Skip to Content

Why do cats hate flea treatment?

Fleas are a bane for cats. They make them itch, and prompt them to spend all their time grooming to remove them. They can even cause lesions on your cats skin. Your cat hates fleas, so you do what you can to prevent them. 

The problem is your cat seems to hate the flea treatment more than they would hate having fleas. It can be challenging, and even frustrating. After all, you are only trying to do what’s best for them. 

Why do cats hate flea treatment?

There are several reasons why cats hate flea treatment. This will vary some based on the type of flea treatment, and your cat. 

Skin Irritation

One reason why cats hate flea treatment is that it can irritate their skin. Topical flea treatments work by soaking into the layer of fat beneath the skin. It’s then distrubtred throughout that layer of fat on the body, so it kills fleas in all areas of your cat’s body. 

Unfortunately, this process can cause your cat some discomfort. It’s known as paresthesia. The skin around the application site can itch, and become red and irritated. It may even burn slightly in some cases. This shouldn’t be painful for your cat, but it can be uncomfortable. 

The Smell

Another reason why cats don’t like topical flea treatments is because of the smell. Cats, like dogs, are able to smell much better than we are. In fact, their sense of smell is 14 times stronger than ours. 

They may enjoy exploring the source of new smells in their environment, but they don’t want a new smell on themselves. It’s actually part of your cat’s survival mechanism. 

Their smell lets them know they are healthy. Staying clean helps keep them safe from predators. Like cats, many predators use their sense of smell to track their prey. If your cat smells strongly, it can put them at risk of being found by a predator. 

It’s easy to understand why your cat finds  having a smelly substance applied to them to be offputting. 

They Don’t Like the Taste 

Chewable flea medications are supposed to taste good to your cat, but that doesn’t mean your cat will find it appetizing. Perhaps it’s a bit like liquid medication for humans, particularly children. No matter how good pharmacists and drug companies try to make it taste, medication still tastes like medicine. 

Your cat may also be suspicious of the medicine. Cats aren’t just picky eaters, they are cautious eaters as well. They are much less likely than dogs to eat something out of curiosity, which can make them sick. This is a great trait for the survival of the species, but it’s not so great when your cat turns its nose up at medicine. 

Because They are Cats

Cats think for themselves. They have their own opinions about what should and shouldn’t happen, and they don’t appreciate being forced to do something. Your cat may dislike flea treatment for the same reason some children hate broccoli, simply because they are made to have some. 

Put yourself in your cat’s place. How would you feel if you were forced to stand still, and then had a smelly itchy substance applied to your skin?

This sort of thing may happen at a doctor’s office. In this situation, you would be ok with it, because you would know it’s for your own good. Unfortunately, your cat doesn’t understand that you aren’t doing it to torture them. 

Some cats will even hold a grudge after receiving flea treatment. This can last for a few hours to days, or even weeks. If you notice that they are suddenly ignoring you, or even glaring from the corner, they are probably angry with you. 

Your cat will soon forgive you, but have patience in the meantime. 

Why is my cat nervous after flea treatment?

If your cat is nervous after flea treatment, the best case scenario is that they were simply traumatized by the application process. If this is the case, they will quickly return to their normal self. However, if your cat seems strange, they may be suffering toxicity from the flea medication. 

Types of Flea Treatment 

There are actually four different types of flea treatment and preventative treatments available for your cat.

Topical Medications 

The most common by far is topical medications. These are applied to the back of the neck, where they soak into the skin. This type can cause skin irritation, as mentioned earlier. 

These are typically applied once a month. Some also control ticks, as well as fleas. Some topical medications are available over the counter, while others require a prescription from your vet. They can begin killing fleas in as little as 12 hours.

Oral Medications

Oral medications are chewable tablets. They are typically given once a month. Unlike topical medications, these work from the inside out. They do remove the risk of another cat licking the medicine off the cat’s fur, so it can be ideal for multiple cat households. 

Flea Collars

Flea collars, as the name suggests, are collars with flea medicine built in. They seem benign, and can last for up to 8 months. However, they have their own risks, which we will take a closer look at in the upcoming section. 

Flea Sprays 

Flea sprays can be designed to spray on your cat, or to apply to your carpet and furniture. Never use a flea spray designed to use on upholstery and carpet on your cat. It can be toxic to them. 

Some flea sprays designed for your cat are made from natural ingredients. These are safe for your cat, and provide a natural alternative to the chemicals commonly used in flea treatment. 

Risks of Flea Treatment 

Vets say it’s rare for your cat to have a reaction if a flea treatment is applied correctly. They say the most common error is using the wrong type of flea preventative. The flea preventatives commonly used for dogs are dangerous for cats. 

