Popular Pesticide Permethrin Can Be Poisonous To Cats

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
It’s the time of year where we’re trying to keep the bugs off our bodies and our plants, but experts are warning that the pesticide permethrin is a danger to cats that more people need to be aware of.

As the issues from tick bites (Lyme’s Disease, Alpha-gal allergy and more) are becoming more common as ticks and tick-borne diseases are moving all over the country, people are working harder to prevent tick spread and tick bites.

Permethrin is a synthetic pesticide made to mimic the effect of pyrethrum, which is extracted from the chrysanthemum plant. Some products use permethrin and pyrethrum interchangeably. Many spray permethrin in their yards to keep pesky yard pests at bay, and they may not even know if they are using a naturally extracted insecticide or a synthetic one.

Related: Study Reveals One-Third of Pet Parents Doesn’t Protect Their Pets from Fleas and Ticks

Regardless, permethrin is a powerful defense against ticks and many even use clothes that are permethrin treated to ward off unfriendly visits from ticks. Humans and dogs are able to break permethrin down for the most part rather safely; it’s poison to cats though.

So, when a North Carolina NPR station discussed ways to prevent tick issues, and left out the information about permethrin being poison to cats, listeners poured in with comments and calls, asking them to be sure they mention the danger that permethrin can cause to cats.

NPR graciously accepted the information, and investigated the claims listeners gave. Dr. Charlotte Means is the director of toxicology at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. She says that the dose of the permethrin is waht can poison cats. Apparently, cats who are exposed to the same level of permethrin that is okay for a dog will suffer from poisoning, as those products are 45% permethrin or higher. Dr. Means says that some cats are so sensitive to permethrin that just coming in contact with a dog who has been treated to prevent against ticks could be dangerous, or deadly.

She says that in products that have less than one percent permethrin, which is most common household sprays or sprays used on clothing, there is not as big a problem in cats, and is typically considered to be a safe exposure.

That said, veterinarians say that different cats can be different sensitivity levels, so they advise never using a permethrin product meant for a dog on a cat, or to be careful with what you spray in both your yard and on yourself.

Cats are not able to metabolize permethrin as easily as humans and dogs, so there can even be build up in a cat. Cats exposed to permethrin may display skin irritations, redness, itchiness and even digging and rolling because their skin is uncomfortable.

Cat parents should also watch for cats to look as if they are pawing at their mouths or drooling, and especially if they display signs of tremors, twitching or shaking to get to the vet immediately. Prognosis for cats who are treated, provided there are no complications, are good for cats who have overexposure, but of course–prevention is the key.

Related: 8 Scratchy Tips About Ticks

So, when it comes to spraying clothes, as the NPR piece originally suggested, experts suggest doing so where cats don’t have any access, and allowing clothes to dry completely before any contact with your cat. Dr. Means says that spraying anything with one percent concentration should be fine once it dries, but to be safe, don’t leave permethrin-treated clothes where your cat may be able to snuggle or nestle in. Also, be sure to keep the actual solution away from your cats.

Most importantly, if you use anything permethrin, check the product and the concentration. More is not always better, and in some cases, could be deadly for cats.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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