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Fleas are not only a nuisance but they can also transmit serious diseases to your cats. Thankfully, various flea preventatives and treatments are available to help limit your cat’s chances of attracting and harboring these external parasites. However, they aren’t all created equally. Some flea treatments aren’t even effective and worse yet, aren’t safe to use on cats despite what the packaging states. Additionally, some products will kill live fleas while others will only prevent a flea from reproducing, so not all products are appropriate for all your flea needs.
Flea treatments can be used as needed if your cat gets fleas and preventatives can be given to help prevent your cat from getting fleas. Due to the potential side effects of flea treatments, some people like to avoid using insecticides on their cats unless necessary, while others like to prevent having to manage a flea infestation in their house and potential diseases that can be transmitted through fleas. There are costs involved in both scenarios but treating an infestation is much more time consuming and difficult than administering a regular preventative. A regular preventative also greatly decreases the chances of your cat from getting a disease or other health concern from fleas.
Below, we share the best flea treatments for cats available today.
Best Overall: Revolution Plus Topical Solution for Cats
Small liquid volume
Protects from more than just fleas
Some cats dislike how it feels
May cause hair loss at application site
With not only safe and effective flea killing power, Revolution plus also combats ticks, heartworms, ear mites, and intestinal parasites. This makes it a top choice for cat owners who want to protect their cats from as many parasites as possible.
Revolution Plus has a small amount of alcohol-based liquid which is administered monthly on the back of your cat’s neck. It isn’t oily and doesn’t smell. As with any spot-on or topical flea treatment, sometimes hair loss is noted in the area that the product is applied and some cats don’t like the feeling of the alcohol on their skin. You also need to let the product dry before petting your cat in that area but aside from those quick, monthly application rules, you shouldn’t have to worry about fleas the rest of the time. A prescription is needed to purchase this product and it is typically sold packs of 3, 6 or 12 treatments.
Best Topical: Bravecto Topical Solution for Cats
Only need to apply once every three months
Protects from more than just fleas
It's easy to forget after three months to reapply
Higher initial cost due to how long it lasts
Similar to Revolution Plus, Bravecto is a spot-on treatment that is applied to the back of your cat’s neck. It protects from fleas and ticks and one treatment lasts for up to three months. A Bravecto Plus option is also available if you would like heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention too (view on Chewy), but it only lasts for two months instead of three. Either way, Bravecto products make it easy to provide safe and effective flea prevention to cats without the monthly application. This product also requires veterinary approval prior to purchasing.
Best Oral: Comfortis Chewable Tablet
No topical application to have to let dry
Good for cats that cannot tolerate topical products
Lasts for one month
May be difficult to get your cat to eat the tablet
Does not protect against any other parasites
Flea prevention for up to one month in cats and kittens 14 weeks and older can be found in the chewable tablet option called Comfortis. This tablet works very quickly to kill fleas in as few as 30 minutes and can be crushed and mixed in your cat’s wet food if necessary. It’s a great option for cats that don’t tolerate spot-on or other topical treatments. It requires veterinary approval but for fast-acting and long-lasting flea protection, Comfortis fits the bill.
Best Comb: Hartz Groomer's Best Flea Comb for Dogs and Cats
Easy to use
Removes both adult fleas and their eggs
Time consuming to find fleas
Not all cats will allow combing
Catching live fleas can be a challenge but combing dead ones off your cat can be just as difficult if you don’t have a flea comb. The Hartz Groomer’s Best flea comb helps you clean your cat and makes it easy to keep a good grip on this important grooming tool. It can also be used to comb out your short haired cat, even if when they doesn’t have fleas.
Best Shampoo: Dawn Dish Soap
Does not kill all flea life stages
Difficult to bathe most cats
While you may be thinking that this isn’t a flea shampoo, the truth is that shampoos designed to kill fleas can be very dangerous to cats. Even shampoos labeled as “all-natural” often contain oils that can be toxic or harmful to cats and the traditional flea shampoos contain pyrethrins which can be extremely dangerous. Dawn Ultra dish detergent is safe for animals, as many people may already know from advertisements that show wildlife being bathed with the soap. It's effective in killing fleas, and also in getting your cat clean. As a bonus, many homes already have a bottle of it under the kitchen sink.
Best for Kittens: Revolution Plus Topical Solution for Cats and Kittens
Small amount of liquid for kittens
Protects and treats for more than just fleas
Safe for kittens
Must avoid touching the area of application until it is dry
Needs to be applied monthly
Kittens are extra sensitive so not all flea treatments are safe to use on baby cats. Revolution Plus is safe for kittens eight weeks and older and contains a small amount of an alcohol-based liquid. This makes application easy and avoids making a mess all over your tiny kitten. It not only kills fleas but also ticks, various intestinal parasites, prevents heartworms, and even ear mites. It does require a prescription from your veterinarian, but is a safe and effective option for your young cat.
Best Area Spray: Virbac Knockout Area Treatment Spray
Kills more than just adult fleas
Continues killing multiple flea life stages for several months after application
Gets into hard-to-clean places in the home where fleas hide
Must remove all pets and people from the home before using
May need more than one bottle for multiple living spaces
If your cat has fleas, odds are your home also has them so you’ll need an effective area spray to treat your cat’s inside environment. The Virbac Knockout spray contains an insect growth regulator (IGR) to kill not only the adult fleas but the eggs and larvae, too. It lasts in the home for up to four months to prevent future infestations, but is not meant to be applied to a cat or any other pet. Your pets should be removed from the house before spraying this aerosolized treatment spray. Once it dries, your pets can return to their space.
