Safety Tips for Using Flea and Tick Treatment Products on Cats

Written by:

Jennifer Kvamme, DVM
Published: February 17, 2012

Proper Application of Cat Tick and Flea Control Products

By Jennifer Kvamme, DVM

When deciding which cat tick and flea control products to use, you need to carefully read the labels on all products. It’s very important that you purchase the correct dosage for your cat, and that you use only products that have been approved for your cat’s particular age, weight, and health status. Use special care if your cat is very young, very old, pregnant, nursing, sick or debilitated, or if she has had a previous sensitivity to any of tick and flea preventives. 

Cats should never be given products designed for use on dogs (nor should you use your cat products on your dog, if you have one). If you have any concerns, or are unsure about which cat tick and flea control products would be best, ask your veterinarian’s advice, even if you are planning to purchase your flea and tick products from a pet store or online supplier. 

Tips for Application

Once you’ve read all the directions for proper application, be sure that you use only the amount required for your cat. Do not use more product than indicated and do not use more than one product at one time. One product (spot-on or spray, etc.) should be all that is necessary to kill or repel fleas and/or ticks for the time period indicated on the package. 

To prevent accidental contact with flea and tick products during application, you can wear disposable gloves to protect your skin. Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water after application can also reduce exposure to the chemicals. Read instructions for proper disposal of empty product containers after use, and keep children from touching or playing with the cat after application to allow the flea and tick product time to absorb or dry.

In households with multiple animals, it may be necessary to keep the animals apart for a time while the product dries to prevent them from grooming each other and ingesting the chemicals. 

Monitor for Adverse Effects 

For the several hours following application of a flea and tick preventive product, keep an eye on your cat for any reactions or sensitivity to the product. This is especially important when using a flea and tick product for the first time. 

Keep the packaging for the product for at least a day after application so that you have information as to the kind of ingredients used, as well as contact information for the company that manufactured the product.

Signs of sensitivity to pesticides include:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Stumbling or incoordination (ataxia)
  • Drooling excessively or foaming at the mouth 
  • Trembling (seizures)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Severe depression

If you notice any unusual behavior shortly after applying a preventive product, call your veterinarian immediately. Bathe your cat completely in soapy water and rinse its coat with copious amounts of water.

Reporting Problems

Due to increased incidents of reactions to spot-on products in dogs and cats, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about their use in 2009. The FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working together to improve safety and reduce adverse effects in pets. In order to do this, the EPA is working to address certain aspects of safety, such as improving labeling and simplifying instructions on packaging. They are monitoring any reports of adverse effects and keeping track of incidence reports. 

If you believe your cat has had an adverse reaction to a flea or tick preventive product, call your veterinarian and report the problem right away. Your veterinarian has access to a national reporting center that will inform the EPA. You may also wish to inform the company that manufactured the product. All manufacturers are required to report any incidents to the EPA. Contact information should be clearly indicated on the packaging for the product.

Working with your veterinarian and carefully reading labels will help reduce the incidence of reactions to flea and tick products. Make sure you know your cat’s correct weight and the proper application technique for the product. If you are careful, there is a much lower possibility of your cat experiencing any adverse effects.