Is a Flea Treatment with Chemicals Safe for My Cat? - Cat Info Detective

Is a Flea Treatment with Chemicals Safe for My Cat?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Hey there, it’s Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, here to let you know what your cat wants you to know about chemical flea treatments…

paw prints coming in from a distance

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs. 

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page. 

All sources are given at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping.

Is it Bad to Use Chemical Instead of “Natural” Flea Products?

Chloe lounging on a chair

Not necessarily because it’s more a matter of dosage, dilution, your cat’s health, and how it’s applied than whether or not a flea treatment is chemically based.

Figuring out the best products for your situation is the key and the first place to start is discussing flea treatments with your vet.

If you haven’t already, check “Getting Rid of Fleas – For Cats Only!” to answer vital questions that will help you make a good decision.

But Aren’t Chemicals Dangerous for My Cat?

periodic table of elements- chemicals, science vet medicine

They can be dangerous if not carefully used, however, when properly diluted and applied, they can be effective against fleas and still safe for your fluffy furball.

It Depends On…

Tabby & white cat looking surprised
  • what kind you use
  • how you use them
  • if you follow instructions carefully
  • how often they are applied
  • proper dosage and dilution for your cat’s weight

How Do I Know Which Products to Use or What’s in Them?

grey, white cat curled up on blanket

The best way to keep you and your cat safe is KNOW WHAT YOU’RE USING and KNOW YOUR CAT!

First, learn the facts about the three basic types of flea treatments: “chemical“, “natural” and “homemade“.

Second, check below to learn about various methods used with cats to apply insecticides.

Flea Treatment Types Vary Greatly In…

various chemical flea treatments
  • types of ingredients
  • effectiveness
  • length of protection
  • control of other pests (lice, ticks, worms)
drawing of a flea
  • price
  • safety
  • ease of use

Flea Collars

Orange Tabby Cat Scratching Herself

Flea collars seem to be loved or hated, and there is some need for caution with them, as with any collar on a cat.

Some cats won’t wear them, especially with strong scents. Others lose hair and/or get sores where the collar sits.

Any collar you use should break apart for safety in case your cat gets stuck on a fence, tree branch, or other hazard (indoors or outdoors).

tabby cat wearing collar sitting on speaker

Traditional flea collars have one or more of the following chemicals in them as active ingredients:  

  • Flumethrin
  • Imidacloprid
  • S-Methoprene
  • Tetrachlorvintos
Ginger cat wearing a flea collar

Find more about them at “What Chemical Ingredients Are in Flea Treatments?

It’s important to be aware that there are fake flea collars that either have dangerous mystery pesticides or none at all.

There’s no way to know before buying them which they are, but generally the real collars come from well-known brands and are the expensive ones.

Black cat wearing a flea collar

There have been claims about problems with Seresto® collars, but they seem to be exaggerated and not based on actual scientific data.

Discover more about Seresto® flea collar controversies at “Cat Flea Collars“.

Whatever collars you’re interested in, check the latest reviews carefully… the actual reviews, not just the number of stars.

cat wearing collar looking up

You’ll usually see a pattern in reading the reviews of what users are experiencing.

If you still have concerns about collars, talk to your vet about your cat’s specific situation.

Sprays, Powders & Shampoos

hand-to-paw

Flea and tick sprays, powders & shampoos are different methods of getting an insecticide onto your cat in order to repel and/or kill fleas.

If you decide to use one of these methods, be sure you get a product that’s made specifically for cats.

tabby cat on a shelf

If the label says dogs and cats, there should be a dosage listed for cats of various weights.

Don’t use dog or human products on your cat… it could be fatal!

The active ingredients in these products are one or more of the following…

Graphic of various chemical & natural flea treatments
  • Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate
  • Etofenprox
  • Fipronil
stray cat lying on road
  • MGK 264 (N-Octylbicycloheptene Dicarboximide)
  • Piperonyl Butoxide
  • Pyrethrins
  • Pyridine
Science chemicals in beakers - vet medicine
  • Pyriproxyfen
  • S-Methoprene
  • Tetrachlorvinphos
  • Undecylenic Acid

If you’d like to know more about these ingredients go to “What Chemical Ingredients Are in Flea Treatments?

“Chemical” Sprays

Spray bottle; flea spray treatment

Flea and tick sprays have insecticides that help get rid of fleas and prevent their return.

They’re best use is on surfaces in the home rather than directly on your cat.

This is because most kill only adult fleas and get your cat mad and wet.

spray bottle; flea treatment

Other products are available that many people feel are easier to deal with for cats.

Be sure you use only sprays made for cats. Some are for both cats and dogs, but either way there should be dosage instructions for cats of various weights.

Follow the directions carefully and only use them on cats/kittens over a certain number of weeks old, depending on the product. Check the label.

