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Fleas are the most common cat parasite, so chances are you and your feline friend will encounter them at some point. If your cat is scratching more than usual, and you notice itchy bites on your own body, you are very likely dealing with fleas. Fortunately, there are a whole host of cat flea treatments available, as well as preventative measures. Which method is right for you will depend on your cat’s medical history, so it’s a good idea to consult your vet when you encounter these ubiquitous parasites. The cat flea, Ctenocephalides felix, is the most likely to latch onto your pet, but all kinds of fleas can, luckily, be treated.
One option for treating fleas is to bathe your cat with a shampoo which kills the insects. These shampoos can also be used on a regular basis to make sure the fleas don’t return to bother your household. Anti-flea shampoos can be an effective alternative to treating your cat with oral medication, too. When choosing a flea shampoo for cats, we recommend one of our top picks:
Adams Plus flea shampoo is a powerhouse when it comes to eliminating these pesky insects. It kills both fleas and ticks of all forms, from eggs, to larvae, to adults, ending the life cycle at every stage and dramatically reducing the risk of re-infestation. The effects last for around 28 days, so this shampoo can be easily incorporated into a monthly bathing routine.
Along with its flea-busting properties, Adams shampoo also contains skin-friendly oatmeal, coconut extract, and aloe, allowing it to double up as an anti-dandruff product which will leave your furry friend’s coat soft and shiny. The natural extracts also have the benefit of soothing the itchy skin which fleas cause. The shampoo is gentle enough to be used without rubber gloves.
Contains pyrethrin insecticides, effectively killing fleas and ticks
Kills eggs and larvae as well as adult fleas
Safe to use on both cats and dogs
Effects last for 28 days
Anti-dandruff, and leaves your pet’s coat soft and glossy
It’s a well-known fact that most cats hate water, but there is a way to use flea shampoo without ever having to drop your kitty in the bath! Vet’s Best solution is a flea bath for cats, only dry. The product is a foam, which is applied to your cat’s coat before being combed through. It doesn’t need to be rinsed out either, and dries quickly. This dry shampoo kills adult fleas and ticks on contact, as well as their eggs and larvae, leaving your cat comfortable.
Vet’s best flea shampoo is also a great option for cats with sensitive skin, and owners who want to avoid harsh chemicals. Its formula takes advantages of the natural anti-insect properties of certain essential oils, including peppermint and clove. Not only will your cat be relieved from fleas and ticks, but the shampoo will leave a pleasant scent in their coat.
No water required
Proven to kill fleas and ticks at all stages of the lifecycle
If you’re a fan of organics, there’s a pet shampoo out there for you, too! RX 4 PET’s formula blends organic natural ingredients into a shampoo which is designed to help your dog or cat overcome a whole raft of skin problems, including the itching caused by fleas and ticks.
The shampoo will treat irritated skin, hair loss, allergies, and sores, as well as leaving your pet’s coat silky soft. This shampoo can help to alleviate the discomfort associated with flea problems, but is unlikely to kill many of the insects themselves. Customers say that the formula provides their pet with considerable relief, but it should be used in conjunction with other flea treatment, such as an oral tablet or injection.
Natural, organic, skin-friendly formula
Can be used on both cats and dogs
Relief for itching, as well as many other skin problems
Anti-dandruff, and will leave your cat’s coat soft and smooth
Should be used in conjunction with other flea treatments if your pet has a flea problem
Paws and Pals’ formula uses natural ingredients to sooth your pet’s skin and kill off any fleas and ticks they are carrying. Because the shampoo is soap free, it can be used regularly without drying out your cat’s skin. It also has a long-lasting fresh scent, keeping your pet smelling great until it’s time for their next bath!
The shampoo will tackle fleas and ticks which are already living in your cat’s fur, but does not kill off their eggs, so should be used in conjunction with other flea treatments. It’s best used to provide your pet with immediate relief, help them to stop scratching, and maintain a healthy coat.
Using the natural ingredient of pyrethrum, this option kills both fleas and ticks on contact – all without causing any damage to your pet’s skin or coat. Indeed, it works to soothe your pet’s skin, while the active ingredients do their magic and rid your pet of pesky parasites!
Incredibly popular with buyers and boasting an impressive amount of 5-star reviews, this option has earned its accolade as Amazon’s Choice. Most notably, users state that the scent of this shampoo is much kinder to your nose (and eyes!) than many others on the market. On top of this, they also noted that this medicated flea shampoo comes up with a nice lather and leaves your pets’ coats beautifully shiny.
