents cats from licking the treated area and making themselves sick. These topical flea medications are safe when applied topically, but they can cause problems if ingested.

Keep small children and other pets away from treated cats while topical flea medications are drying or being absorbed by the skin.

Many different topical brands are available. Some are OTC, while others need a prescription. Here are some of your options:

OTC Topical Flea Prevention

Cheristin has been specifically formulated to kill fleas on cats using the active ingredient spinetoram. It is safe for kittens over the age of 8 weeks and as small as 1.8 pounds. Cheristin provides protection from fleas for a full month.

Advantage II kills fleas, flea eggs and flea larvae with the active ingredients imidacloprid and pyripoxyfen and can be used in cats over 8 weeks of age. Monthly formulations are available for kittens and cats weighing between 2 and 5 pounds, between 5 and 9 pounds, and over 9 pounds.

Prescription Topical Flea Prevention

If you are looking for monthly broad-spectrum parasite control, take a look at Revolution Plus. It uses the active ingredients selamectin and sarolaner to kill fleas, ticks, heartworms, ear mites, roundworms and hookworms. It can be used on cats over 8 weeks of age and is safe for cats 2.8 pounds and larger.

Bravecto is a topical flea treatment option that uses fluralaner to kill adult fleas. This topical flea treatment will provide your cat with three months of protection. It should only be used on cats that are older than 6 months and weigh more than 2.6 pounds.

Oral Flea Medication for Cats

If you are worried about exposing other members of the household to flea medications, products that are given orally are a good choice.

Comfortis is a prescription monthly chewable option that’s safe for cats 14 weeks of age and older and 4.1 pounds and up. It contains the active ingredient spinosad, which kills adult fleas, and should only be given every 30 days.

Capstar, on the other hand, is OTC and approved for use in younger and smaller cats (2 pounds or greater and over 4 weeks of age). It uses the active ingredient nitenpyram to kill adult fleas. Capstar is a great option for getting a flea infestation under control because it can be given every 24 hours, but it should not be used in place of monthly preventatives.

The most common side effects seen with oral flea preventatives are gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea. If your pet vomits immediately after taking the medication, it can be difficult to gauge whether they absorbed the appropriate dose. Talk with your veterinarian to figure out the best way to handle this issue.

Fleas are not just annoying. They can also be associated with severe health problems like anemia, plague, murine typhus and bartonellosis, many of which can be spread to people. By talking with your veterinarian, you can evaluate the safe and effective flea treatments available and decide on the best option for your cat.

By: Jennifer Coates, DVM

Featured Image: iStock.com/MKucova