Protecting Your Cat from Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks can carry disease so it's important to protect your cat from them. Your veterinarian will make a recommendation that best fits your cat's lifestyle and environment.

Reviewed on:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

3 ways to treat fleas and ticks to protect your pet

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Fleas and ticks on dogs and cats can occur nearly anytime and anywhere — causing everything from an annoying itch to infections to more serious and costly health issues. That’s why taking steps to prevent parasites is such an important part of your dog’s and cat’s overall health and quality of life. Read on for three different ways you can provide tick and flea treatment for dogs and cats — and minimize the risk of a flea and tick infestation.

1. Treat your pet
While fleas and ticks are more prevalent in certain climates, parasites can strike cats and dogs in just about any geographic location. It’s important to treat your dog or cat with a parasite preventive product that’s designed to kill fleas and ticks before they can potentially cause serious health problems in your pets. The best type of parasite preventive treatment can depend on your climate, your pet’s breed and their overall health. Talk to your veterinarian about the most effective options for your cat or dog.

Tick and flea treatments are available as both prescription and over-the-counter products and can include:

  • Oral tablets
  • Flea and tick collars
  • Topical liquids or gels applied to your pet’s skin
  • Flea shampoo
  • Powders and sprays

2. Treat the inside of your home to prevent cat and dog parasites
In addition to treating your pets, it’s also important to treat their environment. Parasites can live inside our homes, whether they gain entry on our shoes or clothing, from your pet or from visiting pets and people.

Keep parasites from invading your home with these steps:

  • Brush and bathe your pets frequently
  • Dust furniture often
  • Vacuum floors and baseboards
  • Wash your pet’s bedding and toys regularly

3. Treat the outside of your home to prevent cat and dog parasites

Reduce the risk of your pet picking up parasites outside your home with these tips:

  • Trim grass, trees and shrubs frequently so parasites have fewer areas in your yard to live and breed
  • Treat your lawn with a pet-friendly (and non-toxic) flea and tick yard treatment
  • Vacuum the inside of your car frequently
  • Keep pets indoors during the height of flea and tick season
  • Keep your pets away from wooded areas
  • Consider fencing your yard to help keep other parasite-carrying animals out of your backyard

Be proactive about flea and tick prevention
Be sure to notify your vet if you think your pet might be suffering from parasites. It’s also a good idea to talk to your vet about a year-round prevention plan to help keep your pets free from fleas and ticks. By taking steps to reduce the chances of an infestation, you can save time and money and maintain good health in your pet.

The CareCredit credit card is an easy way to pay for pet exams, flea and tick medication, and preventive treatments at participating veterinary providers. Use our Acceptance Locator or download the CareCredit Mobile App to find a nearby veterinarian who accepts the CareCredit credit card.

Parasites to Protect Your Cat From: Fleas, Ticks & Mosquitoes

Internal parasites, fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are among the most common parasites that affect pets. Since some of these parasites carry serious diseases that can be transmitted to cats, especially kittens, it's important to take the necessary precautions to actively protect your cat.

Internal Parasites

Many kittens are born with internal parasites or become infected soon after birth, which means they can pose an immediate risk to the health of your kitten. Tapeworms are also common in kittens if the mother or the kitten has fleas. Check with your vet to arrange for a regular deworming schedule to rid your kitten of these parasites.

Fleas bite and feed on a cat's blood, causing itching and irritation. This can lead to medical problems, such as flea allergy dermatitis, skin infection, tapeworms, anemia or even death in severe infestations.

Your vet can help you decide on the best preventative measures to protect your cat from fleas.

These carriers of dangerous diseases affect both pets and humans by transmitting organisms that cause illness when they attach to their host to feed.

If you suspect that your cat has come in contact with ticks, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.

More than just a nuisance, mosquitoes have been known to transmit heartworm disease and cause other medical problems.

If you think your cat may come in contact with mosquitoes, ask your veterinarian to recommend products for the prevention of heartworm and other parasites.

