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 looking left through magnifying glass

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

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, diluation, 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

I make a small commission on some of the links below… and I get to share profits with qualified cat rescues!

Check descriptions and reviews carefully for any products you wish to buy… quality, sizes, colors, etc., can’t be guaranteed by anyone but the manufacturer.

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.

I prefer to give at least a few options, especially in different price ranges, but the only one I’m currently confident works well is Seresto®.

cat wearing collar looking up

Hopefully, other reliable brands will show up soon.

If you’re interested in others, check the latest reviews carefully. Read the actual reviews, not just the number of stars.

If you still have concerns about collars, talk to your vet and/or use a different flea treatment.

Seresto® 8-Month Flea & Tick Collar

The manufacturer claims to have an innovative delivery system, killing fleas before they bite.

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® and other flea collar controversies at “Cat Flea Collars“.

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.

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…

  • 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 Products?

“Chemical” Sprays

Spray bottle; flea spray treatment

Flea and tick sprays have insecticides and are used to help get rid of fleas and prevent their return.

They’re used now more 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.

If your cat’s ok with it and you feel sprays are a good option for you, here are a few ideas…

“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.

If your cat likes baths and you feel a flea and tick shampoo will work well for you, here are a few options…

Powders

powder laundry detergent; flea treatment

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

Powders are not recommended to use on cats since they’re messy (think clouds of baby powder), only effective while on the cat, rub off quickly and are swallowed during grooming.

Powder can also be licked off a dog if your kitty decides to groom her canine buddy!

It’s claimed that powders in large amounts can cause breathing problems in cats… haven’t yet found any scientific studies to back this up but common sense says this is a good possibility.

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?).

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

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.

3 cats sitting on a step

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 a month.

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

  • Dinotefuran
  • Etofenprox
orange, ginger tabby looking down from top of cabinet - curiosity; flea treatment
  • Fipronil
  • Fluralaner
  • Imidacloprid
  • Indoxacarb
grey kitten at tree trunk
  • Moxidectin
  • Pyriproxyfen
  • Sarolaner
  • Selamectin
cat scratching fleas; treatment
  • S-Methoprene
  • Spinetoram

Some examples of topical flea products are given below. They kill fleas for one or three months.

BRAVECTO® (FLURALANER) – Flea & Tick Treatment for Cats – available only through veterinarians

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…

Credilio® Chewable Tablets for Cats by Elanco Animal Health – 2-4 lbs, (Purple Box), 1 Chewable Tablet (1-mo. supply)

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 Products?


What Is a Flea? What Does It Look Like?How to Kill Fleas on Kittens, Senior & Sick Cats
Ways to Get Rid of Fleas on Healthy Cats!Getting Rid of Fleas…For Cats Only!
What Chemical Ingredients Are in Flea Products?What is a Natural Flea Treatment for My Cat?
Natural Flea Remedies You Can Buy Flea Control, the Homemade Way…
What Are Essential Oils…Do They Kill Fleas on Cats? What Is a Tick?
Cat Flea Collars

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 June 20, 2022

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