The best flea treatment for cats

The best flea treatment for cats kills fleas quickly and is easy to administer. To find our top picks, we consulted with pet and insect experts, researched active ingredients, and examined the finalists ourselves. All of our top medications kill fleas fast — but if you want to protect your cat from getting fleas and ticks in the future, choose a spot-on like Frontline Plus or Sentry Fiproguard Plus.

The 2 best preventative flea treatments for cats

The 3 best fast-acting flea treatments for cats

The best preventative flea treatments for cats

Our first two picks are spot-on treatments that use a dual-action system to fight fleas. Fipronil (an EPA-approved insecticide) kills any pests currently living on your cat. (S)-methoprene (an insect growth inhibitor) works to prevents the bugs from reproducing. That means these medications can cure an existing infestation and prevent against future ones. In addition, these treatments only have to be applied once per month for full efficacy.

Best for
Monthly Flea Treatment
Frontline Plus for Cats
Frontline Plus
Frontline starts killing fleas in as little as four hours, and prevents fleas, ticks, and lice from coming back for up to one month
Pros
Faster-acting
Easier to apply
Cons
Generally more expensive
Smellier

Why we chose it

Faster-acting

Frontline Plus should start killing fleas in about four hours, and claims it will have the entire problem wiped out in 12. By comparison, most other spot-on medications take 12 hours to even begin killing fleas. This makes Frontline a good compromise between preventative, monthly treatment, and quick relief for your pet.

Easier to apply

Frontline Plus distinguished itself in testing for having a better applicator than other spot-ons. Unlike Sentry’s clip-and-squeeze tube, Frontline uses peel-off packaging and a skinny, snap-off top. It’s much less likely to leak, which is a nice safeguard against chemicals spreading where you don’t want them.

Points to consider

Generally more expensive

Unfortunately, Frontline is a bit more expensive than many other spot-ons, ringing in about $15 above Sentry Fiproguard Plus. The price hike may be worth it for quicker-than-average flea extermination and mess-free application. But if you’re on a budget, Frontline probably won’t be your first choice.

Smellier

Most flea treatments have a faint chemical smell (they are chemicals, after all), but Frontline’s scent is a little harsher than others. If you or your cat has a super sensitive nose, try Sentry Fiproguard Plus instead. We found it less offensive than Frontline.

Best for
Monthly Flea Treatment Runner-Up
Sentry Fiproguard Plus for Cats
Sentry Fiproguard Plus
Sentry Fiproguard Plus starts killing fleas in about 12 hours, protects your cat against pests for up to a month, and tends to be affordable
Pros
Generally cheaper
Mild smelling
Cons
Messier application
Slower-acting

Why we chose it

Generally cheaper

Sentry Fiproguard Plus is the least expensive of our picks for spot-on treatment. We’ve seen it for just over half the asking price of Frontline Plus — even though both treatments use the exact same active ingredients. The tradeoff is a slightly messier application process, which certainly isn’t ideal when handling chemicals. But if you don’t mind being extra careful, then it may not be worth it to pay more for Frontline’s better applicator.

Mild smelling

When we cracked open the Sentry Fiproguard tube, we were pleased to find that it has a mild, almost citrusy scent. It’s gentler on the nose than Frontline’s more chemical odor. In either case, the smell will fade after a day or so — but for those with a sensitive nose, Sentry Fiproguard is a safer bet.

Points to consider

Messier application

The one thing we didn’t like about Sentry Fiproguard Plus was its delivery. To open the tube, you have to clip its top off with a pair of scissors — and a little bit leaked out every time we did. It’s not a huge issue, but also not ideal when handling chemicals. You’ll have to be extra sure to rinse the scissors and wash your hands after using this product, to make sure no chemicals end up where they shouldn’t (like in your mouth or eyes).

Slower-acting

Sentry Fiproguard Plus should start killing fleas in around 12 hours — pretty standard for spot-on medications. They’re not intended to be as fast-acting as oral tablets, which can kill an entire flea population in as little as an hour. Still, if your cat needs immediate relief from an itchy flea infestation, starting with Sentry Fiproguard may not be your best bet.

The best fast-acting flea treatments for cats

Next up, we looked at oral medications. These come in small, pill-like tablets containing nitenpyram, an FDA-approved insecticide that can wipe out an entire tick infestation in just a few hours. Our favorites are Sentry Capguard, PetArmor FastCaps, and Capstar Tablets — they’re equally safe and effective, so go with whichever one is cheapest where you shop.

Keep in mind: Though oral meds are much faster-acting than spot-on treatments, they only last for 24 hours. These pills won’t repel fleas, ticks and lice in the future like a spot-on will. If your pet comes into contact with these bugs often, or if your house has a serious infestation (you see fleas on furniture or in carpeting), then you’re better off with a preventative, monthly treatment. Oral medications are best for an immediate, temporary solution.

Best for
Fast-Acting Treatment
Sentry Capguard
Sentry Capguard
Sentry Capguard tablets take care of your cat’s flea problem fast — starting in just 30 minutes — but won’t prevent future infestations
Pros
Ultra fast-acting
Affordable
Cons
Non-preventative

Why we chose it

Ultra fast-acting

Oral tablets can destroy a flea population much faster than spot-ons. They deliver medication straight into your cat’s bloodstream, so that when the pests bite down they die off almost instantly. Sentry Capguard will start killing the pests is just 30 minutes, and should have the entire problem eradicated in under a day.

