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Cat scratching ticks fleas

The essentials

  • Prevention is importantFleas and ticks are a year-round problem, and prevention is the key to avoiding exposure in the first place.
  • Medications come in multiple forms — Prescription medications are the most effective; over-the-counter options are less potent.
  • Use cat-specific treatments only — Some flea and tick treatments for other animals contain ingredients toxic to your cat.

Fleas and ticks are pesky parasites that can cause serious problems, such as allergic reactions and infections. It’s essential to integrate flea and tick prevention into your cat’s routine to prevent an infestation. We break down the best medications to ensure a pest-free, healthy cat.

Best fast acting: Comfortis Chewable Tablet for Dogs & Cats

A chewable medication, Comfortis comes in 2 different tablet types (orange and blue) depending on your cat’s size. Cat parents can find Confortis on Chewy.

It’s most effective to add Comfortis to your cat’s food. In some cases, your cat may vomit after consuming the medicine. Readminister the dose and monitor for any adverse reactions.

  • Active ingredients: spinosad
  • Doses: 22.5mg/pound for cats given once a month for both orange and blue
  • Size: 6.1-12 pounds (orange), 12.1-24 pounds (blue)

Pros and cons of Comfortis

Pros Cons
✓ The active ingredient is derived from naturally occurring soil microbes. ✕ Adverse reactions can occur, like lethargy, weight loss, and diarrhea.
✓ The tablets have an appealing beef flavor. ✕ It can’t be used concurrently with ivermectin.

Best for kittens: Advantage II Kitten Flea Treatment & Prevention

Advantage II Kitten is used for kittens 8 weeks or older and weighing 2-5 pounds.  As a topical, this medication offers a quick — it starts working within 12 hours — and convenient means of protecting your cat from fleas and is safe for indoor and outdoor cats. You can find this product on Amazon or Chewy.

  • Active ingredients: imidacloprid and pyriproxyfen
  • Doses: 1 tube per month
  • Size: Kittens weighing 2-5 pounds

Pros and cons of Advantage II

Pros Cons
✓ The medication is unscented. ✕ Your cat must remain dry for 24 hours after treatment.
✓ This isn’t a prescription and can be stocked up on. ✕ It can’t be used on kittens less than 2 pounds.

Best topical: Bravecto™ Topical Solution

Bravecto™ provides 12 weeks of protection from both fleas and ticks. According to the manufacturer, this medication can kill attached ticks within 12 hours and fleas within 8 hours. While this is a prescription, you can use websites like Chewy to order your cat’s medicine.

  • Active ingredients: fluralaner
  • Doses: 1 tube per month
  • Size: cats 6.2-13.8 pounds

Pros and cons of Bravecto™

Pros Cons
✓ It kills fleas and ticks. ✕ It does require a prescription from your vet.
✕ This can cause hair loss, lesions, and decreased appetite.
✕ This is not effective against lone star ticks and diseases they cause.

Best chew: Credelio Chewable Tablets for Cats

Credelio is a great option for cat owners who want a medication they can use throughout their cat’s life. This tablet has been approved for use in cats weighing over 2 pounds and can be found at Chewy or PetSmart.

  • Active ingredients: lotilaner
  • Doses: 1 tablet per month
  • Size: Cats weighing more than 2 pounds

Pros and cons of Credelio

Pros Cons
✓ This can be used for a wide range of ages and sizes (cats older than 8 weeks and weighing more than 2 pounds). ✕ It should be used cautiously for cats with neurological issues.
✓ It’s made with vanilla and yeast for flavor. ✕ This medication can cause weight loss and rapid breathing.
✓ It’s useful for black-legged tick infestations. ✕ This medication hasn’t been studied in breeding, pregnant, or lactating cats.

Best over-the-counter: Catego Flea & Tick Spot Treatment for Cats

Catego’s topical formula begins killing flea eggs, flea larvae, ticks, and chewing lice in 6 hours. This medication is safe for kittens and adult cats, and it penetrates under your cat’s coat for optimal coverage. Find it on Chewy or Amazon!

  • Active ingredients: dinotefuran , fipronil , and pyriproxyfen
  • Doses: 1 tube per month
  • Size: Made for cats over 1.5 pounds

Pros and cons of Catego

Pros Cons
✓ This can be used in cats as small as 1.5 pounds. ✕ Cats may not like the smell.
✕ You may see more fleas after application due to them dying at the surface of your pet’s hair.

Best collar: Seresto Flea & Tick Collar for Cats

In the past, collars were the go-to choice for flea and tick prevention, but oral and chewable medications have become the go-to for flea prevention. Collars can still be an excellent option for cat owners, especially if you’re prone to forgetting to administer doses. The collar option can be especially helpful for outdoor cats that may disappear for short periods.

If your cat is a full-time outdoor cat, it’s recommended to use a topical medication as these collars aren’t waterproof and cats may be exposed to the elements.

The Seresto collar is sustained-release, so you can be confident that your cat has protection for the whole 8-month period. They can be found on Chewy.