Protecting Your Pet from Fleas and Ticks

By Kate O’Hara, BVetMed
General Medicine, Angell Animal Medical Center

Fleas and ticks feed on the blood of their hosts, which can include wild animals, people, and our pets. In addition to being a nuisance, these ectoparasites can represent a significant health risk to our cats and dogs directly by causing Flea Allergic Dermatitis (a skin condition resulting if the pet has an underlying allergy to the flea bites) or anemia (a low blood level) if there is a heavy burden. Fleas are also responsible for transmission of diseases such as Feline Infectious Anemia, Cat Scratch Fever (bartonellosis), and tapeworms. Ticks can transmit Lyme Disease, Babeiosis, and rickettsial diseases including Anaplasmosis, Ehirlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Certainly we owe it to our pets to protect them from these dangers. The good news is that we do have easy and effective ways of preventing fleas and ticks on our pets and keeping these parasites out of our homes.

Understanding the life cycle of the parasites is important in forming an effective plan for prevention. Most ticks have 4 life stages: the egg, larvae, nymphs, and adults. Between each stage, the tick will require a blood meal, and then will drop off the host into the environment and molt. Ticks can feed on mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Most ticks prefer to have a different host animal at each stage of their life. Therefore most ticks will be found in the outdoor environment. Ticks will become inactive during the cold winter months, but are active throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

There are also 4 stages to the flea life cycle: the egg, larvae, pupae, and the adult flea. The egg is laid on the host and falls off into the environment to hatch. The larvae and the pupae which then develop are also found in the environment. Only the adult flea, once it emerges, lives on the host and reproduces. The average time it takes for a flea to develop into an adult is 3 weeks, though this time frame can be faster or slower depending on the environmental climate/ conditions. If fleas become established indoors where it is warm, they can thrive and continue to reproduce throughout the year.

Many times people are unaware of the dangers of these parasites, or do not believe that their pets are at risk. Clients often tell me: “My pet doesn’t have a problem with fleas or ticks.” What they are not aware of is that in most cases, people will not actually see fleas or their effects until there is a heavy burden or unless the animal has an allergic reaction to the bites. Most parasites do not actually want to make their hosts sick. Doing so would mean loss of their food source. Also, as their life cycles illustrate, the majority of the parasite population is found in the environment and not on the animal.

Cats, in particular, are very good at grooming adult fleas and ticks off of themselves and removing “evidence” that there is a problem. I have seen many dogs test positive for tick-borne diseases when their owners have not witnessed ticks on the dogs, so we know they are out there. Our goal in dealing with these parasites is prevention. We do not want to wait until parasites become an obvious problem before dealing with them. It is much easier (and cheaper!) to prevent an infestation rather than trying to clear one once it is established or dealing with the diseases parasites transmit.

Targeting the ectoparasites at more than one point in their life cycles is most effective. Routinely treating the outdoor environment during flea and tick season will lower the overall burden in the area and make control easier. Routine topical treatment of pets aims to kill fleas and ticks and prevent the ticks from attaching. Some owners prefer to apply these topical preventatives only during the active flea and tick season. However, we recommend year-round monthly treatments. This is because of the unpredictable timing of the season and also because prevention will be most effective when started during the cooler months when the environmental burden is lower. Trying to fight against a larger population later in the season is more difficult. Owners can also significantly decrease the risk of disease transmission from ticks by performing routine “tick checks” and removing any that are found. Of course, this may be more difficult on pets with long dense coats.

Quiz: The Truth About Fleas and Ticks

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on
October 01, 2019

Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images, nechaev-kon / Getty Images

ASPCA: “Fleas,” “How to Get Rid of Fleas and Ticks,” “Ticks,” “Ticks and Lyme Disease.” “Least-toxic Control of Fleas.” “Fleas, Ticks and Pets: The Battle Against Parasites.”
Allan C. Drusys, DVM, chief veterinarian, Riverside County Animal Services, Calif.
EPA: “Taking Care of Fleas and Ticks on Your Pet.”
Illinois Department of Public Health, Prevention and Control: “Ticks.”
Marin County Department of Agriculture: “Marin Model School IPM Project: Fact Sheets for Parents and Teachers, Fleas.”
Michigan Humane Society: “Flea Control.”
National Pesticide Information Center: “Managing Ticks and Preventing Tick Bites.”
Oregon Veterinary Medical Association: “Fleas: Treatment and Prevention.” “Ticks.”
University of California ANR Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: “Fleas.”
University of Florida IFAS Extension: “Fleas, What They Are, What To Do.”
University of Minnesota Extension: “Use Integrated Approach to Control Fleas.”
Washington State Department of Health: “Ticks.”

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE VETERINARY ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your pet’s health. Never ignore professional veterinary advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think your pet may have a veterinary emergency, immediately call your veterinarian.

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