Paul has had many pet cats over the years, and dealt with numerous flea infestations. Born in the UK, he currently lives in Florida, USA.
One of the challenges of owning a cat is that they are prone to picking up fleas, particularly if they live an active outdoor life. It's happened with pets I've owned on many occasions.
Treating the flea infestation and preventing future problems can be expensive and time-consuming, but it is absolutely necessary for the health and well being of the cat, as well as for keeping fleas out of your home. This article looks at the best flea treatments and prevention for cats.
While your choice of treatment is important, it should also be noted that taking a broader approach to tackling fleas is usually called for, if you are going to get rid of them for good, or at least long term. This is why I've included information on vacuuming, combing your cat, and other tips that I've found to be useful.
It should also be noted that there are no guarantees with these treatments and that you may well need to obtain a prescription from a vet to find a longer term solution.
Before you read on, I would like to make it absolutely clear that I am writing purely from the perspective of being a cat owner. I am not a veterinarian, nor do I have any scientific qualifications that relate to dealing with fleas.
My recommendations are based purely on my experience of being a responsible cat owner. I am not a replacement for an examination or advice from a trained vet.
Top 3 Flea Treatments for Cats
Here are the three treatments that I've had most success with over the years:
- Bayer Animal Health Advantage II: Reliable and Effective
- Capstar Fast-Acting Oral Flea Treatment: Quick and Inexpensive
Vet's Best Flea and Tick Home Spray: Works Without Harsh Chemicals
I will explain my thinking and experiences in more detail below.
Bayer Animal Health Advantage II: Reliable and Effective
Bayer Animal Health Advantage II is my go-to treatment, essentially because it's the most reliable and cost effective treatment option that I've found. I've read some negative reviews of this product, but in many cases my impression is that the user either doesn't follow the instructions, or expects instant results.
The brutal truth is that it can easily take three months to resolve an infestation and you have to constantly keep up with the regular vacuuming, changing bedding, spraying furniture, and doing your laundry, as well as applying the treatment doses, if you are going to be successful.
My Bayer Animal Health Advantage II Pros:
- It kills the fleas through contact, rather than relying on the flea to bite the cat.
- It's easy to apply and you only have to apply it once per month.
- As well as dispensing with the adult fleas, it also kills the eggs and larvae.
- If you keep applying it, it will prevent further infestations.
My Bayer Animal Health Advantage II Cons:
- It's certainly not the cheapest treatment option out there. I think it's worth it, but others may well think otherwise. There are times when I've tried "cheaper" options and ended up spending more money because they just weren't effective.
- You need to use the correct dosage. That means weighing your cat and following the instructions to the letter.
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Capstar Fast-Acting Oral Flea Treatment: Quick and Inexpensive
The thing that I like most about Capstar Fast-Acting Oral Flea Treatment is how quickly it works. You give your cat a tablet and within half an hour the fleas start dying. In my experience, it's most effective when used in conjunction with a flea spray.
My Capstar Pros:
- As I said earlier, this treatment begins working virtually straightaway.
- The tablets are convenient and you don't need a veterinary prescription. You can either put the tablet in the cat's mouth, or (my preferred method) you hide it in their food.
- It's a (relatively) low cost option.
- If the cat gets re-infected, you just give them another tablet.
My Capstar Cons:
- It makes the dying fleas hyperactive for a time and this can be very annoying for the cat. It only happens for an hour or so, but cats don't like it while it's happening.
- On its own, it's not that effective as an effective long term option for a serious infestation, in my experience. The low cost is cancelled out if the cat keeps getting reinfected. That said, the chances of success are greatly enhanced if used in conjunction with a spray (see below).
Vet's Best Flea and Tick Home Spray: Works Without Harsh Chemicals
To beat a flea infestation, you can't rely on just treating the cat, you need to deal with all the areas within your home where the fleas will live, and that's where flea sprays come in. Although there are a number of products on the market, Vet's Best Flea and Tick Home Spray is my own personal favorite, in part because it doesn't contain harsh chemicals.
I normally use it for home use (furniture, etc.) and in conjunction with other treatments (see above), but it can also be used directly on cats - the cat has to be over three months old, and you should make sure that you read the entire label and follow the instructions before application.
My Vet's Best Flea Spray Pros:
- It kills fleas, plus their larvae and eggs, by contact.
- It's made from a plant-based ingredients and is 100% Certified Natural.
- As the Vet's Best spray doesn't contain harsh chemicals, I feel safe using it around my home and family.
- When the bottle runs out, there are refills available to buy.
My Vet's Best Flea Spray Cons:
- Don't expect it to defeat an infestation on its own, but it is great for killing fleas in the places where the cat goes and around the home generally.
- You will need to apply this spray multiple times around the house to beat a serious infestation, in my experience.
How do Cats Become Infested With Fleas?
Cats pick up fleas from at visits to kennels, groomers, or from going outside. Indoor cats can get fleas from people or other animals coming into the home. There are multiple flea types, but cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) are the type that the cat is most likely to get.
Cat fleas love feline blood but will bite humans too. They lay their eggs in the cat's fur, but from there they can then drop onto carpets or furniture. Modern flea treatments, if used correctly, are usually very effective at dealing with flea infestations, provided you follow the instructions.
Symptoms of a Cat Flea Infestation
A cat with fleas will often:
- Spend a lot more time scratching itself, particularly the head and ears.
- Chew or bite themselves.
- Suffer patches of fur loss from all the itching and scratching.
- Have small dark specks in their fur, these are flea droppings.
It should be noted that there are other conditions that can cause a cat to itch. Your vet will confirm if the cat has a flea infestation, and not another skin parasite that is causing the problem.
Preventing Cat Flea Infestations
During the treatment phase and afterwards, it's important to observe a strict cleaning regime. This means:
- Vacuuming regularly, at least once a day. Vacuuming the cat's favorite hangout locations is especially important, as is vacuuming after combing the cat for fleas. Carpets and furniture merit special attention.
- Make sure that all your laundry and bedding is cleaned regularly.
You should also seriously consider buying:
- A flea collar.
- A flea comb.
Combing Your Cat for Fleas
One great way to check your cat for fleas at home is to use a special comb. If you brush your feline and it's infested, you will see the fleas jump out and you will find dirt specks.
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to comb your cat regularly, regardless of whether you are are administering treatment. I keep a container of soapy water nearby, so that I can dunk and kill anything that the comb picks up. I always vacuum the brushing area afterwards.
What is the best flea comb for cats?
There are many great combs on the market, and I've tried a variety over the years, but if you asked me to pick one, I would recommend a Safari Pet Products Flea Comb for Cats. I'm a fan of this comb for a number of reasons:
- It's an inexpensive product, but does the job it's designed to do very well.
- It works with long and short-haired cats.
- It removes both live fleas and flea dirt (droppings).
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2020 Paul Goodman
Sp Greaney from Ireland on September 01, 2020:
I think with the choice of brands on the market, there is one to suit any cat. I used to purchase this from the vet until I realized that you can buy ones from the pet stores that are much more affordable.