The best cat flea and tick medication
The battle against fleas and ticks is real, and many cat owners find themselves searching for effective, gentle treatments. A flea collar can only do so much, and basic flea powders can be messy to apply and not strong enough for major infestations. This is when cat owners usually start looking for heavier ammunition.
Many of the best cat flea and tick medications can only be obtained by prescription. These prescription-grade flea and tick treatments can be expensive, but there are over-the-counter alternatives that are quite effective. A flea infestation should never be left untreated, and ticks can cause a number of feline diseases if not removed quickly.
If you're in need of a quality flea and tick medication treatment for your cat, read our buying guide. We've compiled a list of both prescription and non-prescription treatments, all of which have proven success. At the top of our list is Revolution's Topical Solution for Cats, a prescription topical solution that kills fleas at every stage of development and keeps on treating the problem for weeks at a time.
Considerations when choosing cat flea and tick medications
More often than not, it falls on the owner to administer flea and tick treatment at home. Flea and tick medications are sold in either topical or pill form, each with their advantages and disadvantages. A topical ointment or drops can be applied directly to the pet's skin, where it eventually spreads to the rest of their coat. A medicated pill enters the pet's bloodstream, then reaches the skin through capillaries.
Some cats don't like taking pills, so owners may have to crush the tablets and put them in food or wrap them in a treat. Others may not like the feeling of ointment on their skin and make every effort to lick it off. Placement is everything when it comes to topical medications.
Most flea and tick medications are designed to create an inhospitable and/or toxic environment for fleas and ticks. The active ingredients in a topical ointment coat the cat's fur and skin, which encourages fleas to leave or die but can also make the cat ill if ingested. A medicated pill changes the cat's blood chemistry to destroy eggs, larvae, and adult fleas, but some cats experience nausea, panting, and other unpleasant side effects until the medication wears off. Owners should observe their pets after dispensing any form of flea/tick treatment, and be prepared to stop the course or switch to a different product.
Age and weight
As with human medications, one size does not fit all. Veterinarians and owners have to factor in a cat's age, weight, and overall health before deciding on a particular flea/tick medication. Manufacturers are required to include an established age range. Some prescription medications can overwhelm older cats or those with compromised health.
Weight is also a factor, since oral medication dosages are partially based on metabolism rates. If a cat is above or below the average weight range, it can be overmedicated or undermedicated. When choosing an over-the-counter flea and tick medication, owners should pay close attention to the recommended dosages based on age and weight.
There are entry-level flea powders, collars, and sprays available for less than $30, but most OTC topical treatments should cost between $30 and $90. Because of dosage considerations and the strength of the ingredients, many oral flea and tick medications are prescription only, along with higher end topicals. Owners may need to pay for a veterinary office visit along with $100 or more for the actual medication.
Q. My vet gave me a topical flea and tick ointment for my cat. Where should I apply it?
A. The most common location for a topical flea and tick treatment is between the cat's shoulder blades. Many cats attempt to lick off ointments or creams, so the right spot should be fairly inaccessible. The ointment should eventually spread throughout the rest of the cat's coat and skin.
Q. I have an indoor cat who rarely goes outside. Do I still need to give her a flea and tick treatment?
A. Fleas and ticks can easily enter the home through other pets with outdoor privileges, or owners can inadvertently carry them on their clothing. If your indoor cat is displaying signs of a flea or tick infestation, you should pursue the same remedies you would for an outdoor cat.
Cat flea and tick medications we recommend
Best of the best: Revolution's Topical Solution for Cats
Our take: Many indoor and outdoor cats benefit from a multi-prong approach to parasites, and Revolution starts to work within hours of application.
What we like: Treats other conditions, such as heartworms and ear mites. Dries quickly after application, no greasy residue. Kills both adult fleas and eggs.
What we dislike: Expensive. Prescription only, with variable effectiveness reported.
Best bang for your buck: Capstar's Flea Tablets for Cats
Our take: This affordable flea treatment can be purchased straight off the shelf and does not require messy topical application.
What we like: Can be given daily for major infestations. Works within 30 minutes of ingestion. Affordable price point, with no exam or prescription required.
What we dislike: Some cats resist flea treatments in pill form. Effects not as long-lasting as other forms of treatment.
Our take: Cheristin is a non-prescription topical that works especially well on younger, smaller kittens at least 8 weeks old.
What we like: Complete adult flea eradication in as little as 12 hours. Topical applicator included. Helps heal effects of flea bites on skin.
What we dislike: Some reports of skin irritation after application. Not as useful as prescription formulas in the long-term.
Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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