Revolution Plus (view at Chewy) offers the most complete parasite prevention in a single application. It lasts for one month, contains no pyrethrins, permethrins, or pyrethroids, and contains a small amount of quick-drying, alcohol-based liquid. Your cat will be protected from fleas, ticks, heartworms, ear mites, and intestinal parasites by simply applying Revolution Plus once a month.
If you have live fleas that you need to kill quickly, Comfortis (view at Chewy) is your best option since it works within 30 minutes, and this chewable tablet will then continue working for up to one month, just like Revolution Plus.
What to Look For in a Flea Treatment for a Cat
Some ingredients are simply not safe to use as flea treatments in cats. Products specifically designed for dogs are sometimes dangerous to use in cats but even some products labeled or marketed for cats can be harmful.
Avoid using pyrethroids in cats as they can be toxic. These are more commonly found in some dog flea treatment products, but are still occasionally seen in cat products. Pyrethrins and permethrin products can also be dangerous to use in cats, but each cat has a different level of sensitivity. One cat may have a seizure from one drop of a pyrethrin or permethrin product while another may have no problem at all.
Flea treatments for cats may come as shampoos, dips, sprays, bombs, powders, spot-ons, orals, collars, combs, and even injections. Some delivery methods are only appropriate for killing live fleas while others will help prevent a flea from being able to reproduce. Some flea treatments, like bombs, aren’t meant to be put on your cat at all, and are actually instead designed to be used in the environment where your cat lives.
How a flea treatment is administered or delivered to a cat is just as important as what ingredients are in it. If you give a flea treatment to a cat through the wrong delivery method, it can be dangerous, so you should always follow the package recommendations for how to administer a product.
Flea collars can be dangerous to cats and the people who live with them. Many flea collars contain dangerous ingredients that can cause skin irritation, toxicities, and hair loss. They are also a choking hazard if a cat gets the collar stuck in its mouth or on something in the environment that causes the cat to be strangled. Additionally, they are a concern for people, especially children, that pet or snuggle their cats as the residue from the collars can easily get onto their skin. Safer flea prevention and treatment options exist but if you do choose a collar, be sure to discuss its safety and use with your veterinarian.
Ease of Use
Some products are easier to use than others. Shampoos, sprays, dips, bombs, powders, and combs take more effort and planning to use while spot-ons, orals, collars, and injections may be easier to administer.
Most cat owners that use preventatives use spot-ons because they are easy to use and last a good amount of time but if your cat will take a treat, oral products may be a good option, too. Collars are easy to place on a cat that will allow them but as previously discussed, concerns surround the use of flea collars.
Injectable flea preventatives are usually only administered by veterinarians so taking your cat to the vet is all that is required of you for that option.
How Long Does It Last?
Each product should say how long it lasts on the packaging. Some only last for 24 hours while others contain an insect growth regulator (IGR) or other ingredients that last several months. If you are only trying to kill adult fleas, a product that lasts 24 hours or less will do the trick, but you’ll need something longer lasting to kill the eggs and larvae. To prevent fleas, most cat owners prefer products that last at least a month so they aren’t having to reapply the treatment too often.
How do you tell if your cat has fleas?
Cats that have fleas are often very itchy and may have hair loss, skin redness, and even scabs. The hair loss is often most prevalent at the base of the tail but can occur anywhere. Flea dirt, which is the black flea feces, can be seen in the fur. It can be differentiated from regular dirt by putting some of it on a wet cotton swab and rubbing it in. Since flea dirt is composed of digested blood, if it turns red on the wet cotton swab, it is probably flea dirt. If it is simply black, it’s probably just dirt from outside.
A flea comb can be used to try and catch a live flea but some cats will have fleas and you won’t see live ones because cats are such fastidious self-cleaners.
How do you prevent your cat from getting fleas?
It’s always best to prevent a flea infestation from occurring by using preventatives on a consistent basis, but if a treatment for live fleas is needed, you’ll want to know what types of products not only kill the adult fleas, but kill the eggs and larvae, too. Nothing can kill flea pupae but in order to get rid of fleas as quickly as possible, you’ll want to kill the other three life stages of the parasite. If you don’t kill the eggs and larvae in addition to the adult fleas, your cat will continue to get fleas every time the pupae change into adult fleas.
Generally speaking, cats that stay inside are at a lower risk of getting fleas than cats that are permitted to go outside.
What ingredients should you look for when choosing a safe product/treatment?
Since pyrethrins, permethroids, and pyrethroids can be dangerous to cats, look for other, safer active ingredients in the flea treatment you choose. Some ingredients to look for include imidacloprid, fipronil, indoxacarb, dinotefuran, spinetoram, fluralaner, spinosad, nitenpyram, lufenuron, methoprene, or pyriproxyfen.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Adrienne Kruzer is a Registered and Licensed Veterinary Technician in three states and has been writing on pet and vet topics for over a decade. She loves researching, learning, and problem solving in order to better help pet owners. Her years of working in various animal hospitals, alongside her formal college education and elective continuing education classes, have provided her with a wealth of experience and knowledge to benefit cat owners.