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Ticks and Fleas on Cats Q&A

WebMD veterinary expert answers common questions pet owners have about fleas and ticks on their cats.
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A: I generally believe, based on my experience and our field studies, that the products we get from our veterinarians are generally very safe and generally do a very, very good job. But you’ve got to understand that millions of doses are used each year. With that many doses, things happen. Do rare idiosyncratic reactions occur? Absolutely. We know they do. But generally with a veterinary recommended or prescribed flea or tick product, if they are used according to label directions, they are extremely safe in my experience. I’m a veterinarian and a dog and cat lover and I would not hesitate to put them on my pets.

 

Q: Can I use my dog’s flea and tick products on my cat?

A: There are some products that can be placed on both dogs and cats. There are some products that you cannot put on cats because they can be very harmful. It could make your cat ill or even kill your cat. Cats are far more sensitive to some of these products than dogs are, so you need to be very careful that you’re using the correct product. And the whole dose is based upon weight, so you don’t want to put a dose for a great Dane on a cat. And sadly, that happens. People do that. And you end up with a sick or dead animal.

 

Q: Are there natural ways I can control fleas and ticks if I don’t want to use chemicals?

A: There really aren’t from a natural standpoint. Over the years we’ve spent some time looking into the more natural or holistic approaches and as yet I’ve not found any that’s actually effective. The garlic, the brewer’s yeast, all the research shows none of that stuff works. If it did, I’d be using it. The ultrasonic devices? The data shows they don’t work.

And just because something is “natural” or “organic”, that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Most of the poisons in the world are actually organic poisons. Some of these citric extracts people used to use can be fairly toxic to cats. The cats’ livers just can’t handle them. With cats I’d be far more cautious just because cats are far more sensitive to some of these compounds.

 

Q: How can I control fleas and ticks in my home and yard?

A: Cut the tall grass, trim back the bushes and shrubs, then rake up all the leaf litter under the bushes. Leave it just bare ground. Nothing is worse on these arachnid life stages than dryness.

There are some lawn and garden insecticides that are approved by the EPA to be applied under shrubs, under bushes, in crawl spaces, along fence lines, to control fleas and ticks outside. The big issue I see is people tend to go out and start spraying their grass. That’s not effective and it’s certainly not good for the environment. Fleas and ticks are really sunlight and humidity sensitive. Most situations where we find them are under shrubs, under bushes, under porches, in shaded, protected habitats. So we should only be applying those compounds in a limited fashion under those locations. Then we’re going to let it dry on the foliage for three to four hours before we allow our pets and our children back out there.

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