In this guide, I will compare a few commonly used flea products for cats. There are many varieties of flea products for cats available in the market today. However, not all of these products are safe, for humans as well as the pets. Some flea products are carcinogenic in humans and downright toxic to the animals.
In this guide, I compare different flea products for cats by sorting them in four different categories namely:
- Safe for use
- Use only when chemical control is necessary
- Use sparingly and avoid if pregnant or around small children
- Avoid use completely
Safe for use flea products for cats
- Flea combs – These are safe and effective against fleas when used regularly for grooming cats. They can not only reduce fleas but also monitor how a particular flea product is working. Pet owners must ensure destroying the fleas trapped by the comb in soapy, hot water.
- Vacuuming – Vacuuming carpets and pet beddings is a safe and effective way of eliminating fleas and preventing re-infestations.
- Bathing – Bathing cats in soapy baths once or twice a month is a natural way of destroying fleas. Ensure washing the pet bedding in hot water to kill eggs and larvae of fleas.
- Maintain the outdoor areas – This helps prevent flea infestations. Owners must ensure clipping grass and shrubs, especially if the cat spends a lot of time outdoors. Non-chemical/biological aids like nematodes can also help control fleas in gardens.
Flea products for cats to be used when chemical control is unavoidable
- Essential oils like those of thyme, cedarwood, lemongrass, rosemary and thyme are present in many over the counter flea products for cats. However, some may be highly concentrated and may cause allergies or asthma in the pet. Use diluted products only after first discussing them with the vet.
- S-Methoprene – Brand names Hartz (Advanced, One Spot and Ultra Guard) and Zodiac. These are effective in halting chitin production (that enables the exoskeletal growth in fleas). However, more studies are needed to ensure that this does not cause cancer in pets and humans. Frontline Plus also has it as its active ingredient and may be used only on cats 8 weeks and older. Advantages are that such products kill fleas and ticks faster and also prevent their eggs from hatching.
- Metaflumizone or Amitraz – This monthly spot on treatment (brand name Promeris-CATS) helps kill fleas within 48 hours. It is safe to be used in pregnancy. Disadvantages include bad odor and residue on the coat.
- Selamectin – (Revolution brand) must be used only on cats above 8 weeks. It is a monthly spot on treatment that helps prevent heartworms, roundworms and hookworms as well. It is available by prescription only.
Flea products for cats to use sparingly and avoid around pregnancy/children
- Strong herbal products containing tea tree oil, lavender oil and essential oils of citronella, cinnamon, clove, bay, eucalyptus and rue etc must be used sparingly as allergic reactions have been reported in cats. Rue oil causes extreme sensitivity to sunlight causing sunburn in pets. Additionally, nausea, vomiting and excessive salivation has been observed in some cats. Tea tree and lavender essential oils are estrogenic and can cause breast development in young boys. In cats, many of these herbal products are known to cause severe allergic reactions.
- Imidacloprid – (Advantage brand topical application) should be used sparingly as it directly affects the nervous system of the fleas and can be toxic to humans as well. However, it has been classified as non-carcinogenic in humans by the EPA.
- Metaflumizole/Promeris – As stated above, use this product sparingly as it leaves residue on fur that can be transferred to young children’s hands and may be absorbed by skin. In lab animals, the product, in high doses, is known to cause liver toxicity.
- Fipronil/Frontline – Possible human carcinogenic. Overdose in pets may cause seizures, vomiting etc. Also known to leave residue on fur which may be transferred to child’s hand. Breaks down in sunlight to cause an even more potent product.
Flea products for cats to avoid completely
- Permethrin/Pyrethrin – These flea products should never be used on cats. They are derived from compounds obtained from the chrysanthemum flowers. Cats treated with excessive amounts of pyrethrin products are known to have suffered seizures, elevated temperatures, muscle damage and even death.
- Citrus oil based flea products for cats are more harmful to cats than dogs. Limonene and linalool based shampoos, sprays, and spot-on products must be avoided completely as they can cause toxicity even at low doses. Pennyroyal oil is another very toxic essential oil that can lead to seizures, coma or even death in cats and poisoning in humans.
- Organophosphates based products like Tetrachlorvinphos can affect nervous system leading to paralysis, or death. They have been given “likely carcinogenic status” by the EPA. These flea products for cats must never be used around young children as it can disrupt endocrine system as well as the developing nervous system.
- Carbamates/Fenoxycarb – This has been classified as carcinogenic and is suspected to disrupt endocrine system in cats.
As can be seen there are many flea products for cats available in the market but you must always talk to a vet before using them. Never use two or more flea products simultaneously. Apart from controlling and preventing fleas using flea products for cats, it is essential to treat the pet’s surroundings as well.