Best Cat Flea & Tick Medications

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best cat flea and tick medication

Last Updated September 2020

Warm weather may bring an explosion in the flea and tick population outside, but the bugs can survive and thrive year-round inside your house, where it’s warm and toasty. So, while your cat is more likely to get attacked by fleas and ticks in the spring and summer, they can actually be plagued by these little pests any time of year.

When that happens, you need to get the right medication for your cat or cats. No two cats are the same, and what works for one won’t necessarily be right for another. An important tip: only give your cat flea and tick medication that is specifically designed for cats. Giving a cat medicine for a dog could be fatal.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to choosing a flea and tick medication for your furry friend. For example, you’ll need to decide whether to go the oral route or the topical route. You also need to know what kind of adverse reactions to watch for. Choosing a flea and tick medication for your beloved pet can be a bit daunting, but we’ve done the legwork so you can easily determine the best course of treatment for your fluffy friend.

Flea and tick medications for cats are regulated by both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because they are drugs that include pesticides.

Key considerations

The right medication for your cat

First off, you need to select the right medication for your particular kitty. Your cat’s age, weight, and overall health condition should all be taken into consideration. And we can’t stress this enough: if the medication isn’t labeled specifically for cats, don’t give it to your cat.

Age

Manufacturers are required by law to state the safe age range for these medications, whether oral or topical. Just like people, younger cats and kittens can be susceptible to problems that older ones are not — and vice versa. You shouldn’t give adult medication to a kitten, nor should you give kitten medication to an adult cat.

Weight

Another consideration is your cat’s weight. The ideal way to obtain your cat’s weight is at the veterinarian’s office, but if you can’t do this, weigh yourself on your bathroom scale. Then, pick up your cat and weigh yourself again. The difference between the two numbers is how much your cat weighs.

Make sure you only get medications that are appropriate for your cat’s weight.

Health

If your cat is in poor health, they may already be taking medication for whatever ails them. Drug interactions can be a problem for cats, just like they are for humans. In a situation like that, you should see a veterinarian before purchasing anything for your cat’s flea or tick problems.

Do not mix and match

Unless your veterinarian advises you otherwise, do not give your cat an oral medication and a topical one at the same time. Oral medications move quickly to the skin to affect the fleas, and they can interact badly with the pesticides in topical creams. Choose one or the other but not both.

EXPERT TIP

When applying a topical medication to your cat, either wear disposable latex gloves during the process or wash your hands with warm water and soap immediately afterward.


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Features

Application method

Cat flea and tick medications that are given orally are actual medicines. Lufenuron, spinosad, and nitenpyram are common medications that are given orally. They work by blocking exoskeleton formation or interfering with the nervous systems of fleas and ticks, killing them, in some cases, in as little as half an hour.

Oral medications come in two forms: pills and chewable tablets. Pills have to be forced down the cat’s throat. Chewable tablets can be added to your cat’s food. There have been reports that some of the chewy tablets don’t taste very good, so be aware of that.

Topical ointments and creams are designed to be applied to a cat’s skin. These preparations contain pesticides; a common pesticide used in many topical flea and tick medications for cats is fipronil. Fipronil was originally created to kill termites. Today, pest control professionals often refer to fipronil as the “magic bullet” for killing termites. Along the way, fipronil was recognized as being lethal to a wide range of insects and pests, including fleas and ticks.

Other commonly used active ingredients in cat flea and tick topical medications are dinotefuran, pyriproxyfen, and (S)-methoprene, all of which are actual pesticides used for killing a wide range of insects.

This is what you’re putting on your cat’s skin, so it is important that you follow the instructions on the package very closely.

Adverse reactions

Read the product literature carefully before administering any flea and tick medication to your pet. Warnings and descriptions of adverse reactions should be on the label for your information. It is especially important to note these potential adverse reactions before you use the medication for the first time on your cat. Once you’ve determined that your cat doesn’t have a problem with it, you can relax a little. Keep the package, though, in case problems crop up later. The package should be able to tell you what first aid measures to take for your cat.

Beginning in 2009, the EPA noticed an increase in problems with topical flea and tick medications for cats. In response, in September of 2011, the EPA clamped down with increased regulations to improve the safety of the medications.

Accessories

Flea collar: Bayer Animal Health Seresto Flea and Tick Prevention for Cats
Once you’ve gotten rid of the initial infestation, keep them from coming back with a flea collar from Bayer Animal Health. It’s odorless and non-greasy. Best of all, it lasts for up to eight months.

Protective gloves: MedPride Powder-Free Nitrile Exam Gloves
When you’re applying a topical treatment to your cat’s skin, it’s a good idea to wear protective, disposable gloves. These purple disposable exam gloves from MedPride come in boxes of 100 and are perfect for the task.

Cat flea and tick medication prices

The low price range for flea and tick treatments is anything $30 and under. These tend to work slower than pricier treatments. They work; it just takes longer.

The medium price range sits between $30 and $90 for cat flea and tick treatments. Most treatments in this range are topical applications containing professional-grade pesticide ingredients.

Anything over $90 is a prescription-strength treatment or is available by prescription only. These are powerful medications. Use them under the advice of your veterinarian.

CAUTION

Never try to use a dog flea or tick treatment for your cat. Their biology is different, and a treatment that is safe for a dog may be toxic or even fatal for a cat.

Tips

  • Cats often have sensitive skin that can be irritated by topical treatments. If your cat shows signs of irritation at the application site, you may have to switch to pills or chewable tablets.
  • The application site most commonly recommended for topical treatments is on the back, between the shoulder blades.
  • A pill your cat refuses to swallow isn’t doing any good, so if your cat strenuously resists being pilled, try switching to chewable tablets.
  • Pills or tablets have to be administered on a daily basis. Topical medications don’t have to be administered nearly that often. Follow the directions on the package, and don’t overtreat your cat.
Although fleas and ticks can live year-round in your house, on the outside, their numbers will explode during the warm part of the year. If your cat goes outside, get some medication ahead of time because chances are high they will pick up fleas and/or ticks.

FAQ

Q. Do indoor cats need to be treated for fleas and ticks?
A.
Absolutely. Fleas and ticks can be carried inside on your pants or shoes. All you have to do is walk through an area that is infested with them, and they can piggy-back on you to get inside. Once there, they’ll jump onto your cat.
 

Q. Do fleas and ticks only attack during the warm part of the year?
A.
No. Once inside your house, they can attack and breed all year long.
 

Q. Should I keep using the treatments on my cat after the fleas and ticks are gone?
A.
No. Internal medicines should never be used longer than the label specifies. Topical treatments can lead to skin irritation if they are used continuously. Once the fleas and ticks have been eradicated, switch to a flea collar for cats.

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The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
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    Digital Content Producer
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    Melinda
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    Senior Editor
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    Michael
    Writer

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