Cats and Lawn Treatments

This is a subject that concerns me personally and it should concern all people who care for a cat and who live in an apartment with common grounds that includes a lawn and where the cat goes onto the lawn. This will normally happen to people who occupy ground floor apartments and who have rights to use the communal garden with direct access to it.

Lawn treatments are designed to improve the appearance of the lawn. That means less weeds, moss etc. and lush grass. There appears to be two broad categories of lawn treatments: synthetic chemicals and organic lawn care products.

Daniel an F3 Bengal cat

Daniel, an F3 Bengal cat on the lawn I use.

If you are living in a flat or apartment you will usually have no control over when, if and how the lawn of a communal garden is treated. However, we should know this information if we have a cat or a dog. At lot of the chemical treatments are highly toxic to both us and our cat. It goes without saying that a cat or dog is much more likely to ingest these nasty chemicals through their skin or mouth.

Cats eat grass. They lie in grass and walk on it with bare feet. Cats are fastidious self-groomers. They will lick their feet and undersides of their body etc. Their direct exposure to poisonous chemicals is substantially increased.

We don’t know if or how our cat has been affected by lawn treatment chemicals. The health impact can be subtle and the underlying cause of an illness can often go undiagnosed.

The management of apartment buildings routinely ignore this important aspect of their work. Cats are common companions of flat-dwelling people. Managers of blocks of flats should:

  • wherever possible use organic non-toxic lawn treatments and;
  • provide notice of when lawn treatment will take place to allow a person to keep their cat in and;
  • provide details of the time scale during which the chemicals will disperse and the lawn become safe for ‘pets’ again.

I would be surprised if any management company did this. I know for a fact that the management of the block of flats where I live completely ignore the toxic effects of lawn treatment on local cats and other animals including wildlife. I live in a self-managed block of flats with a nice garden (a condominium in American English). By self-managed I mean a group of leaseholders manage the block rather than a remote landlord. This is because the leaseholds communally are the landlord as well.

There is, therefore, a communal element to this. They know there are cats around, some strays and at least three cats belonging to leaseholders and occupiers of these flats one of which is a fancy f3 bengal whose name is Daniel (see him in the picture above).

At least twice a year a contractor comes around with a back pack and a hand pump and dispenses some sort of chemical pellet onto the lawn. I have no idea if it is safe or a nasty synthetic chemical. I should have been notified because my cat has free access to the garden through a cat flap (cat door). They know that.

The directors of management company or the agents of that company could be liable in contract, tort (negligence) or breach of their fiduciary duty as directors if they do not take proper steps to prevent injury to residents of apartments and/or their pets.

My general impression is that managers of apartments usually have scant regard for the health of cats and dogs living with residents. Their objective is to make the place as simple to manage as possible.

A classic and distressing case of cat poisoning and injury from a garden or lawn treatment is in the news. A women’s cat was seriously injured by a chemical spray put on a garden. It appears to have been weed killer because at the same time the contractors put down bark mulch which is used to control weed growth. As expected the contractors and management company denied liability. Don’t they always?

If you are living in an apartment and have a cat that goes out, I would ask questions about lawn treatments and take proactive measures to protect the health of your cat.

Associated article: Toxic to Cats.

3 thoughts on “Cats and Lawn Treatments”

  1. My husband wants to put chemicals on our back lawn in the worst way, but I won’t let him because that’s Monty’s area. No one can see it from the road anyway, it is completely fenced. I had a couple of people from a lawn service knock on my door and they told me they would fertilize and kill weeds at the same time and my lawn would look great. I kept asking how that would affect pets, and they said that once it rains it would be fine. I said that my cat eats a lot of grass and they wouldn’t make any promises in that case. They said if he is ingesting it they could give no guarantee of safety even following a rain. But they still kept trying to sell their service to me. I told them I might consider doing something with the front lawn (to appease my husband) but they said that area is too small and they would have to do the back also. Again, I said I have a cat who eats grass. Although they couldn’t promise it would be safe for Monty they still were very pushy.

    Personally, I don’t get all this fascination with grass and perfect lawns. I am so tired of people watering their grass during this drought. I thought I heard that we are not supposed to be watering grass or washing cars because of the drought, but you see it all the time and no one gets fined. Watering your grass is the biggest waste of water there is. Once it rains, the grass gets green and grows again. If it isn’t raining, everyone else has brown grass too, and if you water, your lawn will look odd for being green in the middle of a drought. I think wasting our precious fresh water supplies on grass is foolish at best and may actually be immoral. It is certainly wasteful. Putting chemicals on the grass is just as stupid, in my opinion. As long as you keep it mowed fairly short you can’t really notice any weeds anyway. I don’t get this need to destroy certain plants as weeds in favor of other plants where you’re object isn’t to grow food. I can see weeds being an issue if they’re choking out your tomato plants– but grass? If the weeds are green and the grass is green and from a distance you can’t really tell one from the other, who really cares? I’m just not a gardener, I guess.

    Also, I spent much of my childhood playing in the ravine by my parent’s house among all the weeds and wildflowers down there. I kind of like that some of those same plants are growing in my back yard. The grass gets cut, but along the sides of the yard are kind of wild areas with trees and wild plants and few perennials planted by a former owner many years ago. To me it feels like the ravine and Monty and I just have a blast back there. I don’t see how I could enjoy it more if I changed it into a well manicured garden, and I certainly would never risk Monty’s health for the sake of some stupid grass.

    • YES, I agree with every word you write…The law service guys don’t really care about safety. What they really, really care about is profit. And I prefer wild, natural places to man-made artificial spaces….Michael


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