Flea Products for Cats - by Method of Application

Flea control for cats requires a strict integrated approach involving treating the affected cat, all in contact animals and the environment. Failure to address all these areas may lead to a failure to achieve adequate flea control for your cat.

Adult fleas are not host specific and therefore live on many different animals. Whilst the adult fleas live on the actual animal feeding on its host's blood, the eggs fall into the environment where they hatch and develop through several stages into adults ready to re-infest any animals in the area. Figures suggest that only 5% of the potential flea population in an area is comprised of adult fleas on the animal with the remaining 95% represented by the immature forms developing in the environment. Hence the need for an integrated approach to flea control.

Numerous products are available for cat flea control and flea treatment. The sheer volume of products is overwhelming for many owners trying to diligently sort through them and decide on the best product for their cat's situation. Having an understanding of how various flea control products work and what results can be expected from them will help many owners discover which product is most suitable for their particular situation.

First and foremost it is essential to understand that cats are not little dogs. Only flea control products specifically registered for use in cats should be used and the manufacturer's directions should be strictly adhered to. The use of products appropriate for the age of the cat or kitten is also essential to prevent adverse side effects and toxicity from developing.

A brief description of some of the types of flea products available for use on cats categorised by the method of dosage with examples will follow.

Flea Control Collars: Flea collars placed around a cat's neck are known to have varying efficacy. Some collars will only have adequate concentrations of active ingredients in the area directly around the collar, whereas others will spread the full length of the cat. Flea collars are not normally the most effective product available for flea control in cats. Furthermore care should be taken if considering use in old or debilitated cats.

Shampoos and Rinses: The use of flea control cat shampoos or rinses on cats may not be possible for many owners. The water avoiding nature of cats can prevent this from being an option in many cases. Flea shampoos are used to kill adult fleas on cats but have no residual effect and have no effect on the immature forms in the immediate environment. Manufacturer's direction should be strictly adhered to when using these flea control products.

Tablets for Flea Control:

  • Proban is an example of an oral medication given twice weekly to cats to kill fleas on the animal. It has no effect on immature stages already present in the environment. The difficulty of regularly tableting cats can be a drawback for this product. This medication carries strict contraindications and warnings1 so should not be used without reading the product information or discussing it with your veterinarian.
  • Capstar tablets are given on any day when adult fleas are visible on the cat. This medication rapidly kills adult fleas. Capstar starts killing adult fleas within 30 minutes of dosing.

Oral Suspensions: Many cat owners prefer the use of oral suspensions to tablets when giving oral medication to their cat. If the suspension cannot be placed directly into the cat's mouth then it can be placed on the cat's paws and the cat will subsequently lick it off whilst grooming. It is vital to ensure that the entire dose is swallowed to get adequate protection. Program oral suspension for cats is an example of such a product. It does not kill adult fleas but contains a flea inhibitor. This compound prevents any eggs laid by affected adult fleas from hatching, thus reducing the environmental burden of developing fleas. Adult fleas may still infest the cat so an adjunctive flea control treatment which kills adult fleas may be required. Program oral suspension is given monthly on a year round schedule for best results.

Flea Control Sprays: The use of sprays on cats to control fleas is another method which can be considered in cats where their temperament is suited to getting wet. An example of a flea control spray for use on cats is Frontline Spray. Frontline spray is effective in preventing infestation with adult fleas on cats for up to 8 weeks. It can also be used as an aid in tick prevention in cats for up to 3 weeks.

Injections for Flea Control: Program flea control is also available as an injection given every 6 months by your veterinarian. The mode of action is as for the suspension above.

Monthly spot ons: Monthly spot on products provide an easy and effective means of controlling fleas on cats and in many cases also have an effect on the developing flea stages in the environment. Some monthly spot ons also contain ingredients which will help control other internal and external parasites. A major advantage of these products is their ease of application. They remain effective for one month after application. Examples include:

  • Advantage for cats - kills adult fleas and larval forms in the environment. Advantage Flea Control kills all existing fleas within 12 hours of application and kills all fleas within 20 minutes of contact.
  • Advocate for cats - used to kill adult fleas on the cat, larval stages in the environment and help in the control of heartworm, roundworm, hookworm and ear mites. As for Advantage, Advocate kills existing fleas within 12 hours of application.
  • Frontline Plus for cats - kills adult fleas as well as eggs, larva and pupae in the environment.
  • Revolution for Cats - this flea control product kills adult fleas, kills larvae and makes eggs non viable. It also helps prevent heartworm, ear mites, hookworm and roundworm in cats.

3 monthly spot on product: A product such as Exelpet spot-on flea control for cats and kittens does not kill adult fleas but stops the development of flea eggs and larvae on contact and sterilises and damages eggs within the female flea. This product provides protection for up to 3 months. The use of a product which kills adult fleas may be required in conjunction with this product to gain adequate flea control.

Being aware of the outcomes required for your situation combined with an understanding of your cat's temperament for medicating will help make deciding on the most appropriate flea control product a more manageable task for most owners. For maximal results the chosen product should be used as part of an integrated flea control approach focussing not only on the cat itself but also on all other in contact animals and the immediate environment in which the cat resides.