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Cat Protection Against Fleas and Ticks

  • 11 min read


The most common parasite on dogs and cats is the cat flea ( Ctenocephalides felis ). Rarely, rabbits, hedgehogs or other types of parasites can also be found on cats. Although many cats live with parasites and only show the slightest sign of an outbreak, parasite control is advisable:
    • The cat flea can carry larvae of the tapeworm Dipylidium caninum. Cats become infected by swallowing and digesting parasites during grooming
    • Fleas can potentially transmit diseases between cats
    • Adult parasites feed on blood. In young kittens, this can cause weakness, anaemia, and even death
    • Fleas play an important role in the transmission of “cat scratch disease” from cats to humans. This is an infection with the bacterium Bartonella hensellae and is transmitted to blood-sucking parasites.
    • Some dogs and cats are allergic to parasite bites, causing excessive scratching and skin irritation.
    • Cat fleas cause itchy spots in sensitive people, especially around the ankles
    • Modern treatment options allow parasite outbreak to be combated effectively. If the outbreak is severe, however, special effort is required

Does my cat have fleas?

It is difficult to find an adult parasites in cat fur, as they are often swallowed by the cat while grooming. Often you can only guess at a flea outbreak when you see that the cat scratches itself more often, or when humans find insect bites on their ankles. The easiest way to detect parasites is to comb the cat with a very fine comb or a flea comb. This is done over a white surface, e.g a white sheet of paper. The parasite droppings combed out (which consists of digested blood) appear as small black dots on the white background. If you pour them onto a sheet of damp kitchen roll, the parasite droppings slowly dissolve and red-brown blood stains remain. This is proof that the cat has fleas, even if no adult parasites can be found.

The life cycle of the flea

Adult parasites spend most of their lives on the dog or cat. They can live up to 2 years. Females begin laying eggs 2 days after finding a host. The laid eggs fall out of the dog or cat fur into the environment together with the flea droppings. The flea droppings serve as a food source for the larvae as soon as they hatch. The larvae hatch after just 2 days and prefer to stay in places that are frequently visited by dogs and cats (e.g. their sleeping place). The larvae are afraid of light and therefore hide deep in carpets or soft furniture, so that they can hardly be found.
Lifecycle of flea
Within a week the larva grows and develops into a pupa with a sticky cocoon. This is where the adult flea grows and waits for certain signals (vibrations, moisture, noise, carbon dioxide levels) that indicate an animal or human being nearby. The new flea can hatch within seconds and jump onto the host or stay in the cocoon and wait for up to 2 years. Under the right living conditions, the flea’s development is complete within 15 days. This explains why these parasites are so successful. Effective flea control should therefore kill existing fleas and prevent reinfection from the environment.

Overview of flea control at home

Frequent vacuuming will help reduce the flea population, but not eliminate it. Vacuum cleaner bags should be disposed of immediately. Heavily infested items such as bedding should also be disposed of. There are several ways to prevent flea infestation from happening again:
    • Treat all household animals with anti-flea products. It is important to only use products for cats that are also approved for cats. Many dog ​​products are highly toxic to cats. (more on that later)
    • Treat the area to kill fleas at all stages of development. It is important to treat the entire house, including the furniture, carpets and hard-to-reach areas such as gaps between the wooden floorboards. Vacuum first and then use a bug spray that kills all stages of the flea.
    • Cocoons (or pupae) are very resistant to treatment. Therefore, it is important to repeatedly escape both animals and households.
    • Products that inhibit parasite development can be used on animals or in the environment to prevent fleas from reproducing
For effective flea control, the vet’s instructions should be strictly followed. Contact your veterinary practice for further guidance. In some cases, it can take several weeks to months to get the flea problem under control. Always follow the safety instructions to avoid toxic effects.

Approved flea treatments for cats

There is a huge selection of anti-flea products that you can purchase from your vet, pet shop or supermarket. These funds vary greatly in their composition, mode of action, effectiveness and tolerability. Many older products have ingredients that are no longer as effective or are less safe (for cats and the environment) to use. It is always important to read the instructions for use carefully and to seek advice from your vet beforehand. They also have access to the best and safest flea treatments for your cat. Many newer products are available as so-called “spot-on” products that only need to be applied every few weeks. For the safety of people and animals, it is important to follow the instructions for use. Never use a canine preparation on your cat. Some of these are highly toxic to cats (especially those containing the active ingredient permethrin).
Flea treatment on cats
Some anti-flea products are also available in tablet form, which is intended to simplify application. Others are only available as collars. Unfortunately, many over-the-counter products have little or no effect. You would never get these prescribed by your vet. So get his advice first. Some diffusers and powders should not be used near aquariums because they are toxic to fish. Before use, always check whether this preparation is also approved for your pregnant or lactating cat and kittens.


In general, flea powders are only effective while on the animal’s fur and are therefore not a good treatment option. Because there are safer and more effective methods of flea control, the use of flea powder is not recommended by International Cat Care.