“Chemical” Shampoos

Sphynx cat after flea treatment

Flea shampoos have insecticides added in dosages that will kill fleas while cleaning your kitty safely… that’s if you can give your cat a bath!

They come in regular or foaming formulas.

Be sure you use only products made for cats and read the directions carefully. Most say to use only on cats and kittens over 12 weeks old.

Some say to use it no more than once a week.

Powders

powder laundry detergent; flea treatment

There are some flea powders available but are for dogs and in the house (carpets and floors).

Veterinarians usually don’t recommend powders for cats since they’re messy (think clouds of baby powder).

They’re only effective while on the cat, rub off quickly and your cat can swallow them during grooming.

talcum powder

Your kitty can lick powder off a dog if she decides to groom her canine buddy!

Some people claim that powders in large amounts can cause breathing problems in cats, but I haven’t yet found any scientific studies to back this up.

Ask your vet for guidance if you’re considering any type of powder on your cat.

Topical Flea Treatments

veterinarian examining cat; flea treatment

A topical flea treatment is a pre-measured dose of insecticide applied to the skin (not just the fur) on the back of a cat’s neck, where they can’t lick it (pretty smart, huh?).

This is usually what vets use when they treat cats for preventing flea and tick infestations.

The manufacturers say that topical products don’t hurt a cat if put on the skin but can be harmful if swallowed.

3 cats sitting on a step

There are various scientific studies that show this to be the case, and also confirm that the most common cause of problems is people misusing the products.

The dose is determined by weight of the cat.

Since they are pre-measured, they’re easy to apply either by you or your vet and usually last about 1-3 months.

Topical treatments contain one or more of the following active ingredients…

orange, ginger tabby looking down from top of cabinet - curiosity; flea treatment
  • Dinotefuran
  • Etofenprox
  • Fipronil
British shorthair playing with cat tower
  • Fluralaner
  • Imidacloprid
  • Indoxacarb
grey kitten at tree trunk
  • Moxidectin
  • Pyriproxyfen
  • Sarolaner
cat scratching fleas; treatment
  • Selamectin
  • S-Methoprene
  • Spinetoram
Tabby, white cat walking on pavement

Bravecto®, Advantage™ and Frontline® are the most well-known topical flea products.

Any brands mentioned on this page are for information only… I make no money from them.

You can get some only through vets while others are at pet stores and online sites like Amazon, Chewy, Walmart or PetSmart.

Oral Flea Treatments

hand holding clear gel pill capsule; oral flea treatment

Oral flea treatments are medications given by mouth in liquid, pill or chewable tablet form.

They are useful for situations where you have concerns about young children or others in the household getting flea products on their skin or in their mouths.

Oral treatments have nitenpyram as the active ingredient. As with other medications, the dosage is based on the weight of your cat.

tabby cat in tub-yawning or angry; oral flea treatment

Check with your vet about using these to be sure they’re fine for your cat.

Here are some examples…

Capstar®, Capaction®, and Credilio® are all brand name chewable tablets.

Conclusions

lady & black cat

There are a few helpful things to remember about flea treatments…

First, don’t be afraid of chemicals.

Second, respect that chemicals are helpful if used carefully, but dangerous if you don’t follow instruction.

Silver tabby kitten stretched out on floor; flea treatment

This is true for any flea and tick treatment, whether the active ingredients are “chemical” or “natural”.

Third, it’s all about dosage, dilution and how you apply it, just as with any medication.

If you’d like to know more about specific chemical ingredients go to “What Chemical Ingredients Are in Flea Treatments?

Curious about other types of flea and tick treatments? Discover more at “Cat Health“.


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own, however, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

Amazon

Chewy, Inc.

“Die Fleas! Die!…Freaky Cheap Flea Control”, by Paul Wheaton, Paul Wheaton Permaculture

“Elanco launches Credelio oral flea and tick control for cats”, Arlo Guthrie ,Veterinary News, VetSurgeon,org, 13 Nov 2018

“Flea Powder for Pets – How It Works and When to Use It”, by Jacob Olesen

“Fleas” by David J. Shetlar and Jennifer E. Andon, Ohio State University Extension, Department of Entomology, January 5, 2012, HYG208,

“How to Choose the Safest Flea Treatment for Your Cat”, by Jennifer Coates, DVM, PetMD

“How To Get Rid Of Fleas – 7 Natural Ways to Banish Fleas on Your Pets and in Your Home”, by admin, HowToGetRidOfGuide.com, February 13, 2015

“Insecticides”, Compendium of Pesticide Common Names

“Lotilaner – a novel formulation for cats provides systemic tick and flea control”, by Ian Wright, NCIB, PMC, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

Petco®

Updated April 14, 2024

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