It is essential that every kitty—indoor or not—receives a cat flea and tick preventative. Even if your indoor cat never ventures farther than the windowsill, she’s still a target for fleas and ticks. Here’s why: “All animals—including humans!—can pick up fleas from outside and bring them into the house,” explains Dr. Jessica Stewart, DVM, a veterinarian with the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA in Pasadena, California.
Even if you never venture beyond your backyard, critters like raccoons can bring fleas into your yard, she adds. Once the fleas make it in, they’ll latch onto your cat’s warm body and start feeding and reproducing.
Fleas can cause deadly infections, like feline infectious anemia. But that’s not all.
“Some pets are severely allergic to flea saliva, so one bite can make them so itchy that they injure themselves or pull out their fur by scratching and chewing the bite,” Dr. Stewart says.
Although warm weather can signal the start of flea season, both fleas and ticks are pretty hardy and able to survive the winter months if the temperatures don’t drop below the freezing mark. That means that pet owners who live in more temperate parts of the country, like California and the South, have to be vigilant no matter the season. Year-round protection will always be the best flea treatment for cats.
Flea Treatments for Cats: Prevention Options
The key to keeping your cat flea- and tick-free is prevention. The most effective products are topical solutions or oral tablets given to your cat once a month, according to Dr. Stewart. She also recommends talking with your veterinarian about flea and tick prevention you are planning to use to make sure it is a good fit for your cat’s lifestyle. Tablets are mess-free and easy for the owners, but many cats hate taking pills. Luckily, topical solutions, like Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Treatments for Cats and Kittens, work just as well. Even better, the solution kills off adult fleas and ticks as well as their eggs, so it breaks the life cycle of both pests.
But what if you’ve ignored cat flea and tick prevention up until now—and you realize your cat is scratching up a storm? Don’t worry, there are still steps you can take to kill off the fleas and keep them from coming back.
The Best Flea Treatment for Cats in 4 Steps
Dr. Stewart recommends this four-step solution if you discover your cat has fleas.
Step 1. Give your kitty oral flea medication.
Oral tablets, like Capstar Flea Tablets for Cats 2-25 pounds, contain nitenpyram, an insecticide that starts working in about 30 minutes. Within 6 hours, it should kill about 90 percent of all adult fleas, making it a super-effective flea control for cats. Just remember, it cannot kill flea eggs or larvae. That is why you may need to follow up with a second dose the next day.
Step 2. Comb the critters out.
Your next step in your fight against fleas involves a special flea comb, like the Safari Flea Comb for Cats.
“Flea combs can remove 10-60 percent of live fleas but it won’t kill or prevent them,” says Dr. Stewart.
But once the oral flea treatments have done their job, you can remove the remaining fleas as well as the dead ones with the comb. As you groom your cat, dip the comb in a bowl of dish detergent and water between strokes to kill any surviving fleas.
Step 3. Break out the cat flea shampoo.
Your fur baby may hate baths, but she’ll need one to get rid of any flea dirt (aka flea poop). Look for a flea shampoo for cats, like Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor, that can tackle fleas and is gentle enough for your cat’s delicate skin.
Step 4. Prevent pests from returning.
Once your cat is dry, Dr. Stewart recommends applying a monthly flea and tick preventative. A topical solution not only protects your cat from pests year-round (whether it’s flea season or not), but it can also kill flea eggs and larvae as well as any adult fleas that survived the first three steps.