Protect against permethrin poisoning campaign

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At International Cat Care we are warning cat owners not to use dog flea treatments on their cats after a spate of deaths reported by UK vets.

The deaths are due to the insecticide permethrin, commonly found in dog spot-on treatments, which are widely available. This is highly toxic to cats, with often fatal consequences – see our permethrin poisoning cases.

Instead of using a cat-specific product, cat owners are mistakenly using flea treatments designed for dogs, which contain a toxic and concentrated dose of permethrin. Whilst there are warnings on packs, accidents continue to happen, causing suffering and death to cats.  

Cats can even be poisoned through contact with dogs in the same household which have been recently treated with flea spot-on products containing permethrin. 

International Cat Care is warning consumers to check any flea products they have recently purchased. If pet owners apply any spot-on product containing permethrin to their cat, they are advised to wash it off immediately with water and a mild detergent, then seek immediate treatment from a veterinary surgeon. 

We are petitioning for a change in licensing of permethrin-containing products by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. The petition asks that these products legally require verbal advice at the point of sale from a suitably qualified person. Under their existing licence products containing permethrin can be bought directly off the supermarket or shop shelf with no advice. Please sign our petition and urge any friends or colleagues to do the same.

Pets at Home has already joined the campaign and will be putting safeguards on the sale of these products into their shops - International Cat Care wants other pet shops to do the same.

Claire Bessant, Chief Executive of International Cat Care, comments:

These cat deaths are totally preventable. This is simply down to mistakes at point of purchase, with pet owners mixing up cat and dog products, or simply unaware that you cannot use a dog treatment on a cat. The charity strongly feels that these treatments should be reclassified by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate so that they may only be purchased if advice is given about their correct use. As well as checking its intended use, pet owners should be asked if there are cats in the home which may come into contact with a recently treated dog, so that they can be warned to keep the dog and cat apart, or advised to use a different product.

The true number of deaths may be much higher as all too often it is not reported. If you have an incident, please help us make sure that no one else suffers by contacting the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to report a problem, and signing up to our petition. 


Spot-on flea treatments comprise a small amount of liquid that is applied directly onto the skin of the animal’s neck, as shown in the picture, right. They can be easier to give than traditional flea treatments, removing the need for messy powders or sprays which can cause stress to cats.

Permethrin products are safe for dogs, as they are far less sensitive than cats to the toxic insecticide. Cat flea spot-on treatments do not contain permethrin and neither do many newer dog spot-on products.

For full details of permethrin poisoning in cats, including a list of the dog spot-on products which contain permethrin, see our links (right).

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