Flea and Tick Preventation for Cats
Owners want to keep their cats safe from even the smallest dangers. Advances in the flea and tick arena are making solutions more effective and the category more profitable.
We all know the itchy, scratchy annoyance that comes with bug bites. Cats, too, can suffer the irritation inflicted by tiny pests—namely fleas and ticks. Luckily, there are more choices than ever for preventing and treating infestations for your feline friends.
Approximately 74 percent of dog- and cat- owning households in the U.S. buy flea and tick products, such as collars, shampoos, sprays and dips, according to Pet Medications in the U.S., 4th Edition. As a necessity for pets’ health, flea and tick products are a smart investment of resources for retailers to keep on the shelf.
“The threat of fleas and ticks exists year-round. The presence of fleas and ticks on their pets causes great concern among pet parents. There is fear for their pets’ health, comfort and safety, and the likelihood of fleas and tick in the home is revolting,” says Chuck Latham, founder of Parker, Colo.-based H&C Animal Health. “For all these reasons, a pet parent wants immediate and lasting relief from these pests.”
Safety, though, is pet parents’ number one concern when it comes to flea and tick products. In order to provide the best possible solutions, it’s crucial for both retailers and owners to be well educated on the subject of these pesky bugs.
Flea and Tick 101
First, you need know the enemy. Both fleas and ticks are parasites, which means they feed on the blood of host animals. Fleas are the most common; they are wingless insects with a lifespan of up to 12 months and the ability to jump as high as two feet. Ticks are arachnids and can be found in wooded or grassy areas.
Pets are often exposed to both pests while roaming around outside, but even indoor cats can become infested. “Indoor-outdoor cats enjoy mice, and mice are carriers,” explains Susan Goldstein, founder of Earth Animal based in Westport, Conn. “Cats also become exposed to other animals, and if they’re living in a house where dogs are going outside a lot and bringing in fleas and ticks, cats are very much exposed.”
Symptoms of a flea infestation include excessive scratching or licking, hair loss and hot spots, while ticks can be spotted with the naked eye through diligent checks. If untreated, both parasites can cause major health complications.
“A furious infestation can cause anemia, which is a blood disorder and very serious,” says Goldstein. “Also, fleas can lead to chronic itching, which can cause nervous problems. If left unchecked, an animal that is suffering from high anxiety is an animal whose immune system is also compromised.”
Keep Pests at Bay
Flea and tick solutions have been key in helping forge the bond between pets and owners over the past few decades, according to Latham. “In addition to improving the health and comfort of dogs and cats, these products made it possible for them to become part of the household without worrying about infestations of annoying and dangerous pests,” he says.
Prevention products are usually either applied topically or ingested, and formulas for cats and dogs differ based on their unique needs. One of the simplest solutions is a monthly spot-on product, such as Catego for Cats by Ceva Animal Health (a H&C Animal Health brand).
Catego is a monthly prevention and treatment for fleas, tick and chewing lice for indoor and outdoor cats (over eight months and 1.5 lbs). Its powerful formula brings together three proven active ingredients—Dinotefuran, Fipronil and Pyriproxyfen. The patented applicator is easy to use and reduces the risk of skin abrasion, while the solution is non-greasy and quick drying.
While Catego is fast acting—it can kill pests in less than six hours—Latham says there are still misconceptions about how long it takes to get rid of an infestation. Since fleas infest both the pet and its environment, successful elimination takes at least 12 weeks.
“For each flea killed, there are many others ready to take its place so the fleas seen today may not be the same fleas seen yesterday,” he explains.
Another common misunderstanding for both fleas and ticks is that the presence of a parasite on a treated pet means the product is ineffective. “A product may work on contact and quickly, but a minimum amount of contact time is still required for the flea or tick to die,” adds Latham.
For pet parents that prefer a more holistic approach, there’s Earth Animal’s Flea and Tick Defense Program. While most traditional products use insecticides or pesticides, the Nature’s Protection line, formulated by Dr. Bob Goldstein, defends against fleas and ticks using nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
“What’s different about Earth Animal is that the majority of the ingredients in our flea and tick products we have used successfully in our holistic veterinary practice for over 35 years,” says Susan Goldstein. “We have a cause-no-harm philosophy. So, the products we formulate, market and sell do not have side effects. We’re a veterinary family and we take a veterinary oath to cause no harm.”
Earth Animal’s core products are ingestible powders and drops, but recently the company added topical products to the Nature’s Protection family. The new additions include a shampoo, flea and tick collars, bug spray and spot-on treatments—all made with herbal ingredients.
The Herbal Flea & Tick Collar for Cats contains three natural insect repellants: Virginia cedar, peppermint and almond oils. Pet parents can rest assured that all of these ingredients are safe for people, pets and the environment and contain no phthalates, DEET, chemical insecticides or pesticides.
“With the production of pesticides and insecticides, and the leeching out of them into our ground and our soil, I think families are looking to support the environment more so than ever. So I think a green approach, or herbs, which are not sprayed with insecticides or pesticides, is very appealing to the soul of the consumer,” says Susan Goldstein.
Spreading the Message
When thinking about promoting flea and tick products, it’s important to remember that these products are seasonal. Although in many places pests are sticking around for longer, there’s still an established window for sales.
Goldstein recommends taking advantage of the seasonality by creating window displays or special sections for flea and tick solutions. “During peak season—now, I’m in Connecticut—during peak season, which is April through November, we actually dedicate the whole outdoor window of our shop to safe, effective flea and tick products,” she says.
Another way to grab shoppers’ attention: demo tables. Setting up practical demonstrations of flea and tick products, where owners can ask questions and experience the solutions first-hand, can help ease worries about safety.
“In my store, I have a demo table. On the demo table the products are out and families can touch the herbs and smell the herbs. I also have information on how to use them on my point of sale materials,” adds Goldstein.
The Future of Defense
As cats continue to be increasingly humanized, products that contribute to their health, like flea and tick treatments, are expected to also grow.
“There are more fleas and ticks in more places than ever before, and they will remain serious threats to the health and well being of dogs and cats,” says Latham. “Pet parents will continue to seek relief for their pets and will want ready access to affordable and high-quality flea and tick products that can be used safely and effectively.” PB