Protect your pet’s health and keep pests at bay with these cat flea treatments
No matter how clean your house or cat is, fleas can be a problem. This is partly because fleas and their eggs can survive up to six months without being on your pet but also because cats’ lifestyles of exploring every interesting leaf pile or shed means they will often come into contact with them.
Once resident on your cat, fleas can cause anything from irritating skin conditions to anaemia so a good prevention strategy – as well as an effective cure – is key. However, there’s a bewildering array of cat flea treatment options, with some more effective than others.
Best cat flea treatment: At a glance
- Best efficient flea treatment: Frontline Spot On | From £14
- Best flea treatment on prescription: Advocate 80 Spot-On | From £14
- Best “fit and forget” flea treatment: Beaphar Cat Flea Collar | £4.25
- Best immediate flea treatment: Biospotix Cat Flea Spray | £15
- Best one-hit treatment for infestations: Johnsons 4Fleas Tablets | £10
- Best flea treatment at the vets: Program 80 Cat Injection | £58
How to choose the best cat flea treatment for your cat
How can I tell if my cat has fleas?
A fine-toothed flea comb is a handy tool for investigating, although it won’t get rid of them completely. Comb your cat’s fur while they’re on a clean, pale surface and see if you can spot any fleas or small black specks, which may be flea faecal matter. Check if it is by placing it on damp cotton wool – it will dissolve to a reddish-brown colour. Alternatively, place it within a folded piece of paper and press down – if it’s flea faeces, it will have tiny blood-red flecks.
If you suspect your pet has fleas, you will need to treat your home as well. A room fogger or household flea spray (such as Indorex) used on bedding, floors and along skirting, followed by thorough vacuuming, should effectively evict any unwelcome houseguests.
What types of cat flea treatments are available?
All treatments will need to be used regularly to maintain protection against fleas.
Flea collars are impregnated with an insecticide that kills fleas and prevents their return. The insecticide used is commonly permethrin. It is worth noting that while this chemical is considered safe as part of a cat collar, it must not be used as a spot-on treatment. These products may be safe for dogs, but the chemical is poisonous to cats and can be deadly.
Flea collars are low maintenance and affordable – they’re often effective for up to four months before needing to be replaced. However, some cats will have too many fleas for a collar to get rid of them all, so they’re often better used as a preventative method. Collars can also cause some hair loss around the neck, while some cats are sensitive to the chemicals in them. If so, it’s better to choose another method.
Spot-ons are topical liquid drops that are applied to the back of a cat’s neck, usually under the collar, which either kill fleas (this can be as rapidly as within 24 hours) or prevent the eggs from developing. They come in small vials or pipettes and are usually applied monthly. Some drops are waterproof – great for use on rainy days – while others will need to be absorbed and dry to be effective. Spot-on treatments are more expensive than collars and need to be used more regularly but, unlike a collar, a cat can’t remove them and they’re weather-proof, making them one of the most effective flea treatments on the market.
If you’ve mastered the art of giving your cat pills or hiding them in food, oral flea tablets will kill fleas quickly (starting in as little as 15 minutes), but won’t get rid of the eggs. This makes them best for dealing with an infestation but not as a preventative measure. One tablet should do the trick but, if problems persist, they should be given daily. This can quickly become more costly when compared to other methods, so this is best used as a short-term solution.
Head to your vet to find out about long-term prevention of fleas via prescription-only injections, which work by interrupting the flea lifecycle at the egg and larval stage. This won’t affect adult fleas, so another treatment will need to be used in conjunction if your cat is already infested. The injections are administered every six months. They’re especially useful for cats with sensitive skin, flea allergic dermatitis or recurring infestations and are safe for kittens and pregnant cats. They’re a pricey route to flea prevention but are ideal for when other methods have failed.
Insecticide sprays or foams are spritzed directly onto the roots of a cat’s fur and skin, killing fleas on contact. Depending on the product, some sprays can be effective for only a few days afterwards, while others can last for months. As well as chemical sprays, there are plant-based alternatives, but these may need multiple applications for maximum benefit.
How much should I spend?
At the most affordable end of the market, flea collars can cost as little as a few pounds every four months, but aren’t the best solution for every cat. Spot-on treatments can vary in price – from less than £5 to up to £25 for a six-month supply, depending on the brand. Sprays cost from £5 up to around £15, and you can get tablets from around £4 for three treatments. Injections cost around £40 to £50 each, excluding vet fees and VAT.
