Which cat flea and tick medicine is the best?
Whether you’ve experienced an infestation before or not, every cat owner understands how difficult it is to get rid of ticks and fleas. While outdoor cats are more prone to getting fleas or ticks, indoor cats aren’t immune since the parasites can come in on other animals or even people’s clothes. Even hairless cats can get fleas and ticks since the parasites feed on blood and don’t require hair or fur.
Luckily, there are several effective oral and topical flea and tick treatments for cats. The strongest medicines are prescription-based, but even over-the-counter flea and tick medicines effectively kill and prevent infestation.
Topical vs. oral flea treatment
For cats, flea and tick medicine comes in oral (medicated capsule) and topical (ointment or liquid drops) forms. There are also collars and shampoos designed to prevent or kill off fleas and ticks.
The capsule works by entering the cat’s bloodstream and reaching the cat’s skin through the capillaries. Not all cats will willingly ingest a pill, so you may need to wrap it in a moldable treat or crush it up into your cat’s wet food.
When using an ointment or liquid, apply it to the back of your cat’s neck where it can’t lick it off. Over time, the flea medicine will naturally spread along the cat’s skin until it reaches anywhere fleas may be hiding.
FDA and EPA-approved flea and tick medicines are generally considered safe for cats. Whichever type of treatment you use, look for one that kills fleas in all stages of life, from the egg to adulthood.
Chemicals in flea treatment for cats
Many modern oral flea and tick medicines on the market today use isooxazoline. The FDA has determined that isoxazoline treatments are safe and effective for most cats and dogs. However, there is a slight chance that flea medicine with isoxazoline could cause neurological disorders such as seizures or muscle tremors in pets.
Many older flea and tick treatments used either macrocyclic lactones such as ivermectin, milbemycin and selamectin, or spinosyn like Spinosad. Macrocyclic lactones are known for preventing and killing such parasites as fleas and ticks. Spinosyn is most effective at treating fleas, but in higher doses, it may kill off ticks as well.
While macrocyclic lactones and spinosyn have been around for much longer than isoxazolines, all three chemicals are considered effective at treating fleas.
Other common ingredients found in flea medicine include:
- Pyriproxyfen, effective at disrupting fleas’ growth cycle
- Fipronil, treats ticks, chewing lice and fleas
- S-Methoprene, interferes with and stalls the growth and development of pests
Risks and concerns of cat flea and tick treatment
The purpose of flea and tick medicines is to create an environment that’s inhospitable to these parasites. However, using these treatments could result in some health risks to your cat.
- Treatments that are not FDA- or EPA-approved may use harmful pesticides or other ingredients that are toxic to your cat.
- You should never use flea and tick medicine on cats. This is because the ingredients in these products are formulated based on a dog’s chemistry. Many topical flea medicines for dogs include ingredients like permethrin. Exposure to concentrated amounts of this chemical could lead to illness or even death.
- If ingested, topical flea medicine could make your cat seriously ill. That’s why you should apply it to an area your cat can’t reach, such as the back of its neck.
- Some cats have an adverse reaction to oral flea and tick treatment, such as nausea or excessive panting. This is usually temporary and wears off.
There are few health and safety concerns when using FDA-approved flea and tick medicine. However, if your cat experiences side effects, change the type of medicine you’re using. When in doubt, or if your over-the-counter flea medicine isn’t working as expected, contact your vet. They may be able to offer you a prescription-based treatment instead.
Best oral flea treatments for cats
Made for adult cats and small dogs, these chewable tablets are a fast-acting alternative to topical flea treatments. The active ingredient, Spinosad, starts to work nearly immediately after ingestion and kills up to 98% of all adult fleas in hours. It also prevents fleas for 30 days after the initial use.
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Safe for adult cats and kittens that weigh at least 2 pounds, this flea medicine kills adult fleas and prevents future infestations. It starts working in half an hour and can be used daily for preventative purposes.
Fast-acting tablets formulated to be safe and effective for cats, even those that are pregnant. It kills adult fleas and prevents reinfestation without the mess of topical treatments.
Best topical flea treatments for cats
Topical medicine that kills eggs, larvae and adult fleas, ticks and chewing lice. It also prevents future infestations. Safe for kittens older than eight weeks and weighing more than 1.5 pounds.
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Made specifically for larger cats, this flea medicine kills flea eggs, larvae, pupae and adult fleas. It kills on contact and remains effective for a month after the initial application. Easy to apply medicine that comes in pre-measured tubes.
Vet-formulated topical flea medicine with long-lasting protection against infestations. It kills eggs, larvae, pupae and adult fleas on contact.
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Vet-recommended flea medicine formulated to kill and prevent infestations on cats weighing over 1.8 pounds. It starts working within 30 minutes and can kill nearly 100% of adult fleas within the first 12 hours. Plus, it protects your cat for up to six weeks after application.
Highly effective topical medicine kills biting ticks, fleas (including eggs) and lice nearly on contact. It uses fipronil and Methoprene to kill pests and prevent future infestations. Each treatment lasts for 30 days.
Waterproof, fast-acting and long-lasting flea and tick treatment for cats over eight weeks old. Not only does it kill adult pests, but it also prevents future infestations for 30 days.
Other flea and tick medicine for cats
If you don’t want to use oral or topical flea and tick medicine or want more assurance with preventing future infestations, here are some other options to consider.
- Consider using plant-based flea and tick wipes for cats and dogs that work on adult pests, as well as flea eggs and larvae.
- A flea and tick collar for outdoor cats can provide up to eight months of protection.
- For major infestations, use flea and tick carpet powder to get pests hiding in rugs or furniture.
- If your cat can tolerate a bath, use flea and tick shampoo to treat infestations.
- Use a flea and tick spray to prevent unwanted pests and get rid of existing ones in the home.
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Angela Watson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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