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Pet Care » Your Cat's Health

Cat's and Flea/Tick Control Products

The Numerous Ways to Scratch an Itch

Whether your cat remains indoors at all times or is allowed to roam freely outdoors, you should consider using preventative flea and tick products prior to a problem emerging. Do your homework ahead of time and be prepared as there's a lot of information available and your choice of products to use should only be made after considering all of the options and risks involved.

What options do I have for pre-treating or treating my cat for flea and ticks?

Your choices for helping your cat avoid problems associated with flea and tick infestations, as well as for treating existing flea and tick overpopulations, are numerous.

Options vary in their form of application, the amount of time that they remain effective, and the way in which they control the fleas and ticks.

Forms of Application

A general listing of the various feline flea and tick control products that are currently available on the market include the following types of applications:

  • Collars (with herbs and herbal oils, as well as powders and/or vapors)
  • Combs (regular flea combs as well as electronic versions)
  • Electronic flea traps (utilize light and heat as an attractant)
  • Indoor room foggers
  • Indoor surface sprays (for fabrics, pet beds, rooms, and rugs)
  • Liquid dips (for bath-type applications)
  • Oral liquids (to be added to their food)
  • Outdoor sprays (a bottle attaches to your garden hose and can be used on the lawn, kennel area, or other problem locations)
  • Pills
  • Powders (for surface applications as well as directly on the cat)
  • Shampoos (herbal and medicinal)
  • Topicals (including creams, drops, and foams)
  • Towelettes
  • Ultrasonic pulse repellant ("ball" attaches to collar or in the form of a comb)

Effectiveness Period

Some products begin working as quickly as a few minutes while others take a day or two to become effective. The time such products remain effective can literally be as short as one day, as marketed for one type of oral pill, and as long as six or more months for an indoor surface spray. Many of the popular oral pills and liquids most be reapplied monthly.

Method of Control

While some flea and tick products act at outright repellants, a few are actual attractants to lure them in for trapping and killing purposes. Most of the products available kill the fleas and ticks by direct contact or ingestion of the compound or by preventing the further development of their various life stages. Read the product information carefully as some items only work on certain life stages including eggs, pupae, larvae, and/or adults.

How do I determine which flea and tick product is best for my cat?

Discuss the options you're considering using with your veterinarian. They might have specific recommendations based on your cat's age, health, or other needs. An example of this would be a cat that's allergic to fleabites; such a cat would benefit most from a treatment that directly kills the flea prior to the cat being bitten. Your vet might also recommend a multi-tiered approach and can guide you in which products are safe to use together.

Health risks of using any of these products should be weighed properly. Many of these items are potent insecticides. Know ahead of time what negative reactions to expect, if any. ALWAYS make sure that the product you're using is labeled for cat usage, as many flea and tick products are only safe when used on dogs.

If you have substantial concerns about using the medicated versions of treatment, investigate the numerous "more natural" options which would include: herbal collars, shampoos, and sprays; citric acid based compounds; homeopathic approaches; and powders that contain Chrysanthemum (pyrethrum) flowers and/or diatomaceous earth, either of which can be mixed with boric acid for increased effectiveness.

Other factors to consider might involve: costs, whether the products can be easily obtained over-the-counter or require a visit to your veterinarian, whether the product used is waterproof, how much surface area the product treats, what other pests the product works on (ants, gnats, flies, lice, mites, and mosquitoes), and what other functions the product offers (e.g., odor control sprays, tick collars and drops that kill as well as cause the tick to detach). As a separate item, it's a good idea to have a tick remover "device" on hand for those occasional needs.

Plan ahead and your flea and tick season will be over before you even know that it existed. Your cat will appreciate it more than his or her non-scratching ways will ever be able to lovingly convey.

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