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Understanding how flea collars work for cats

The use of flea collars in cats used to be the most popular and accessible flea control option, until the newer spot-ons that proved to be safer and more effective were developed. Many owners still choose a flea collar for flea control for several reasons, including their lower cost, ease of use (as many cats seem to resent spot on applications), and habit.

However, many flea collars can irritate the cat's neck, even causing fur loss and skin damage. Furthermore, flea collars are often made without any elastic in them, making it impossible for cats to disentangle themselves if the collar becomes caught on something such as a tree branch. Cats have been known to choke to death in such situations, so it's important to make sure that any collar is one your cat can free itself of in an emergency. If the collar is applied too loosely, they can get their leg stuck in it, causing the collar to cut through the delicate skin under the forelimb. Some collars made especially for cats have special quick release catches and others have elastic built into the straps. It is essential to check that this is the case before purchase.

The way that flea collars work is either to emit a toxic gas that kills or repels fleas, or to release a substance that dissolves and spreads throughout the fatty layers of the animal’s skin so fleas are killed anywhere on the animal’s body. As you can imagine, the first way can be very ineffective as only fleas in close proximity to the collar are affected. This is usually how the cheaper collars work. Some contain active ingredients that can be toxic to some animals, for example some dog flea collars can cause illness or death in cats that come into contact with the collar. The second way is much more effective and contains safer ingredients, but currently is only available in collars that require a prescription from the vet.

Nowadays there are many flea treatment options available to suit any cat, from tablets or suspension, to spot-ons, sprays and collars. However the quality and effectiveness can differ, especially with the cheaper products. It is advisable to seek advice from your vet or SQP in regards to your situation to determine the best option for your pet.

It is essential to remember that in all cases prevention is better than cure, so treatment should be carried out regularly all year round.

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