Formulated with pyrethrum to kill on contact
Soap and paraben-free for sensitive skin
pH balanced and suitable for use on all life stages (over 12 weeks)
Another great option for cats who can’t stand bath time, Vet’s Best no-rinse formula makes keeping your kitty’s skin in great condition easy. This isn’t an anti-flea formula, but its soothing natural ingredients will keep itching at bay. In addition, it won’t interfere with topical flea treatments, meaning it can easily be used in conjunction with them. It also contains neem oil, which is a natural insect repellent.
The shampoo is rich in vitamin E, and easily applied as a foam to your cat’s coat. Massaging it into your cat’s fur and skin before coming through will leave them with a soft, clean, tangle free coat. Excess fur and dead skin can simply be brushed away. Since applying the shampoo is very similar to petting your cat, giving them their bath could even prove to be a relaxing experience for both of you!
Waterless shampoo specially formulated for cats
Natural ingredients nourish your cat’s skin and hair
Easy to use
Calms itchy skin, making your feline more comfortable
Can be used in conjunction with other flea treatments including topical ones
It might look like a bottle of orange juice, but this vibrant package packs a real punch as a flea and tick shampoo for cats. Its natural formula effectively kills adults, larvae, and eggs upon contact, stopping their lifecycle in its tracks. This surprisingly gentle shampoo is also mild enough to be used on a regular basis, for both cats and dogs.
Once it has been applied, Tropiclean’s shampoo will continue to repel fleas and ticks for up to seven days, helping to prevent them from coming back. Another benefit of Tropiclean is its zesty scent, which avoids the unpleasant medicated smell of some flea and tick shampoos.
Suitable for both dogs and cats
Mild enough to be used regularly
Natural flea-fighting ingredients
Continues to repel fleas and ticks for up to a week
Kills larvae and eggs as well as adult fleas and ticks
Zodiac’s shampoo will eliminate lice as well as fleas and ticks. The formula contains insect-fighting pyrethrins, alongside coconut conditioners to keep your pet’s skin and hair soft and healthy. It’s alcohol free and pH balanced, meaning that it won’t irritate skin – a particular bonus when your pet is already tender from insect bites! This shampoo can be used on both cats and dogs, too.
The scent might not be quite as sweet as other flea shampoos on the market, but its striking balance of efficacy and gentleness has earned it a spot on our list.
Flea and tick shampoo can be a great solution for treating cats with fleas, and there are clearly a lot of options to choose from. Below we discuss how to properly use flea shampoos, and answer some common questions about fleas and how to treat them.
What to Look for When Buying Cat Flea Shampoo
Every cat is different, and which flea shampoo you choose to purchase will depend on a few factors, including their medical history, and tolerance for bath time. These shampoos come in three main categories:
Natural flea and tick shampoos usually have a chemical called d-limonene as their active ingredient. This chemical is extracted from citrus peel, and kills fleas and ticks by attacking their nervous system. D-limonene is safe for humans, cats, and dogs, but deadly to fleas and ticks, making it a great alternative to the harsh insecticides which were used in flea shampoos of the past.
Organic shampoos help to combat fleas and ticks through their use of essential oils – usually peppermint, clove, neem, or cedar. These oils won’t usually kill the insects, but do repel them. Organic flea shampoos are a great preventative solution which will also keep your pet’s coat in top condition.
Chemical shampoos contain flea-busting components which have been synthesised in a lab. These shampoos will contain either pyrethrins or pyrethroids. Pyerthrins are extracted from chrysanthemum flowers, and kill insects by interfering with their nervous systems (much like the d-limonene of natural flea shampoos). Pyerthroids, on the other hand, are synthesised from scratch rather than extracted. These too kill insects through interfering with their nervous system.
Which of these categories is right for your cat will depend upon the state of the flea infestation and the sensitivity of their skin.
If your cat does not currently have fleas, but you want to take pre-emptive action, an organic shampoo is probably your best option – especially if your cat has sensitive skin. Although fleas can survive all year long thanks to modern central heating, you might wish to use these shampoos during the summer months when they are the most active, to keep your cat bite-free.
If your cat seems to have picked up a few fleas, but does not have a major infestation, a natural flea shampoo may be the best way to go. Regular bathing will eliminate the fleas and ticks on their bodies, as well as deterring new ones from attaching themselves.
