Fleas are always inconvenient, but there’s no worse time for your cat to get fleas than when she is nursing kittens. When she is nursing, the products you can safely use are limited.
To make matters worse, you also need to treat the kittens. Kittens cannot tolerate flea medications, but a flea infestation can be harmful or even deadly for them as well.
The good news is there are things you can do. The process is a bit more complicated when your cat is nursing, but it is treatable.
What can I give a nursing cat for fleas?
Some flea medications are safe for nursing mothers, while others aren’t. Before giving your nursing cat any flea medication, it’s a good idea to speak to your vet.
Why All Flea Medications Aren’t Safe
If you’ve ever breastfed a baby, you probably remember a long list of things that you couldn’t take. Many substances that go into the body will also make its way into the breast milk, so substances that could harm the baby must be avoided.
You may be wondering how a topical medication can pose a risk to kittens. Spot flea treatments are the most common type of flea treatment used today.
They are generally considered to be safe. However, these treatments work by being absorbed into your cat’s body. When a flea bites, they ingest the substance from the flea treatment, because it is in your cat’s system.
Of course, anything that enters your cat’s system can also enter their breast milk. Most topical flea medications are safe for kittens 8 weeks or older. A few are safe for kittens as young as 4 weeks. However, this doesn’t make them safe for nursing kittens.
To determine the safety for nursing kitties, research must be performed. If the research isn’t conducted, or it’s found to be harmful, the medication will not be approved for nursing mothers.
Topical Flea Medications for Nursing Mothers
Never use a topical medication that isn’t listed as safe for nursing mothers on a lactating cat. When selecting a medication, be sure to get the right type. For example, Advantage is safe for nursing mothers, but Advantage multi is not.
Medications listed as safe while nursing include:
- Frontline Spot On
- Revolution (original formula)
- Advantage 2
Advantage includes Imidacloprid. Original Revolution contains selamectin. Frontline Spot On Contains Fipronil. These are all considered safe when nursing. Other versions can contain other ingredients which aren’t known to be safe for nursing kitties.
Oral Flea Treatment
There’s only one oral flea treatment that is considered safe for nursing cats. This is Capstar. It contains nitenpyram as the active ingredient.
The treatment begins working within 30 minutes. It’s also safe for kittens over 4 weeks of age or 2 pounds. This is significantly earlier than most spot-on treatments, which are not safe before 8 weeks of age.
Can Nursing Mothers Wear a Flea Collar?
Never, under any circumstances, use a flea collar on a nursing cat. The medication in the collar can make the kittens sick.
You should also avoid flea collars for pregnant cats. It can cause birth defects and breathing difficulties in kittens.
What to do if my nursing cat has fleas?
If your nursing cat has fleas, you’ll need to take quick action. There are several things that you can do to keep your kitty and kittens healthy and flea free.
Talk to Your Vet
The best first step in treating fleas on a nursing feline is to contact your vet. This is the safest method. Your vet should be able to guide you and provide a medication that is safe for your cat and her kittens.
As mentioned earlier, some flea treatments are safe for nursing mothers. These flea medications may also control fleas in kittens, because they pass through the breast milk.
Do not apply the flea treatments to the kittens. Do not use any treatment that is not approved for nursing cats.
You may need to separate the mother from the kittens temporarily after applying topical flea treatment. This isn’t necessary with the oral medication capstar.
It’s best not to use flea shampoo on nursing cats. Kittens can be exposed to the chemicals on their fur, and may also be exposed through the breastmilk.
However, you can bathe her in Dawn dishwashing liquid. Dawn is safe for cats of all ages, including kittens. It will kill any fleas present on the cat. However, it may not kill flea eggs.
Castile soap, like Dr. Bronners is also safe for any age kitty. Be sure to use the unscented version. This can control fleas for up to 1 to 2 weeks.
Bathing is a quick way to halt an infestation. However, you should use caution. A new mother shouldn’t be separated from very young kittens. The kittens need their mother to survive.
The stress of the bath can also disrupt the bonding process, and interfere with nursing. If the kittens are a few weeks old, it’s fine to give both mother and kittens a bath.
Kittens younger than 2 weeks old shouldn’t be bathed unless absolutely necessary. At this age, they are not able to regulate their body temperature well.
Bathing a young kitten, particularly one under 2 weeks old, can chill them. This can be fatal. Of course, a flea infestation can also be fatal to a newborn kitten.
If you must bathe your young kitten, be sure the water is warm but not hot. Toss a towel in the dryer to warm it. Once the bath is finished, wrap the kitten in the towel.
Keep them warm, including keeping the house or room warm, until they are completely dry. Be sure that they are warm and stable before giving them back to mom.
This is the most time consuming method of treatment, but it’s also one of the safest. You can use a flea comb on mother and babies. This will remove any fleas from their coat.
The flea comb should remove eggs as well. It can take several sessions to eliminate fleas completely. If you miss any fleas or eggs, you will not stop the flea life cycle.
Treating the Home
The fastest and most convenient way to treat your home is to use a flea spray or powder on your upholstery and carpet. Unfortunately, these can’t be used around kittens.
Some natural sprays can be used near kittens 12 weeks or older. Other types of sprays and powders are safe for cats over 7 months of age.
Be sure to carefully read the label on any home flea control product to be sure it’s safe for your kittens.
Wash anything that you can to remove fleas and eggs. The process of washing in hot water and drying will kill any fleas in bedding and other fabric items.
When it comes to your carpet and upholstery, you’ll need to vacuum well. This removes fleas and eggs. However, you may need to vacuum once every 1 to 2 weeks until the fleas are completely gone.
When can I give my cat flea treatment after having kittens?
This depends on the type of flea treatment you are using. It’s best to wait 2 weeks after the kittens are born before using a flea control product on a nursing mother.
This gives the kittens a little time to grow so they aren’t as vulnerable to the chemicals in the product. If the mother needs to be temporarily separated from her kittens, they should be at least 2 weeks old.
Of course, fleas can cause serious harm to kittens. If you have a severe infestation, you’ll need to weigh the benefits and risks of treating your cat soon after birth.
It’s best to speak with your vet in this case before deciding on a treatment.
When Can I Treat Kittens for Fleas?
Most topical flea medications can be applied to kittens 8 weeks or older. Capstar can be given to kittens as young as 4 weeks old. Until they reach the correct age, you will have to treat the mother and use non-chemical treatments for the kittens.