Frontline Plus, but its thicker applicator tip requires scissors, and while this isn’t a major deal breaker, some owners might not want to juggle the medicine, a nervous cat, and a sharp object all at once. If you don’t mind the extra step, we liked that it was less than half the price. If your cat needs relief from fleas as quickly as possible, use an oral tablet. The medication starts working in 30 minutes and kills 90 percent of fleas within six hours. The downside of oral flea medication is that it only kills adult fleas. It won’t prevent a future infestation or treat other insects.
If you have an outdoor cat, you’ll need to give your cat a tablet every day or switch to a spot-on after 24 hours for a cheaper long-term prevention. We ended up with 75 collars, shampoos, spot-ons, sprays, and tablets. With so many options to choose from, we focused our attention to the options that would be easiest to apply: tablets, spot-ons, and collars. The other two, shampoos and sprays, aren’t practical for most cat owners. If your cat avoids getting wet at all costs, he’s definitely not going to tolerate a full-body chemical bath. From there, we dug into the research and talked to veterinary and insect experts to determine which medications could wipe out a flea problem without any side effects. First we learned not all flea medicines work the same way.
Imidacloprid, nitenpyram, dinotefuran, and fipronil are the most common. All of the flea treatments on our list use an insecticide. Common insecticide synergists are piperonyl butoxide and n-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide. These ingredients are found in some shampoos and powders. Ralph Williams, veterinary and public health entomologist, told us he only recommends EPA-registered insecticides for flea control. There’s a lot of unproven products out there.
The EPA serves as a sort of police source so these products do what they say they are doing. So we narrowed our list down to treatments with EPA-backed insecticides. Even better, we loved when a product used IGRs or insecticide synergists to speed up the work of its insecticides. Then we ditched any ingredients with dangerous side effects. All insecticides carry a risk of side effects if used incorrectly, but some can be more dangerous than others. Symptoms are more likely to occur in children. This eliminated the Bio Spot and Hartz flea collars on our list.
Tick Collar for Cats still uses it. CDC, humans exposed to pyrethroids can experience numbness, itching, burning, stinging, or tingling. Etofenprox is found in some Adams, Bio Spot, Sentry, Zodiac, and Frontline products. Flumethrin disqualified the Seresto flea collar. Cat products that have pyrethrins aren’t inherently unsafe, but using them could risk overexposure if cats come into contact with pyrethrins under other conditions. Pyrethrin poisoning causes vomiting, incoordination, shaking, tremors, seizure, trouble breathing, and hypothermia. We found pyrethrins in some Zodiac, Bio Spot, Sentry, and Adams products.
Removing pyrethrins eliminated shampoos and most powders and sprays. This makes selamectin potentially dangerous for people who are constantly exposed to the substance. We found selamectin used in Revolution, a spot-on medication. Then we split our remaining contenders into two categories. At this point, we realized the research was pointing us in two different directions — spot-on treatments had more robust results, but tablets were still an effective way of treating an existing flea problem. We didn’t want to cut tablets altogether — some cat owners might be less worried about prevention, and some cats might flee the moment the spot-on medication touches their neck. So we ended up looking at the top picks in each category.
If you’re looking for a medicine that will not just kill fleas, but will also prevent multiple types of pest, a spot-on medication is your best bet. This combination allows the medication to kill fleas and prevent them from developing or laying eggs. Spot-ons are also the only type of medication that kill both fleas, ticks, and other pests like mites and lice. Williams agreed, explaining that IGRs mimics insect hormones to prevent them from laying eggs. For spot-ons, we wanted a flea medication that could control an infestation from the ground up, so we only kept spot-on medicines that used an insecticide and an insect growth regulator. With so many options, we also wanted a spot-on that could protect cats from ticks. Ticks are less common in cats — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions. Therefore, it is important to continue using flea and tick preventives on indoor pets. Ticks carry diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which are easier to prevent than they are to treat. They’re also prevalent across the country, but are most common in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions. If you want to protect your cat from as many pests as possible, spot-ons are the best option for you. If you only want to treat a flea problem, use an oral tablet. The three over-the-counter oral flea medications we found only treat fleas — they don’t prevent new fleas from developing or treat other pests, but they begin killing fleas in half the time.