About flea shampoo for cats
What is a flea shampoo?
When your cat brings home a flea infestation, often the most reliable way to remove the bugs from their fur is using a flea shampoo. These specially formulated products usually contain an active ingredient that kills and/or repels fleas alongside soothing ingredients to relieve the itch caused by bites.
When used in combination with other control methods, a good flea shampoo can really help to eliminate fleas. Simply use it to wash your cat (following the instructions on the product label when you do so) to kill adult fleas and make your cat more comfortable.
Who should use flea shampoos?
Flea shampoos are typically marketed at pet owners with animals that often go outdoors, like cats and dogs. Every time they go outside, your pet is exposed to all sorts of insects, including fleas. These tiny bugs have an almighty hop that allows them to jump aboard your cat, who then ferries them back to your house.
Flea shampoos are a reliable way to kill a large percentage of the fleas in your cat’s coat and are often used by people battling all levels of flea infestation.
What are the commonly used ingredients in flea shampoos?
There are dozens of different formulations of flea shampoo on the market, so choosing which one to go for can be confusing. Whether you hope to treat your fleas using natural products or plan to launch full chemical warfare on the bugs, the first thing is to know which active ingredients to look out for.
Common natural ingredients in flea shampoos
Natural flea shampoos are a good option if you want to avoid using chemicals on your cat.
Cedarwood oil is a common ingredient in natural, cat-safe flea shampoos. This essential oil kills and repels a category of pests known as the arthropods, a group which includes both fleas and ticks. Flea shampoos containing cedarwood oil are, therefore, among the most likely to effectively de-flea your cat.
Cinnamon oil is another botanical extract often used in flea shampoos designed for cats. Not only does this ingredient often give shampoos a pleasant odor, but products containing cinnamon can also be helpful for repelling fleas from your cat’s coat.
Always make sure that any product you use containing essential oils has been approved for use on cats. Some botanicals are highly toxic to cats, so always check and re-check the label thoroughly!
Common insecticidal ingredients in flea shampoos
If you’re dealing with a large, well-established flea infestation, natural remedies often won’t be potent enough to make much of a difference. In these cases, flea shampoos containing insecticides are often the best available option.
Pyrethrins are a natural insecticide found in chrysanthemum flowers. This chemical is a powerful pesticide and can be used to knock down a wide range of insect pests – including fleas! Shampoos containing this active ingredient are usually highly effective for dramatically reducing a flea population, as they kill adult fleas. This not only reduces bites but also breaks the flea life cycle, so fewer eggs are produced.
Pyriproxyfen – IGR
Pyriproxyfen is an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR); a type of insecticide that mimics insect hormones to disrupt their development and growth. Flea shampoos containing pyriproxyfen can, therefore, be used to target young insects and eggs, ensuring that the larvae never reach egg-laying adulthood and the eggs never hatch. Meanwhile, this insecticide has negligible toxicity levels in both humans and cats, so it is totally safe to use at home.
Caution: Always check the label of any new product before using it on your pet to ensure it is cat-friendly. For example, permethrin, a widely used insecticidal ingredient in many flea shampoos, is highly dangerous for cats.
What other products can a flea shampoo replace?
There is a wide range of anti-flea products for cats on the market, so what other remedies can a flea shampoo replace?
Flea combs are fine-toothed combs that you can use to physically remove insects from your cat’s fur. Though this is a good way to monitor your flea situation during treatment, actually attempting to de-flea your cat this way can be labor-intensive, time-consuming and tricky. Even if you do manage to convince your cat to sit still throughout the process, you are unlikely to fin every single bug hiding in their fur.
A flea shampoo can significantly cut the amount of time you dedicate to flea control, while reliably killing larger numbers of fleas.
Spot treatments are a popular way to treat cats for fleas. These products are often effective for reducing a flea population. However, one major downfall is that the product must stay on your cat’s fur until dry, leaving them sticky and untouchable in the meantime. They also may contain harsher chemicals and insecticides than shampoo and, of course, won’t leave your cat’s fur anywhere near as soft.
Sprays are quick and easy to apply. Unfortunately, many cats despise them and won’t appreciate the application process. If your cat is the type to get freaked out by spray bottles, it may be easier (and kinder) to opt for a shampoo instead.
How many fleas?
When choosing the right flea shampoo for your cat, the first thing you need to do is work out how bad your infestation is.
If your cat only has one or two fleas hopping through its fur, and you’re confident that the problem is yet to spread to your furnishings, a natural shampoo can be the way to go.
Although less potent than products containing insecticides, shampoos with essential oils such as cedarwood and cinnamon can help to repel and kill fleas.
If your cat is struggling with the itch of flea bites, a natural shampoo can also help to soothe irritated skin. Formulations containing Aloe Vera and almond oil extracts can help to promote skin healing, stopping your cat from scratching while you eradicate the fleas.
There are a great many flea shampoos out there that are totally cat-safe, even for kittens and old cats. However, it is essential that you always read the product label carefully before applying a new shampoo to your cat. Some formulations are unsuitable for cats that are pregnant, nursing, sick, taking certain medications, very old or very young.
Furthermore, some shampoos that are designed for dogs may be entirely unsafe for use on felines.
Never use a product intended for dogs on your cats and consult a veterinarian if you’re unsure about the suitability of your chosen flea shampoo.
Accessories and supporting products
A flea comb is a perfect way to keep tabs on your infestation, both during and after treatment. Simply run the comb through your feline’s fur to remove stray bugs; how many you find in a few minutes will give a good indication of whether or not your control efforts are working.
Combining a flea shampoo with oral medication can be the perfect way to step up your game against fleas. These products typically contain active ingredients such as s-Methoprene (an IGR that targets flea eggs and larvae) and fipronil (an adulticide that takes down adult fleas).
Before you start using any oral medication on your cat, however, it is important to check that the product is compatible with your flea shampoo. Shampoos containing chemical ingredients may be unsuitable for use in combo with oral medication, so do your research before dosing up your cat!
Top tips for effective use
Use a flea comb: A flea comb is the best way to monitor your flea population throughout treatment. Run it through your cat’s fur regularly to remove adult fleas and to keep tabs on their numbers!
Shampoo your cat as regularly as possible: Don’t be shy with the anti-flea treatments! Fleas are a persistent pest and, due to their short reproductive cycle, often require repeat treatments. Use your cat shampoo as often as you can, making sure to follow the directions for use on the product label carefully.
Limit your feline’s time outdoors: If your cat is an outdoor cat, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of time they spend in the garden while you’re battling fleas. The great outdoors is almost certainly where your cat got fleas in the first place, so keeping them indoors will reduce your chance of a repeat infestation.
Living with the product
Once you’ve chosen and purchased the best flea shampoo for your needs, how can you go about using it effectively?
Storage: To properly store your flea shampoo, follow the directions on the product label. Typically, flea shampoos should be kept in a cool, dry place once opened and used within a certain time frame.
Safety: Make sure you’re using your flea shampoo safely; always examine the product label carefully for warnings and tips. Generally, flea shampoos should be kept well away from the eyes and nose, and not used any more frequently or in greater quantities than the directions indicate.
When your cat gets fleas, you need to act immediately to stop the infestation from getting out of hand. Fleas breed frighteningly quickly and can rapidly spread around your home. Unfortunately, fleas are often an unavoidable part of pet-ownership; many people will let their cat out, only to have them come back riddled with bloodsucking bugs.
Flea shampoos are often the easiest and most effective option for treating your cat. Whether you choose a natural product or one containing insecticidal ingredients, these formulations can be of great help in the fight against fleas. For optimal effectiveness, always use flea shampoos in combination with other pest control methods.