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The best cat flea treatments to buy in 2023
1. Frontline Spot On for cats: Best efficient flea treatment
Price: From £14 | Buy now from Amazon Whether fleas have taken up residence on your cat or you’re keen to protect them from an infestation, this easy spot-on treatment is ideal. It will kill fleas in 24 hours, ticks in 48 and even biting lice – as well as making sure they don’t come back. While it’s not suitable for very young kittens, it’s safe for pregnant and nursing cats, plus this pack comes with an ebook detailing everything you need to know about keeping fleas and ticks at bay. The pipettes are easily applied too: simply squeeze onto the base of your pet’s skull and just above the shoulder blades, let it dry and you’re good to go.
Key specs – Pack size: 3, 6 or 12 x 0.5ml pipettes; Frequency of use: Monthly; Type: Spot-on; Suitable for: Cats older than 8 weeks and weighing more than 1kg
2. Advocate 80 Spot-On for Large Cats: Best flea treatment on prescription
Price: From £14 | Buy now from Pet Drugs Online Ideal for larger cats (up to 8kg), this spot-on treatment is a great multitasker, preventing and doing away with fleas, roundworm, lungworm, heartworm and ear mites. An added bonus is that it can help control flea allergy dermatitis, often seen as itchy bumps or sores on your kitty’s skin. You will need to ask your vet for a prescription but it’s worth it if you’ve not had much success with shop-bought spot-on treatments, as it tends to be pretty effective where others have failed. It’s also available as Advocate 40 for cats weighing less than 4kg.
Key specs – Pack size: 3 or 6 x 0.8ml pipettes; Frequency of use: Monthly; Type: Spot-on; Suitable for: Cats weighing more than 4kg, not suitable for kittens
3. Beaphar Velvet Soft Cat Flea Collar: Best “fit and forget” flea treatment
Price: £4.25 | Buy now from Amazon Okay, so you can’t forget about the flea collar forever. But, with four months of protection against fleas, it’s pretty low maintenance and cost-effective. It’s impregnated with permethrin, so won’t be suitable for every cat, but will keep most flea-free, especially around the neck. This design has a few other good things going for it: a bell to alert potential prey to your cat’s whereabouts, an elasticated strip so your cat can wriggle out of it if it gets caught, and a soft velvet coating to keep kitty comfy. It’s also 15cm long so it should fit bigger cats too. You can buy it as a one-off purchase, or save money with a repeat subscription
Key specs – Pack size: 1; Frequency of use: 4 months; Type: Collar; Suitable for: Cats older than 12 weeks
4. Johnsons 4Fleas Cat and Kitten Tablets: Best one-hit treatment for infestations
Price: £10 | Buy now from Pets at Home If your cat will take pills or you can hide them in their food, these nitenpyram-based tablets are a good way of clearing an adult flea population rapidly in a single dose. It can be used alongside other flea treatments and starts killing fleas in as little as 15 minutes, getting rid of them all in 24 hours. You will still need to give your pet a thorough comb to remove any eggs, though, and vacuum the house. It can’t be licked off by other animals or washed away by rain, but the downside is that some cats can react badly or become hyperactive, meaning it’s best to stay with them during treatment.
Key specs – Pack size: 6; Frequency of use: As required; Type: Tablet; Suitable for: Cats older than 4 weeks over 1kg
5. Biospotix Natural Flea and Tick Repellent Infestations Cat Spray: Best immediate flea treatment
Price: £15 | Buy now from Pets at Home Natural and chemical-free, this spray uses ingredients based on geraniol oil to kill fleas and ticks on contact. It works both by dehydrating the fleas’ exoskeletons and blocking their respiratory system, while also dehydrating eggs and larvae to prevent further infestation, leaving behind a protective film to repel additional parasites. Application is easy: just spritz your pet with one or two sprays, brush through, and you’re done. Geraniol can cause allergic reactions, so you will need to keep an eye on your cat once applied. It’s also only a solution for an infestation, rather than a long-term strategy.
Key specs – Pack size: 500ml; Frequency of use: As required, provides 48 hours of protection; Type: Spray; Suitable for: Cats older than 3 months (not to be used on skin lesions, pregnant and lactating females)
6. Program 80 Cat Injection: Best flea treatment at the vets
Price: £58 (exc VAT) | Buy now from Vet Medicines Direct When you’ve been through a raft of treatments and are still stuck with a persistent flea problem, injections can be the answer. While it requires a trip to the vets every six months and there’s a low chance of side effects, these injections are great for cats with flea allergic dermatitis or other skin problems that make conventional solutions tricky. They use lufenuron to prevent and control an infestation, stopping eggs from developing and hatching once the chemical is in the body of adult fleas through a bite. There’s also a Program 40 solution for cats weighing less than 4kg and weaned kittens.
Key specs – Pack size: 1; Frequency of use: Every 6 months; Type: Injection; Suitable for: Cats weighing more than 4kg, pregnant and lactating females