Tick & Flea Prevention in Cats

As with dogs, ticks and fleas in cats are a huge irritant and if left untreated, can cause serious diseases. Although treatment for both pets may be similar, the ways of administering them may differ depending on the product used. Some of the ingredients found in tick and flea products for dogs can be extremely dangerous to cats so read on to learn how to administer the treatments and what products to avoid when eradicating those pesky pests from your kitty’s life.

Treating Your Cat

  • Frequently check your cat for ticks, especially if they have freedom of the outdoors. Be particularly vigilant and check inside the ears,  between the legs and toes as well as around the neck and under the collar.
  • Ensure you are well-acquainted with how to remove ticks.
    • Have the necessary supplies: comb, sharp-nosed tweezers, rubbing alcohol, disinfectant spray or cream
    • Use the comb to part the hair so that the tick is exposed as much as possible
    • With the tweezers grasp the tick at the head, right where it enters the skin. Don’t grab the tick by the body as you can break it in half leaving the head behind.
    • Pull the tweezers away from the skin smoothly and steadily. Do not twist or jerk.
    • Place the tick in the jar of alcohol to kill it.
    • Dab the area around the bite wound with disinfectant
    • Wash your hands with soap and water
  • Try to limit your cats outdoor roaming time, as best you can, during peak tick and flea seasons. On their return home, meticulously check them for parasites.

 Invest in products that repel or kill ticks and fleas:

  1. Monthly Topicals:
    These insecticides are applied to the back of your cat’s neck. Some topicals kill both ticks and fleas while others only kill ticks or fleas, so it’s important to read the labels carefully.
    WARNING: Never apply a tick or flea product to your cat that is meant for your dog.
  2. Sprays:
    Tick and flea prevention sprays are available in pump or aerosol bottles. A word of caution when using aerosol bottles: the sound it makes is like that of another cat hissing so rather spray the product onto a cloth (away from the cat) and rub it onto their fur. When applying from a spray bottle, spray all parts of the cat’s body. For the eye and ear areas, spray the product onto a piece of cotton wool and apply from there. Ensure you don’t get any of the product into their eyes. Sprays can be applied between shampoos and dips.
  3. Powders:
    Ensure you apply powders in a well-ventilated area so the fine particles don’t agitate your cat’s mouth or lungs if inhaled and use only small amounts. Rub the powder slowly into your cat’s coat., avoiding the face. Increase usage to once weekly during tick and flea season. Some powder products can be used on your cat’s bedding and other areas in your home where your cat likes to spend time.
  4. Shampoos:
    Depending on your cat’s reaction to water, this may or may not prove to be a viable option for you. Tick and flea shampoo must be rubbed in thoroughly over the entire body and left for a minimum of 10 minutes. This will ensure the pests are killed on contact. During peak tick and flea seasons, you may need to repeat the shampooing process every two weeks.
    TIP: Cats generally do not like running water so rather use a large container to gently pour water over them.

  5. Collars:
    For the collar to be effective, it must be in contact with your cat’s skin, so the chemicals can diffuse through the coat and skin. Ensure a snug fit by ensuring two fingers can slip under the collar while it’s around their neck. Any surplus length should be cut off, so your cat or other pets don’t find the temptation to chew on it. If your cat is scratching incessantly and their skin appears irritated where the collar fits, they may have an allergic reaction to the collar and an alternative product option should be used.
    WARNING: Do not use collars containing amitraz, permethrin or organophosphates on cats!

  6. Oral Medications:
    Oral medications are convenient to administer, and protection can last for up to 12 weeks. However, as with dogs, the side-effects of some oral medications have caused a lot of negative hype so consult with your veterinarian before deciding to go this route.

WARNING:

  • Always ensure the product you are using is intended for cats before buying and using it and only use on the animal species the product is intended for!
  • Many of these products contain permethrin which should only be used on dogs and NEVER on cats! Instead, use a product containing pyrethrin, imidacloprid, or fipronil.

Natural Treatments Against Ticks and Fleas

  1. Water Wash:
    Thoroughly wash your kitty with cool water to flush away all fleas. Then use natural shampoo infused with cedar, eucalyptus, lavender or citrus.
    WARNING: Stay away from essential oils, particularly citrus oils, as cats don’t have the necessary enzymes to break these components down and can result in poisoning.

