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How to Put Flea Medicine on a Cat

Woman putting topical flea medicine on a cat
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Most cat parents know that getting their feline family members on a monthly flea preventative is important. Flea prevention not only keeps those pesky critters off your cat and out of your house, but it also protects your cat against diseases that are transmitted by fleas. 

When dealing with fleas, it is helpful to learn how cats get fleas, how to identify them and how to choose an effective cat flea prevention product to get rid of them. But figuring out how to put flea medicine on a cat may seem like a daunting task. 

In this article, you will learn strategies and expert tips on how to apply the medication correctly and keep the experience stress-free for you and your feline friend. 

Types of Cat Flea Medicine

Prescription flea medication for cats comes as a topical solution that is applied to the skin or a chewable tablet. These products kill fleas quickly, offer monthly protection, and some provide cross-protection from other parasites such as ticks, heartworms, and intestinal parasites. For example, NexGard Combo is a “one-and-done” monthly topical solution for cats that kills fleas and ticks, prevents heartworm disease, and treats and controls roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. It comes in a convenient applicator that is designed to make monthly parasite protection easy.

NexGard COMBO for cats packaging

There are non-prescription, over-the-counter flea prevention products available for cats. These come in the forms of topical solutions, shampoos, powders, and collars. However, some of these options are ineffective at controlling fleas.

Talk to your veterinarian to choose the best type of flea medicine for your cat and your lifestyle.  

Applying Cat Flea Medicine: Preparation Tips

The steps for applying topical flea medication on your cat aren’t always the same for every product. Here’s how to prepare your feline friend before applying the preventative. 

Read the instructions and safety information. Before you begin, start by reading through all of the instructions. Each product may have unique steps or important safety information. Do not skip or ignore this step. 

Confirm your cat’s weight. The amount of medication in a topical flea treatment application tube typically correlates to your cat’s weight. It is a good idea to weigh your cat before applying the medication. If your cat has gained or lost weight since their last dose, they may need a different dosage amount. Before applying the medication, confirm that your cat’s weight still matches the weight ranges that are listed on the box or label. For example, NexGard Combo comes in two dosage options: one for cats 1.8-5.5 pounds and one for cats 5.6-16.5 pounds.

Double check the age minimum. If you plan to apply flea medicine to your kitten, it’s important to make sure your cat is old enough. Most topical flea products have an age minimum for kittens (usually 8-12 weeks old) and it’s important to follow those guidelines to ensure your kitten’s safety. NexGard Combo is safe for kittens 8 weeks of age and older, weighing 1.8 pounds or more.

Avoid bathing your cat. It is also recommended not to bathe your cat for 2-3 days before applying the medication. Bathing before dries out the skin and reduces the absorption of the medication.

Do not split or double the dose. You will need to apply all the medication that is in the tube to your cat’s skin in order for the medication to function properly. If you have two cats, do not split the medication in the tube between two cats as this can lead to either accidental overdosages or ineffective under dosages. Use one tube of topical flea medicine per cat.

Prep your space. Have some treats or food ready nearby to give to your cat after you put the medication on. You should also decide on a place for administering the medication that will be comfortable for both you and your cat – whether that is on your lap or on a table. 

How to Apply Flea Treatment on a Cat: 6 Steps 

Putting flea medicine on an orange cat

Step 1: Remove the application tube from the packaging. 

Step 2: Hold the tube vertically and open the tip as directed on the instructions. It may require inverting the tip and pushing it through the foil covering or it may require scissors.

Step 3: Hold your cat still and remain calm. Steady your cat on a table or on your lap in a comfortable position with their back and neck easily accessible. If you have a family member or friend who can hold your cat, a second set of hands may make the application process easier. Make sure to breathe and be calm. Your cat can pick up on your tension, which can make the situation more difficult. 

Step 4: Part the hair high on your cat’s neck and upper back – in between the shoulder blades. Use this area to apply the medication. 

Step 5: Follow the instructions to apply all the medication as directed. Squeeze out all of the medication in the tube directly onto your cat’s skin.

Step 6: Throw the empty applicator in the trash. Make sure to dispose of it somewhere that your cat, other pets, and children cannot reach or access.  

How to put flea medicine on a cat infographic

How to Put Flea Medicine on a Difficult Cat

If your cat does not want to have flea medication applied and is hissing, growling, swatting, biting, or running away, there are some things you can try to make applying the medication easier.

Use food as a motivator. Coat a lick mat with some tasty canned food (pate style works best) or peanut butter (xylitol free) and let them lick the mat while you apply the medication. Alternatively if your cat loves treats, just distract them with treats while you apply the medication.

Consider using a mild sedative. Talk with your veterinarian about a safe sedative that you can give your cat before applying the flea medication.

Ask your vet for help. If you are really struggling with putting flea medicine on a difficult cat at home, most veterinarians are willing to help. Take your cat to the vet office and let a veterinarian or veterinary technician apply the flea medication to your pet.

Switch to an oral flea medication. Most cats will eagerly eat the flavored flea medication chewable tablets.

Precautions When Using Topical Cat Flea Medicine

Family sitting with cat on the sofa

While most topical flea medications are safe and non-toxic to humans, there are still some general safety tips to keep in mind when applying these preventatives to your cat. 

Here are some important precautions to follow:

  • Wash your hands after applying medication.
  • Do not touch the area where the medication has been applied for at least 30 minutes. If the area looks wet or greasy, avoid touching it.
  • Do not let children touch the area where medication was applied for the same amount of time or longer. To be safe, it is recommended to keep children from touching the cat for several hours after application.
  • Do not wash your cat for at least 72 hours after applying the medication. It is best not to wash them at all, as it will reduce the medication efficacy.

FAQs About Applying Cat Flea Treatment

Where is the best place to put flea medicine on a cat?

The best place to apply flea medication on a cat is on their back — down the back of the neck and in between the shoulder blades. It is important to put the flea medication on your cat in a place where they cannot lick it off.

How do you give a difficult cat flea medicine?

If your cat is resisting topical flea treatments, you can try a few different steps to make the application easier. Put some wet food or xylitol-free peanut butter on a lick mat and let your feline lap away while you apply the medicine. Make sure to reward your cat with a special treat following the application. You can also try to have a friend or family member hold your cat still while you apply the flea treatment. If you’re still having a tough time, ask your veterinarian if they can apply the flea medicine or consider switching to a chewable flea preventative for your cat.

Does if matter if the flea treatment goes on a cat’s fur?

If a little bit gets on your cat’s fur, it won’t be a problem. However, it’s important to apply your cat’s topical flea medication directly onto their skin. Try to part your cat’s fur and put the tip of the applicator directly in contact with your cat’s skin to ensure the product is absorbed properly.

How long should you wait before touching a cat following flea treatment?

It’s best to wait at least 30 minutes before touching your cat following the application of topical flea medicine. This will give the product time to be absorbed and dry. If the area looks greasy or appears to be wet, don’t touch it. To be safe, children should wait a few hours before touching cats after flea medicine is applied.