While shampoos and flea collars are still options, parasitologists have developed wonderful new weapons in the war against fleas and ticks. With simple monthly administrations of these oral, injectable or topical medications, you can guard your cat against flea and tick infestations.

Fleas and ticks are dangerous disease carriers that can make your cat's life miserable. Fleas can transmit tapeworms and cause itchy allergic reactions, which can lead to scratching, hair loss and infection. And, in rare instances, a cat can contract Lyme disease from ticks. Lyme disease is a serious condition characterized by lameness, swollen joints and fever.

Fleas ingest an animal's blood. A large infestation can cause anemia and other medical disorders and, in some instances, death due to blood loss or complications of a flea-related illness. Therefore, it's crucial to keep your cat flea-free.

These Treatments Keep the Pests Away

New medications prevent infestations by killing the adults or by keeping their eggs from hatching. Here's what you need to know about the most common flea and tick preventives in your veterinarian's arsenal.

  • Program contains lufenuron, a chemical that prevents flea eggs from hatching but does not kill adult fleas. It is available as a monthly oral tablet or suspension and as a twice-yearly veterinarian-administered injection. This compound doesn't work against ticks.
  • Frontline is available in a dab-on formula or a spray. It uses fipronil to wipe out fleas and may control ticks. For flea control, it can be used every two months; for tick control, it should be administered once a month. Frontline continues to work even after you give your pet a bath.
  • Advantage (imidacloprid) is a topical treatment that kills adults fleas and prevents reinfestation for up to one month. Bathing your cat will reduce effectiveness.
  • Advantage does not work against ticks.
  • Revolution (selamectin) is the latest topical medication among the monthly options for flea and tick prevention. It guards against heartworms, flea eggs and adult fleas, ticks, ear mites, hookworms and roundworms.

If Your Cat Has Been Infested

If you started using one of these flea medications after you discovered a flea infestation, you may need to treat your house too. Why? Fleas can live for several months in your house and yard, and flea eggs may hatch in your carpet, cushions and drapes for years.

Your cat isn't the only one at risk. People can get irritating flea bites too. Ridding your home of these pests takes time and a concerted effort. Here's what to do.

To get rid of housebound fleas: use professional flea foggers and sprays for hard-to-reach spots, following manufacturer directions. Clean the flea eggs out of your house by vacuuming several times in a week, taping the vacuum bags shut and throwing them away. Also regularly clean your cat's favorite hangouts and wash her bedding.

If your flea problem is recurring, you may need to treat your yard as well. Use professional, concentrated yard sprays. Many of these sprays attach easily to the end of a garden hose for application. It's especially important to spray moist and shaded areas of your yard. But be sure not to use any environmental treatments directly on your pet.

You should never use any environmental treatment directly on your pet.

Ridding your pet and home of these hardy pests is a tough job, but you'll rest easier knowing your cat doesn't have to endure the maddening itch or diseases these parasites can inflict.