Flea collars are soaked in various active ingredients, such as permethrin, pyrethroid, organophosphates or the parasite growth-inhibiting agent methoprene. In general, parasite collars are not very effective and can cause local skin irritation. There is a risk of injury if the necessary safety lock on the collar is missing. Some collars that are only available from vets have now been significantly improved in terms of effectiveness and safety. International Cat Care does not endorse the use of flea collars unless specifically recommended by a vet, as there are now safer and more effective products than over the counter collars.

Spot-on preparations

The active ingredients in the now widespread spot-on preparations vary greatly, some are more effective or safer to use than others. The preparation is usually applied as drops on the cat’s neck. The spotting is usually easy, but read the package leaflet or ask your vet. Never use a dog supplement on a cat and remember that not all supplements promise the same effect. To clarify: You will get the best advice from your vet: they know the best preparation for your cat. Some preparations kill adult fleas, others stop further parasites from developing – and still others do both!


Administering a tablet is a good alternative, especially for cat owners who have trouble applying a spot-on. Only give pills recommended by your vet and approved for cats.

Aerosol sprays

Aerosol sprays are a problem for many cats because they fear the “hissing” sound. In addition, many of these products use old, less effective active ingredients. International Cat Care believes there are better, safer and easier ways to control parasites.

Pump sprays

Pump diffusers containing anti-parasite agents are a good and readily available treatment option. In addition, they usually do not cause any additional stress for the cat.

Flea growth regulators

Flea growth regulators are already incorporated into some spot-on or ambient diffusers. However, they may also be available as an injection or for oral ingestion. This is often the simplest form of administration. However, it should always be combined with a product that kills adult parasites.

Anti cat flea prevention products for use in the home


Many environmental diffusers contain insecticides with or without growth regulators. Never use this near an aquarium as the ingredients contained are toxic to fish. If you own an aquarium, cover it well with damp towels beforehand. A single application of this environmental diffuse can last from six months to a year depending on the product. Special care should be taken with products containing the active ingredient permethrin. Do not let your cat come into contact with such products. Also, be aware of potential side effects if the treated cat comes into contact with such chemicals.


Foggers are available in many different types. They typically cover a large area of ​​the home, but don’t get into hard-to-reach places. Therefore it is more practical to use a diffuse.

Alternative products

Many natural-based products claim to kill or repel fleas. These contain ingredients like eucalyptus oil, neem oil, pennyroyal oil, tea tree oil, citrus oil and D.Limonene. Although some of these natural ingredients are found in approved products, these remedies have not been adequately tested for safety and effectiveness. Some of these ingredients are potentially toxic to cats and other animals. Also, their effects aren’t nearly as effective as approved products available from vets. Do not rely on such products and if in doubt consult your veterinarian.

Important! Use anti flea products responsibly

NEVER use a dog approved product on your cat. Some of these products contain substances like permethrin that are deadly to cats. Always make sure your cat does not have access to these substances. Avoid contact with dogs that have been freshly treated for parasites. Some household insecticides, such as those used to treat wood, contain ingredients similar to anti-parasite agents. To prevent overdose, use such products only when absolutely necessary. Read the small print on the packaging carefully beforehand and keep the package inserts. They often receive additional safety instructions. If your pet becomes ill after using such products, be sure to show the package leaflet to the veterinarian.

Long-term parasite treatment

Once an affected household is free of parasites, one should think about taking preventive measures. This is not usually the case in households where none of the animals can go outside. Animals that are allowed outside should be treated regularly with flea prophylaxis. It is not recommended to only treat the animals when infested and not preventively, as the risk of developing a parasite bite allergy is increased.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are flea and tick prevention measures for cats?

Flea and tick prevention for cats usually involve using topical or oral treatments that contain active ingredients to repel or kill these parasites. Regular use of flea and tick prevention products recommended by veterinarians can help protect your cat from infestations.

How can I effectively use flea treatment on my cat?

When administering a flea treatment to your cat, follow the instructions provided by the product manufacturer or your veterinarian carefully. Typically, you will apply the treatment directly on your cat’s skin, focusing on areas where fleas are commonly found, such as the back of the neck.

Is it safe to use tick control products on cats and kittens?

Tick control products designed specifically for cats and kittens are generally safe when used according to the instructions. Always choose products that are labeled as safe for felines and consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about tick prevention methods.

What are the symptoms of a flea infestation in cats?

Common signs of a parasite infestation in cats include excessive scratching, skin irritation, hair loss, and visible presence of parasites or flea dirt on the fur. If you suspect your cat has parasites, it’s important to address the issue promptly.

Can flea collars effectively protect cats from parasites and ticks?

Flea collars can provide parasite and tick protection for cats, but their effectiveness may vary. Some parasite collars are designed to repel parasites, while others release active ingredients to kill them. Choose a collar with proven efficacy and monitor your kitty.

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Hamna Nasir is a dedicated cat lover, avid traveler, and accomplished author. Born and raised in the bustling city of San Francisco, Hamna's education journey led her to Boston where her interests expanded and intersected in unexpected ways. Hamna's ontent explores a multitude of topics, from preparing your cat for its first trip and choosing pet-friendly accommodations to understanding feline behavior in different environments. Her first-hand experiences, love for storytelling, and unwavering commitment to enhancing the bond between cats and their owners have earned her a devoted following. Her insights have been celebrated by pet lovers, adventure enthusiasts, and travel bloggers alike.