Fleas are not only major issues among dog owners; these are valid concerns among cat lovers as well. With more than 2,500 species of fleas all over the world, a very hardy outer shell once it reaches its pupae stage, and a very prolific egg-layer, these Siphonapteric parasites can be very stubborn to control. As such, the current recommendation is for the combination of appropriate flea treatment medications and environmental control. Unfortunately, even with the most judicious and well-planned flea pest control program can never fully eradicate these ectoparasites. However, we can always minimize the damage these pests bring to our beloved pets. For that we need to start with the use of only the best flea treatments for cats.
Flea Treatment for Cats Buyer’s Guide
We understand that choosing a flea medication for cats can be exceptionally frustrating as almost every other product on shelves look essentially the same. The only way you can pick the right one is by equipping yourself with the correct knowledge and skills related to the selection of such products.
In this section of this post, we have prepared a comprehensive guide which will help you make that all-important decision as to which among the various products available in the market you simply need to pick. We have also included a listing of the different types of flea treatments for cats that you might be interested in, focusing more on their insecticidal effectiveness as well as ease of application. Towards the latter portion of this article, we’ll be providing you with some helpful tips on how you can maximize the full benefits of these flea treatments.
What Should I Look for in the Right Flea Medication for My Cat?
Choosing the right flea medication for your cat can be very easy. Unfortunately, many new pet owners are having trouble identifying the right flea control for cats. If you’re in the same predicament, you’d be glad to know that we’ve set up this list of the things that you will have to look for when choosing the right anti-flea product for your feline friend.
- Quick-acting and reliable
Fleas are very prolific creatures. From eggs to adults, they don’t need many months until they reach their full reproductive capacity. That is why you may kill some of these pests today, but tomorrow some of them will already be crawling back to your hapless pet. This is how resilient and prolific these ectoparasites really are. And it is also for this reason that you are not supposed to be content on using flea medications on your pet alone. This should also be coupled with judicious management of your environment especially those areas where your pet frequents.
That being said, a product’s ability to exert its insecticidal action is very crucial. You don’t want to wait a couple of days before you start seeing dead fleas on your cat because if this is the case, then you’ll be left with a still-flea infested pet.
Quick-acting is quite different from rapid onset of action, however, and it would be wise to read the label of these products carefully. Some would say 30 minutes while others will say they require 12 hours or even 24 hours. For those products that put the 30-minutes in their label, this is often a reflection of the onset of action. It means the time it would take for the drug to begin exerting its flea control activity. For example, if you administered the flea medication now, you should expect to see a few dead fleas within 30 minutes. But this does not mean that you have totally eradicated the problem.
This is where peak onset comes in. What products that put 12 hours or 24 hours in their labels really mean is that majority of the fleas that are present in your pet are already killed within this given time frame. So, after 12 or 24 hours, you can expect up to 99% of all fleas to be already dead.
As much as possible, you would want to get a flea control product that can give you a fast onset of action, a fast peak onset, and an extra-long therapeutic effectiveness. For instance, you will be better off with a product that begins killing fleas in 30 minutes after application or administration, killing 99 percent of these pests within 6 hours, and extending this flea-killing property for up to 30 days or perhaps even longer.
That said, two of the most important things you need to look for is a product’s fast onset of action and its reliability. The greater percentage of fleas and other pests it can kill in lesser amount of time the better.
- Controls fleas in their various life stages
We have already mentioned that fleas are very resilient creatures. Each stage of their life cycle presents a challenge. As such, the effectiveness of a product is largely anchored on its ability to address these life stages.
Fleas start as eggs and these are often found hiding in dark, moist, and warm places. After a few weeks, they hatch and become larvae which feed on almost anything organic. This flea stage cannot jump, but it sure can latch onto almost anything because of its very strong mouth. One weakness though is that they are especially vulnerable to heat. As such, you will find these larvae well hidden in deep crevices and cracks on the floor as well as in your backyard. After a few weeks, larvae form a cocoon to protect itself from the environment. This is the stage where it simply is very difficult to destroy. The maturing flea is well-protected inside its cocoon. It just waits for the right moment and the right stimulus to break through its casing and become an adult where it lays eggs and start the process all over again.