When an owner puts medication designed for dogs on their cat, the results can be disastrous. 

The other common mistake is not heeding the weight requirement. Different dosages of medication are designed for cats of different weights. Administering a higher dose to a smaller cat can be toxic, or even harmful. 

Symptoms of an Adverse Reaction

The most common signs of an adverse reaction to flea treatment include twitching, hypersalivation, trembling and seizures. If you notice minor twitching or trembling, give your cat a bath to remove the flea medication. 

If they begin having severe trembling, hypersalivation, or seizures, bring them to the vet immediately. 

Aren’t Flea Collars Safer?

Many cat owners reach for a flea collar for their cat, believing it to be a safer option. Today’s collars are designed to break away to prevent choking, but the flea medication they contain can pose its own danger. 

One of the most popular flea collars on the market, Seresto, is linked to 1,700 pet deaths. There have been 75,000 reports of adverse effects, including 1,000 human injuries due to the collar.  

Is it normal for cats to act weird after flea treatment?

No, it’s not normal for your cat to act weird after flea treatment. It’s not unheard of for them to experience some anxiety following application, because the process isn’t pleasant for them. 

However, if your cat is exhibiting physical  symptoms, you can assume that they are having a reaction to the flea treatment. 

How to get my cat to like flea treatment?

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely your cat will ever enjoy flea treatment. However, there are some ways to work around this. Some involve stealthily administering the medication, while others require restraining your cat. 

Sneaking Topical Medication

The best case scenario for applying topical medication is that your cat doesn’t realize what you are doing, or is too happy to really care. 

If your cat enjoys being in your lap, get them into your lap. If not, you’ll need to sit beside them. Begin petting their head and neck. Find that spot that all cats love behind the ear, and scratch it gently. 

Keep petting and scratching until your cat is in kitty heaven. Once they are relaxed and purring, it’s time to administer the medication. You’ll need it open and preferably in the hand you aren’t petting the cat with. 

Simply apply the medication as quickly as possible, doing your best not to disturb your cat. Keep petting them with your other hand. 

Sneaking Chewable Flea Medication 

Cats are notoriously harder to pill than their canine counterparts. If your cat refuses to eat a flea medication tablet, you can try sneaking it in. 

The most convenient way to do this is to offer it inside or along with a cat treat. Of course, a smart cat will simply pick the treat out, and avoid the flea tablet. 

To avoid this, you can crush it and add it to your cat’s food. Crush the tablet and add it to wet cat food. Be sure to give a small enough amount of food that you are certain they will eat it all. 

If your cat needs some encouragement, you can add a food topper. Low sodium chicken broth or a store-bought topper are quick and easy options. These should make the food more appetizing, increasing the odds that your cat will eat it. 

Flea Sprays

There’s no way to make spraying your cat any easier. Some cats don’t seem to mind it, while others hate it. If your cat dislikes this method, you can try giving them a treat to occupy them while you are spraying. You can also spray the flea spray onto a cat brush, and then brush their fur. 

The spray may be less concentrated, and therefore less effective, with this method.  If this doesn’t work, you may simply have to find another method. 

Creating a Positive Experience

Flea treatment will be easier in the future if you can make it a positive experience for your cat. This isn’t always possible, but you should do all you can to avoid it being a bad experience for your kitty. 

Cats have an associative memory. This is why they get excited when they hear a food bag rattling, and how they know when you are going to bed. They remember things in relation to each other. 

When it comes to experiences, they will remember them as being positive or negative. The next time you give them flea treatment, they will remember the previous experience, or at least how they felt about it. 

Once you’ve completed the flea treatment, no matter what method you use, give them a treat and praise once you’ve finished. This will help create a positive association for them. 

Cat Burrito

This is the least humane option. If there’s no other way to administer flea treatment, it’s best to try another type. Let’s assume you’ve tried everything, and your cat is still a walking flea magnet. As your last resort, you can make a cat burrito. 

You’ll need to wrap your cat in a towel, so only their head is sticking out. Most cats strongly object to being confined this way, which is why it can seem inhumane. It’s best if you have someone to help. They can hold the cat in their lap while you wrap them, and then ensure your cat doesn’t escape before you are finished. 

Once your cat is wrapped, they can’t move. This prevents them from escaping. It also prevents them from using their sharp claws to show you just how unhappy they are. While it can be traumatic for the cat, it’s certainly safer than other methods of restraining them for both of you. 

As soon as your cat is secure, you can apply the flea treatment. To apply topical medication, part the hair at the base of their neck. Apply the liquid in the tube to this area. Now that it’s done, you can free your cat.