For more severe flea problems, you might be better off choosing a pyrethrin or pyrethroid based flea shampoo. These chemicals are a bit harsher on the skin, and should be used less frequently, but they’re tough on fleas too! In a severe infestation, you should also treat your home as far as possible. Wash fabrics at 140˚ Fahrenheit, vacuum regularly, and consider using a flea spray designed for your home.
Before using a flea shampoo, be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions. Each shampoo will have a slightly different chemical makeup, and its packaging should guide you on how much to use. To achieve the best results when using flea shampoo for cats, try the following tips:
Work from Top to Bottom
When rubbing the lather into your cat’s coat, start at their head (be careful not to get the product in their eyes as it can be irritating) before moving down their back, sides, stomach, and legs, finishing with their paws and tail. Working downwards will ensure that fleas and ticks cannot simply crawl up and away from the water. Make sure to thoroughly shampoo nooks and crannies where fleas are prone to hide such as behind the ears.
Allow the Shampoo time to Work
Your cat may not enjoy bath time, but it’s important that you leave the shampoo on their coat for about five minutes, giving it time to do its work. This can be challenging for many cats, but in the long run giving the shampoo time to work properly will mean your pet needs to be given a flea bath less often!
Try using a Flea Comb
Working a fine-toothed flea comb through your cat’s fur whilst they are lathered up ensures that any fleas trying to flee (pun intended) are removed. Drop them into a container besides the bath to make sure no living specimens escape back onto your cat.
Once you have worked in the flea shampoo and used a flea comb, make sure to rinse off all of the shampoo. Being exposed to certain flea shampoos for long periods of time can irritate your cat’s skin – the exact opposite of what you’re hoping to achieve with flea treatment!
If you are currently using any other hair or skin products on your cat, it’s a good idea to speak with your vet about how they might mix with a flea shampoo. In some cases, other products can lower the efficacy of flea shampoos.
Benefits of Using Flea Shampoo for Cats
Using a flea shampoo to treat your cat’s infestation comes with a number of benefits:
Flea shampoos treat the hair and skin more thoroughly than alternatives such as a powder or flea spray for cats would.
Some types of flea shampoo are mild enough on the skin and hair to be used regularly.
Flea and tick shampoos can be used to both prevent and treat flea problems.
Some shampoos continue to repel fleas and ticks for weeks after use.
Flea shampoos help to soothe irritated skin as well as killing the fleas themselves.
Many flea shampoos can be used on both cats and dogs.
However, flea shampoos should not be thought of as a cure-all for fleas. These insects are resilient and insidious; they can survive by hiding in spots around the house as well as on your pet’s body. Female fleas lay their eggs on cats’ skin, but because they aren’t sticky, unlike other parasite eggs, they tumble off – often straight into your house. Eggs can survive in your home for about six months, so the critters can easily return if not treated thoroughly. For this reason, it’s important to treat your home for fleas as well as your cat, to ensure they are completely eradicated.
Best Flea Shampoo for Cats FAQ:
Q: How does flea shampoo for Cats work?
A: Flea shampoos contain active ingredients which act to kill fleas on your cat’s body. These ingredients can be naturally occurring chemicals, or synthesized in a lab. They kill fleas by either coating and suffocating them, or attacking the insect’s nervous system. Fleas can then be picked or combed out of the affected animal’s coat. Some shampoos leave a residue on your pet’s coat which repels fleas, helping to prevent future infestations.
Q: How do I check my cat for fleas?
A: Knowing how to spot fleas can be tricky, but there are plenty of tell-tale signs to watch out for:
It’s normal for cats to meticulously groom themselves, but if you notice that your cat is grooming more than often, worrying a particular area again and again, or constantly scratching, this could be a sign that they’re being troubled by fleas. Each cat will have different grooming habits, so knowing what’s normal for your feline friend will help to determine whether their behavior is concerning.
If you notice scabs, bumps, hair loss, or other skin abnormalities, this could be a sign that your cat has fleas.
The presence of Tapeworms
Fleas can do more damage than just biting – they actually carry tapeworm eggs too! If your cat passes tapeworms in their stool, this could be a sign that fleas are in town. Tapeworms appear as short crawling segments in the cat’s feces.
A cat with fleas will often appear restless and aggressive. They may also avoid certain rooms, which could be an indication that fleas are harbored there, especially if the room is carpeted or full of soft furnishings. As with any case of changed behavior, consulting with a veterinary professional is a good idea.
In extreme cases, fleas can trigger anemia in cats. This means their blood does not have a healthy amount of oxygen carrying red-blood cells, and can cause lethargy or extreme tiredness. Pale gums are a typical sign of anemia to watch out for.