  2. Supplements:
    With all the anti-flea and tick shampooing, your kitty’s skin can take a toll. Give them a veterinarian approved omega-3 fatty acid supplement to help restore moisture to your purry pal’s skin.
  3. Combing:
    Combing is a great alternative if your kitty detests a bath. Ensure the comb touches your cat’s skin as you slowly and gently comb through the body. Focus on the flea-ridden areas such as the armpits, the base of the tail and the groin. By dipping the comb into soapy water, you will successfully be able to drown the fleas.
  4. Salt:
    Salt can be scattered into your carpets to dry out flea eggs and larvae. However, rethink this option if you reside in a humid environment as salt is likely to absorb water and cause mildew in your carpet fibres.

 Treat your Environment

  • Control the access of other animals entering your garden as they may be harbouring ticks and fleas which then get released onto your property
  • Tick and flea foggers are recommended indoors as ticks can crawl up walls and onto doors. Apply insecticide where the carpet or floor meets the wall in the entire room so ticks approaching walls will be killed on contact.
  • Ensure your grass and bushes are trimmed frequently to lower the population of these bothersome bugs. Clearing your garden of any wood and leaf matter will also contribute to your prevention endeavors.
  • Certain plants and herbs deter fleas, so it may be helpful to plant the likes of eucalyptus, fennel, marigold or lavender in your garden. Cedar chips can also be sprinkled around the garden to keep fleas away.
  • Regularly vacuum carpets and keep floors swept and clean. Ensure that you empty or dispose of the vacuum bag after use.
  • Wash your and your pet’s bedding frequently.
  • Use household and garden sprays with insecticides in your home and your yard or call a professional exterminator to carry out the process for you.
    WARNING: When using sprays indoor or outdoors make sure you pets are safely put away so that they don’t inhale the fumes and keep them out of the area for a few hours.

 Always check your cat after administering a new flea preventative to see if he or she is having any side effects.

Diseases caused by ticks and fleas:

  • When a flea bites your cat it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin. Some cats are allergic to this saliva and it creates an inflammatory response knows as flea allergic dermatitis. Cats with this condition are extremely and uncomfortably itchy. This is the most common skin disease seen in veterinary practices. 
  • As fleas ingest blood, an uncontrolled number of fleas on your cat or kitten can cause your cat to become anemic due to blood loss.
  • Fleas transmit tapeworms, as the tapeworms life cycle involves passing through the flea’s body. see The Relationship Between Fleas and Tape Worms. It is therefore important to keep your cat on a regular deworming schedule.
  • Fleas and ticks transmit Bartonella, an infectious bacterial disease commonly known as cat scratch disease. It can be transmitted between animals and humans. In cats it is generally transmitted through contact with flea feces and in humans by being scratched or bitten by an infected cat. Although most cats infected show no signs of illness, a few cats develop clinical signs such as fever, lethargy, lymph node enlargement, eye inflammation and other symptoms.
  • Mycoplasma haemofelis, is a red blood cell parasite. Fleas and ticks become infected with mycoplasma by feeding on an infected animal. They then infect a cat when they bite or attach to it. Mothers can infect their kittens through the placenta. It can also be transmitted from cat to cat via bites. Mycoplasma haemofelis causes anemia that varies from mild to severe.
  • Cytauxzoonosis, also known as bobcat fever, is another tick-transmitted illness in cats. Although rare, it’s a serious illness that’s likely to be fatal unless diagnosed promptly and treated aggressively. Because cats acquire this disease only through the bite of a tick that has fed on a bobcat, the disease is quite rare.
  • Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world. Its dominant clinical feature in cats is lameness due to inflammation of the joints, lack of appetite, and lethargy.
  • Babesiosis, the Babesia parasite uses the tick as a reservoir to reach host mammals. Piroplasms infect and replicate in the red blood cells, resulting in both direct and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia.
  • Tularemia, also called rabbit fever is a bacterial disease occasionally seen in cats. Infection is often caused by ingestion of an infected mammals’ tissue, such as when a cat hunts a small animal, bird or reptile, through water, or by tick, mite, flea or mosquito bite – all of which can carry and transmit the bacteria.
  • Ehrlichiosis is an uncommon tick-born disease caused by one of several rickettsial organisms. Rickettsia are small microscopic organisms that are different from both bacteria and viruses. They enter various cells of the body and behave as tiny parasites, eventually killing the cell.  It is believed to be similar to ehrlichiosis in dogs.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

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Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.

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Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.