We all know that every cat is unique – they all have their own likes and dislikes, tendencies and foibles. That said, whether they’re in it for play or for food, whether they’re solitary or sociable, whether they’re condescending or enthusiastic; they still need some sort of flea and tick control. But of course, what form that takes will depend on them as much as any other factor…
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Do cats really have personalities?
Well yes – it’s official that they do! Recent research has clearly demonstrated that cats’ personalities can be scored against the same criteria as are used in describing human personalities (1). Analysis of this large study found that cats exhibit fairly stable personalities along five major character traits: neuroticism, extraversion, dominance, agreeableness and impulsiveness.
Now for those of us who live and work with cats, this isn’t exactly a surprise. We all know that cats are individuals with individual likes and dislikes. However, for many years we have – foolishly – allowed ourselves to accept a “one size fits all” model for medications. So often, we ask “what’s the best flea treatment for a cat?”, or “what’s the best tick preventative for cats?”. All well and good perhaps. But it means we weren’t stopping to think that your cat isn’t “a cat”, they are unique and with their own preferences.
What has this got to do with flea and tick control?
OK, you’re right that on a biological level, cats are fairly similar to each other – more so than dogs in many ways. However, the main reason for the failure of any flea and tick control programme isn’t that the product doesn’t work. There’s no published evidence of flea resistance to even the old-fashioned drugs on the market. No, the bigger problem is: can you treat your cat effectively and regularly using your current treatment choice? compliance.
How happily does your cat accept the option you’ve selected for him or her? Do they make life so difficult for you that it becomes impossible to effectively treat your cat without affecting the bond of trust you have with them? If they do a runner because they hate having wet stuff being spotted onto their neck, do they receive a dose every month, on the dot, without fail? Or, if we’re being honest, does it sometimes get missed because it’s just too stressful for you both?
But of course, they really do need it. Regular monthly preventative treatment is the key. So finding the right treatment that works with your lifestyle and your cat’s personality is crucial to making sure it happens. Ectoparasites like fleas and ticks aren’t just uncomfortable for your cat, they can be genuinely dangerous. They carry a range of infections, from tapeworms to infectious anaemia and even Lyme Disease. And studies show that, if you allow a flea infestation to become established in your house, it can take months to clear it out. Even if you get everything right!
There are a huge range of different flea control products out there, in a wide variety of formulations. So make sure you choose the right one for your cat as an individual, with their own preferences. If in doubt, though, talk to your vet about what options are available. Your veterinary team are best placed to give you expert advice and guidance. They will also have access to the most advanced treatments available.
Flea product formulations available include:
- Spot-ons: a medicated product that is applied directly to the skin, after parting the hair. Some cats don’t notice it and it’s great, but some dislike the feel of a liquid on their skin.
- Collars: there are some great cat-safe medicated collars on the market now – like Seresto, which comes with a quick-release fitting. However, not all cats like a collar.
- Tablets: many newer modern flea control tablets are so small and tasty (yes, honestly!), that most cats will happily take them in with their food. That said, there are still cats who are suspicious of any oral medication, so while it would probably be worth considering, other options may be preferable.
The available treatments have come a long way in recent years, so whatever your cat’s preference, it might be worth talking to your vet about all the options!
So how does this help?
You know your cat. Far better than anyone else does, in fact – better than the internet, the groomer, or even the vets at your practice. You know what he or she does or doesn’t like.
So this is your opportunity to be an advocate for your pet: yes, they need regular treatment. But if they don’t like their current formulation, you don’t need to keep trying the same old thing again! The old saying is that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (often attributed to Einstein, but it actually appears to originate in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in 1981!).
So if your cat isn’t getting on with the flea and tick control you’re using – talk to your vet about the alternatives! You can download a handy guide to talking to your vet about your cat’s tick and flea treatment here: stressfreepet.co.uk
- Litchfield CA, Quinton G,Tindle H, Chiera BK, Kikillus H, Roetman P (2017) The ‘Feline Five’: An exploration of personality in pet cats (Felis catus), PLOS ONE