We also like PetArmor FastCaps and Capstar Tablets for this purpose. All three treatments use the same dosage of nitenpyram, and are identical in size and shape. The only real difference between these brands is price. We recommend checking all three options, and purchasing whichever one is the best deal where you shop.

Affordable

Oral treatments like Sentry Capguard, PetArmor FastCaps, and Castar tablets are generally more affordable than spot-ons. We’ve seen these treatments ranging from $19 to $27, while spot-ons start around $35 and go up to $50 and beyond. Of course, price shouldn’t be your first consideration when deciding between oral and spot-on treatment. Choose based on your pet’s needs and the gravity of its flea problem. For a small-scale infestation, it’s definitely okay to choose an oral treatment and save a few bucks.

Points to consider

Non-preventative

The downside to using an oral flea treatment is that they don’t have the same preventative benefits as a spot-on. Tablets only kill adult fleas, while spot-ons wie out every generation (starting with the larvae) to keep them from coming back. Plus, the effects of an oral tablet only last for 24 hours, while spot-on treatment keeps working for up to a month.

What does this mean for you? If your cat has a minor infestation, oral tablets can treat it quickly and effectively. But if your pets come into contact with fleas and ticks often, or if your household has a serious infestation, you’ll want to choose a spot-on instead. Alternatively, it’s possible to use an oral tablet for rapid relief and then switch to a spot-on after a couple of days. Never combine treatments at the same time without consulting your vet first.

Guide to flea treatment for cats

How to find the right flea treatment for your cat

Consider monthly versus fast-acting treatment

Most people will be best off with a monthly, spot-on flea treatment (like our first two picks from Frontline and Sentry). These aren’t just for cats and dogs that have fleas; they’re also a great way to protect your pet from getting fleas, ticks, or lice in the future. Of course if your cat does have a flea infestation in the moment, spot-on meds will take care of that, too. They just won’t do it as quickly as an oral medication.

For cats that need rapid relief from a nasty flea population, and oral medication is the way to go. Pills like Sentry Capguard, PetArmor FastCaps, and Capstar tablets get to work killing fleas in as little as 30 minutes — and they should have the population wiped out in under a day. Just remember that these oral treatments are only effective for 24 hours. If your cat is likely to come into contact with fleas or ticks again, it’s a good idea to treat them with a monthly, preventative medication at a later date.

Look for the correct dosage

Cats and dogs need different doses of flea medication according to their weight. Spot-on medications made strictly for cats (like Frontline Plus and Sentry Fiproguard Plus) generally only come in one size, as cats don’t vary in size enough to warrant multiple versions. However, all of our top tablet-form medications can be used for either dogs or cats. That means you’ll have to check the box before you buy, and make sure you’re purchasing the cat-friendly version — usually labeled as “For 2 to 25 pounds.”

Consult your vet before combining treatments

Maybe your cat has a nasty flea problem that you need to treat fast, but you also want to protect it from fleas, ticks, and lice in the future. In that case you can treat your pet with an oral medication for rapid relief, then follow up after a few days with a spot-on for prevention.

Never use two different medications at the same time without consulting your veterinarian first. Flea treatments are made with a variety of active ingredients, so you should never mix and match regimens without getting a vet’s guarantee that there won’t be any unwanted side effects.

Flea treatment for cats FAQs

Is flea treatment safe for cats?

Yes. Insecticides and other chemicals used in flea treatment must be safety-certified by the EPA before they can be sold in stores. There are a few ingredients that may have negative side effects for pets or people if handled incorrectly, but we didn’t include any treatments that use those chemicals in our review. We prefer to play it safe when it comes to our pets and families.

Can flea treatment cause seizures in cats?

One insecticide used in flea treatments, pyrethrin, can trigger seizures in cats under certain circumstances. In appropriate doses, pyrethrin is safe for dogs and humans, but cats are more sensitive to it. This means if they take a medication containing pyrethrin and then come into contact with the chemical elsewhere, they may risk overexposure. That’s when seizures are possible.

Although medications containing pyrethrin aren’t dangerous to cats on their own, there’s no reason to risk an accidental overexposure. There are plenty of effective flea treatments that use other insecticides — all five of our top picks, for starters.

When can kittens have flea treatment?

All of our top picks are safe for kittens at least 8 weeks old and one-and-a-half to two pounds in weight. If you’re not sure which is the best choice for your kitten, be sure to talk to your vet before administering treatment.

Do natural flea treatments work?

We came across a handful of “natural” flea treatments in our research; essential oil-based products made with ingredients like garlic, cloves, and cedarwood. Though it may be tempting to go insecticide-free, we caution against it. None of the vets we spoke with could verify that these products actually kill fleas or ticks. To eradicate a flea problem and prevent pest-borne diseases, you’re better off using a proven, EPA-certified medication. All of our top picks are guaranteed to work.

The flea treatment for cats: Summed up

Best for
Starting at
Starts killing fleas within
Prevents pests for one month
Frontline Plus for Cats
Monthly Flea Treatment
$50
4 hours
Sentry Fiproguard Plus for Cats
Monthly Flea Treatment Runner-Up
$35
12 hours
Sentry Capguard
Fast-Acting Flea Treatment
$27
30 minutes
PetArmor FastCaps
Fast-Acting Flea Treatment Runner-Up
$19
30 minutes
Capstar Tablets
Fast-Acting Flea Treatment Runner-Up
$23
30 minutes

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