Killing the adults will typically address the problem. However, the eggs, larvae, and pupae that remain to become adults will still have to be contended with. Killing the eggs is nearly impossible since they are so small and they are well-hidden from view. However, those that are already present on your pet’s skin should be highly vulnerable to the effects of insect development inhibitors. What happens is that they no longer have the capacity to form the super-hard protective shell of the pupae. This exposes them to a lot of danger and can ultimately lead to their deaths.
As you can see, the only way to eradicate fleas is to make sure you have a product that addresses each of these life stages. Of course, this should also be combined with a thorough treatment of your house, your belongings, your backyard, and, if possible, the entire neighborhood.
If in case a product only kills fleas at a certain stage in their life cycle, then you need another product to manage the other life stages.
- Relatively safe with minimal side effects
Different preparations of flea medications for cats can produce a variety of clinical complaints. For example, topical preparations can irritate or burn the skin of those cats with highly sensitive integuments. In some cases, staining can also occur. As for tablets, there is always a risk for gastric irritation and stomach upset. So, it is always advisable to let your vet check your pet first so any hypersensitivity can be established and the more appropriate formulation be identified.
Additionally, different chemical ingredients are known to produce a variety of side effects. For example, if a topical flea treatment that contains Fipronil is licked by your pet, then there is a chance that nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, weakness, dizziness, and even tonic-clonic type of seizures can occur. That is why it is very important to know how to administer these topical products the correct way to avoid getting these ingredients licked and ingested by your pet feline. As for Nitenpyram, excessive panting as well as hyper-excitability has been seen in pets 2 hours after the administration of the flea medication for cats.
It is thus, imperative to choose a product that does not bring any additional harm to your feline friend. Side effects are a mainstay in all medications. Just pick one that doesn’t include life-threatening adverse reactions.
- Ease of application or administration
Suffice it to say the ease of application or administration of the product matters, too. If you got a cat that has a very thick fur that you’re not sure if all of the contents of a topical formulation is absorbed by its skin, then you might want to stick with a tablet form or some other type of flea treatment.
What are the Different Types of Flea Treatments for Cats?
Since one of the factors that you need to consider when choosing an appropriate flea treatment for cats is the ease of application, then you must also be well-versed in the different types of anti-flea medications.
- Topical applications – These are very easy to apply and are considered very effective in both killing and preventing a variety of pests from infesting your pet. Many of these products are also available without prescription so they are relatively easy to obtain. The way they work is that the active ingredients are slowly absorbed in the bloodstream through the skin which then quickly paralyzes and inactivates fleas that are already present on the pet’s skin. There are also certain formulations where the active ingredients are emitted in the form of noxious fumes that only pests are affected. This provides its repellent action.
- Tablets – Tablet formulations of flea medications are just some of the latest innovations in pest control. These work by providing a highly concentrated dose of the active drug to instantly kill adult fleas. Sadly, these do not kill flea eggs and larvae, necessitating the administration of another drug specifically designed for such a purpose. As such, these formulations are primarily intended as an adjunct to other longer-term treatments especially those that contain ingredients targeting eggs and larvae.
- Oral drops – These are similar to topical applications with the sole difference of the drug being ‘dropped’ into the mouth of your feline pet instead of being applied onto its skin. It is equally effective but may not sit well with felines that are not good at taking medications via the oral route.
- Shampoos – Most of us have this notion that cats are particularly averse to taking a bath. However, this should be made a part of their regular grooming. Bathing also has the added benefit of allowing you to visually inspect the skin of your pet for any signs of flea eggs, larvae, or even adult fleas. In such cases, you can always apply flea medicated shampoos. Unfortunately, this is not really that effective as a repellent especially if your kitty happens to be a lover of the great outdoors. Also, its flea repellent smell typically fades over time.
- Collars – Considered as one of the most effective ways to supplement flea shampoos, flea collars work by providing a continuous stream of scent that is considered noxious to pests but are utterly harmless to other pets and humans. Sadly, since collars are confined to the head and neck region of your pet, there is a chance that fleas and other pests will congregate at the other parts of its body. As such, this should always be used in conjunction with other flea preventatives.
- Powders and sprays – While these are not really flea medications per se they are nevertheless considered an important part in the holistic management of flea infestation. These products are applied onto the various surfaces both in and out of the house including your beddings, furniture, drapes, carpets, and even rugs to kill any remaining or hiding fleas in various stages of its life cycle. In many ways, sprays can also be applied directly onto the fur of your feline friend to help provide protection when it ventures outside.
