Other than “bath time,” there are two words a cat never wants to hear: flea infestation. All the biting and scratching can lead to allergies, inflammation, anemia and even tapeworms. It can drive a kitty nuts. Fortunately, there’s an arsenal of flea treatments to banish those bloodsuckers once and for all.
Topical flea treatments are popular for both their effectiveness and preventative qualities. Feline flea topicals such as Frontline and Advantage are administered on your cat’s skin, usually on his neck between the shoulder blades, once a month. These treatments work in a variety of ways, and are best for cats who can't stand baths and refuse to wear collars. Some have chemicals that are absorbed by your cat’s sebaceous glands thus killing fleas when they bite; other topicals kill both adult fleas and their eggs. Topical flea medications are also viable options for owners who prefer to cut down on the amount of meds their cats receive each month. Flea preventatives like Revolution also kill parasites such as heartworms, roundworms and hookworms. Consult your veterinarian when deciding which topical flea treatment is right for your cat.
Oral flea treatments are options for very young kitties and treat-loving cats. Capstar, a prescription tablet for kitties as young as 4 weeks, kills adult fleas rapidly and may be given as often as once per day. Oral flea treatments also work well for the kitty who begs for treats; dab the tablet with a bit of wet cat food and this treat will kill parasites and satisfy her desires all in one.
Let’s face it, most cats hate water. However, if your kitty is positively infested with fleas and won’t scratch your arms off at the sound of running water, flea shampoos used in conjunction with oral or topical flea medications can help rid your pet of the pesky parasites. Flea shampoos are best when used in conjunction with oral or topical flea treatments. Try a dry, foam-type flea shampoo if kitty just can’t take the water-based, well bath. Just rub a golf ball sized amount into your cat’s hair and wipe away any dirt and dander with a damp washcloth. No matter what flea shampoo you use make sure to follow the directions carefully and steer clear of any flea shampoos formulated for dogs -- they can contain the harmful ingredient permethrin.
If your cat doesn’t mind wearing a collar, another option for flea treatment and prevention is a flea collar. These collars need to make direct contact with your cat’s skin in order to be effective so they won’t be the best choice for long-haired Persians but could be an option for a Cornish rex or hairless sphynx. Always make sure the collar has a quick release latch for safety.
One of the best ways to forgo a flea infestation altogether is to prevent, prevent, prevent. Keeping your cat indoors is a good start, however even indoor only cats have fallen victim to fleas. It’s a good idea to give your cat a monthly flea preventative especially if you have other indoor-outdoor pets.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.