Ticks and Fleas on Cats Q&A
WebMD veterinary expert answers common questions pet owners have about fleas and ticks on their cats.
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
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.