Fleas and Ticks on Cats: Treatment and Prevention

Fleas and ticks— the very words trigger disgust and cause pet parents to worry about their cat’s comfort and health.

  • Fleas are extremely common on cats and cause physical discomfort as well as potentially transmitting diseases in some regions.
  • Ticks are potentially more serious in that, while less frequently found on cats, they transmit diseases more commonly when they feed.  

In addition to the problems caused for cats, both fleas and ticks can attack humans. They are much more than a nuisance and should be approached aggressively.

How can I keep fleas and ticks away from my cat?
Controlling these parasites requires a two pronged approach:

Kill fleas and ticks that are already present— Cat on White bedCheck your cat frequently for fleas and ticks. If any are found, the first step is to use an insecticide to kill the fleas and ticks. There are a number of products that can rapidly kill fleas and ticks. They include insecticidal shampoos, topical sprays and systemic insecticides given orally. All are effective but they only kill the pests on your pet at the time they are treated or for very short time periods after treatment.

Make sure you ask your veterinarian for a recommendation of a product to kill existing fleas and ticks. Be extremely certain to follow labeled instructions and never use a product on cats that is not labeled for cats.

Prevent future fleas and ticks— So now you have killed the fleas and ticks on your cat. The next step is to prevent re-infestation. This may require a change in your cat’s lifestyle. Cats that are kept indoors are far less prone to being attacked by external parasites.

Also effective is the monthly use of a topical product that kills fleas and ticks. Most such products are effective; however, the insect must feed on your cat to die. A few topical products have repellent activity, so they actually keep the flea or tick from feeding. Some have a repellent activity against other insects including mosquitoes. This has the advantage of helping to protect from heartworm.

[Heartworm Disease: Cats Get it Too]

Can flea and tick collars help protect my cat?
Flea and tick collars have been greatly improved in their efficacy and safety and can aid control and repellency. Most should be changed every 30 days but some are effective for longer.

Can testing help protect my cat from flea and tick disease?
No matter how many precautions you take, it is still possible for your cat to pick up disease from fleas and ticks. To be sure your cat is protected, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recommends the following:

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Reviewed on: 
Tuesday, March 29, 2016

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