  • Active ingredients: flumethrin and imidacloprid
  • Doses: 1 collar/8 months
  • Size: cats and kittens 10 weeks or older

Pros and cons of Seresto

Pros Cons
✓ The collar is non-greasy. ✕ These can be broken by your cat.
✓ No prescription is required. ✕ You can only bathe your pet once per month with the collar on as it isn’t waterproof.
✓ Collar will work before fleas bite your cat.
✓ Collar is water-resistant.

Best oral: Capstar for Cats, Fast-Acting Oral Flea Treatment

One thing that sets Capstar apart is that the dosage doesn’t change. You can use this medication throughout your cat’s life, regardless of their weight changes.

On the other hand, if it’s difficult to get your cat to take a pill , Capster may not be a great option — this medication is only available in pill form. Find it at PetSmart!

  • Active ingredients: nitenpyram
  • Doses: 1 pill per month
  • Size: for cats and kittens weighing more than 2 pounds and older than 4 weeks

Pros and cons of Capstar

Pros Cons
✓ This can be given daily for a short period of time to work against recurring infestations. ✕ Your cat may spit it out.
✓ This medicine will start killing fleas within 30 minutes. ✕ It could cause seizures, itching, or fever.
✓ This is safe for pregnant or breeding cats. ✕ It only kills adult fleas.

Best shampoo: Advantage Cat Flea & Tick Shampoo for Kittens & Adult Cats

Even if your cat is on oral or topical medication to prevent fleas and ticks, including medicated shampoos in the mix can be helpful. The specially formulated ingredients in Advantage’s flea and tick shampoo kill fleas and ticks on contact, which helps prevent Lyme disease and flea dermatitis, two of the conditions caused by fleas and ticks. Find this at Chewy.

This product does contain pyrethrin, which is an insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers. Cats can’t break down the agents within pyrethrin in large quantities and as such, it can affect their liver function. Most flea and tick shampoos contain this ingredient which is why using the shampoo only as directed and keeping the bottle in a safe place is key to preventing any potential issues. Symptoms of pyrethrin toxicity are excessive drooling, tremors, seizures, and difficulty breathing among others.

👉 If you notice your cat exhibiting any of these symptoms , seek vet care immediately.

  • Active ingredients: pyrethrins, piperonyl butoxide , and insecticide synergist
  • Doses: once every 4-6 weeks
  • Size: For any cat or kitten over 12 weeks that can be bathed

Pros and cons of Advantage

Pros Cons
✓ This works on contact. ✕ It can be difficult to bathe cats.
✓ It kills fleas and ticks.

How to choose the right flea and tick protection for your cat

It can be overwhelming to have so many options for flea and tick protection. When looking for a preventative, consider the following factors:

  • Species-specific. While some products can be used for dogs and cats, most are for one or the other. Never use a product made specifically for dogs on your cat.
  • Age. Your cat’s age (and weight) factor into the type of protection you choose. Always check the packaging and consult with your vet if you have any questions.
  • Application method. Cats tend to prefer oral or topical flea and tick prevention. Which one they respond best to behaviorally will depend on your cat.
  • Outdoor versus indoor. Cats that have regular access to the outdoors are inherently at a higher risk for exposure. Always use flea prevention for your cat, especially those that venture outdoors.
  • Geographical location. Some areas have more fleas and ticks than others, and the prevalence of other parasites can be higher.

Consult your vet before giving your cat any medication

Adding any medication to your pet’s routine should start with talking to your veterinarian. They can help you determine what application method and brand is best for your cat.

Why flea and tick prevention is important for cats

Fleas and ticks are considered ectoparasites and live on whatever animal they’re hitching a ride on. They survive by feeding on the blood of their host animal, and these small bites can cause allergies, itching, infection, and, in the case of tick bites, can transmit things that can even cause death.

On top of any adverse reaction from bites, these parasites can also transmit diseases. While dogs tend to be more susceptible to tick-borne illness, cats aren’t out of the clear. In fact, cats can get diseases like Lyme disease , Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Cytauxzoon . These diseases can cause a range of symptoms from weight loss and lameness to death, which is why prevention and protection are so important.

It’s important to ensure your cat is protected with flea and tick preventatives., But, consult your vet first — they will have great recommendations and make sure your cat is well taken care of.

Frequently asked questions

What do vets recommend for fleas on cats?

While prescription flea and tick medications are usually the most effective, vets will also often recommend over-the-counter treatments like Frontline and Advantage.

What flea treatments should cats avoid?

You shouldn’t give your cat a medication made specifically for dogs. Many of the active ingredients in those meds are highly toxic to cats.

Why do cats hate Frontline?

Many pet owners have shared that their cats don’t like any flea treatment, regardless of brand. More often than not, the scent of the medicine,  sound of the applicator, or feeling of wetness on their neck (if it’s topical) can make your cat uncomfortable.

What is a natural alternative to Frontline for cats?

Many cat owners tout Geraniol for its ability to repel fleas, ticks, and mosquitos. Unfortunately, if this oil is ingested, it can cause intense irritation, vomiting, and even loss of appetite.