Tips on Using Flea Medications on Cats
Knowing how to select the appropriate flea medication for cats including the different types of formulations is just part of the multi-faceted approach to effective pest control. Equally important is the knowledge of how to use these products in the correct manner. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Always talk to your veterinarian
There’s a certain tendency by pet owners to forego seeking consultation with their vet just to save a few dollars from the piece of advice that will be given to them. After all, every bit of information you need is already in the internet, right?
This line of thinking is fundamentally flawed. Just because you can access everything on the internet doesn’t mean that the descriptions provided in such forum are a perfect fit to your pet cat. Just like us, cats, too, are highly individualistic. They may share the same breed characteristics such as hair color and markings but their physiology will be vaguely different. It is in these physiologic differences that your vet can help by carefully evaluating your kitty’s health profile so you’ll be given a list of possible options to give as a flea remedy.
- Make sure to get the accurate weight of your pet
These products are not natural substances of the body. As such, there is always a risk of drug overdose or drug toxicity. Since these formulations have been especially titrated to the smallest possible unit of measure to identify the minimum amount of drug that can elicit the most therapeutic response without creating unnecessary adverse reaction, obtaining the actual and accurate weight of your pet is very important.
For example, Fipronil spot-on for fleas often has a recommended dosing of 50 milligrams per kilogram. This means if you have a 2-kilogram cat then you’re supposed to give no more than 100 milligrams to your pet. Unfortunately, spot-ons come in milliliters so you will have to compute for the actual dose to be given in mL by computing how many milligrams of Fipronil is contained in an mL of the spot-on.
- Make it a habit to read and understand the manufacturer’s directions
One of the characteristics of today’s products is user-friendliness. In fact, learning how to operate or run a particular device has become so easy that we don’t even need to read the manual anymore. Unfortunately, when it comes to medications, there simply is no foregoing the reading of the manufacturer’s directions. We are talking about the life of our pet here. If we take chances in our administration of the product, we risk losing our pets. Not only that, if we’re not careful, we might even endanger ourselves and that of our family.
- Choose only the treatment that is appropriate for your pet feline
Make sure that the flea medicine you’re getting is designed for cats. While there are also products that can be used on other pets such as dogs, it is best to look at the recommended dosing especially for felines as their anatomies are inherently different from dogs. Additionally, you will have to listen to what your vet told you related to the most appropriate flea medication for your pet. Follow his or her instructions to the letter or refer to the recommendations of the product’s manufacturer.
- Always purchase from reputable sellers
We don’t have to tell you to purchase only flea medications from reputable sellers. If your veterinarian happens to have a pet supplies section of his own, you can actually source your pet’s medication from the vet clinic. If you need to order online, make sure to do so from the official website of the manufacturer. Leading brands always have a .com site you can log onto to purchase your pet’s needs. If the brand happens to use Facebook for its company website, steer clear.
- Don’t go cheap
You may have noticed quite a few inexpensive brands that have very similar characteristics as big name, more expensive brands. While it is true that the only difference between the two is price, you can never really be certain about the quality of the ingredients put into cheaper brands. It’s okay to go cheap, but not to the point that you compromise the therapeutic effectiveness of the product itself.
- Be very vigilant about possible reactions
Whenever you have to administer any of these medications to your cat, make sure that you are fully aware of the possible side effects. This way you can ready yourself to manage any of these reactions should they occur. Likewise, make sure you keep a close eye on your pet a few hours after giving a particular dose as this is often a critical period when hypersensitivity or allergic reactions can occur.
- Know how to evaluate the effectiveness of the medication
How do you know that the drug is effective or not? Well, you have to read the label. If the product promises a kill percentage of 95% 12 hours after administration, then you should see a lot of dead fleas on your pet after 12 hours, with only a few still alive. If your observation is the reverse – after 12 hours there’s still considerable number of fleas – then you can say that the medication is not really that effective. Or perhaps you did not administer it correctly. At any rate, this will give you an idea of the general direction of the treatment.
Treating our cats with the most appropriate flea medication starts with an understanding of the crucial elements to consider when buying a particular product, be it a topical spot-on, a tablet, a spray, or any other form. Its quick-acting properties, reliability, safety, ease of application, and spectrum of activity should all be considered. Lastly, you will need to know how to effectively give these best flea treatments for cats to optimize their benefits. It is only through the understanding and appreciating of these things that you can successfully control the flea infestation problem of your beloved feline.
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