If you notice one or more of these symptoms in your cat, you should check them for fleas. Place them on a white towel, sheet, or pillowcase, before combing their coat from top to bottom with a fine toothed comb. Doing this over a white fabric allows you to see any fleas, eggs, or flea dirt which might otherwise be missed. As you comb, pay close attention to the skin you expose, for any signs of bites or scabs. Fleas are particularly fond of the back of the neck, the base of the tail, and the inside of the legs, so be sure to focus plenty of attention on these areas.
You are looking for dark brown insects, three to four millimeters in length, eggs (which are similar in appearance to salt and pepper), flea excrement. This flea waste is best found by wiping the comb on the white towel, before sprinkling a little water onto it. Flea waste turns dark red when wet, because of the insect’s blood-based diet.
Q: Can I use dog flea shampoo on my cat?
A: This will depend on the brand of flea shampoo in question. Some shampoos (many included in the list above), are suitable for both cats and dogs, but others are designed for dogs specifically. Never use a flea shampoo on your cat unless the packaging explicitly states that it is suitable for cats. Certain chemicals which are safe for dogs are not necessarily safe for their kitty counterparts, so it’s important to always check the label carefully.
Q: How often should I use cat flea shampoo?
A: How often you should use flea shampoo will depend upon the type of shampoo as well as the condition of your cat’s skin. Some tougher flea shampoos are only designed to be used once a month, whereas others are safe to use every week or more. Always check the label, and follow the manufacturer’s advice for how often their product can be used. If your cat has sensitive skin, it is a good idea to leave longer stretches between applications of flea shampoo, since some ingredients can be irritating or drying. Just like humans, some cats can also be allergic to certain shampoo ingredients. If you notice any indications of an allergic reaction in your cat, such as a skin rash, you should consult with your vet to find an alternative solution.
Q: Is flea shampoo for cats effective?
A: Flea shampoo is an effective preventative measure, and can be a highly effective flea treatment when used in conjunction with other solutions. It should not be considered a complete flea treatment for cats by itself, but rather one weapon in your arsenal against these pesky insects. It bears repeating that fleas are incredibly hardy, and treatment can take some time to be entirely effective. A flea shampoo should usually be your first line of defense when fleas invade, followed up with treating your home for fleas, and possibly giving your cat an oral flea treatment.
Q: How old does a cat need to be to use flea and tick shampoo?
A: The vast majority of flea shampoos are not suitable for kittens under the age of 12 weeks. This is because some of the chemicals which are tough on fleas are also tough on their sensitive skin, and their bodies are not yet equipped to safely metabolize them. This is unfortunate since kittens are especially vulnerable to flea-related anemia due to their small size.
Although there isn’t currently a flea shampoo for kittens of this age, they can still be treated for fleas using gentler methods. They will need to be bathed with a mild cat shampoo, before being thoroughly combed with a fine toothed flea comb. Any living fleas which scramble for the kitten’s head can be plucked off with tweezers. You might want to keep a cup of hot water near-by, as dropping a flea into this will quickly kill them. This method of flea removal is more time consuming, but safe for very young kittens. Bear in mind that newborn kittens should not be bathed at all. If you suspect fleas in a newborn, they will need to be picked off manually with a pair of tweezers until they are old enough to be treated with a topical flea treatment. Remember to combine this method with eliminating fleas in the house by vacuuming regularly and washing fabrics (including the kitten’s bedding and toys) at a high temperature.
Our Top Pick
We think the best flea shampoo for cats has to be Adams Plus flea and tick shampoo. It treats fleas and ticks incredibly thoroughly, killing eggs and larvae as well as adults, and keeps repelling insects for up to 28 days.
The soothing coconut and aloe extracts act to calm your pet’s skin, whilst the pyrethrins get to work dealing with the pests themselves. This shampoo is a great all-rounder, which can be used on both cats and dogs – perfect for a home with multiple pets. On top of this, Adams’ formula is one of the most cost-effective on the market, meaning you can afford to use it regularly, and keep your home flea free for years to come.
A freelance writer and word nerd, Wendy is a content writer with a knack for getting into the nitty-gritty of pet ownership. For the past three years, she’s been researching and writing a huge range of different topics – but always comes back to her beloved pet articles. Lover of all things four-legged and owner of Harley, Pepper and Rush, Wendy is currently completing her MNSW at Edge Hill University.