Bittering Agents Saving The Lives of Cats?

The bosses of Halfords, in the United Kingdom, deserve a pat of the back for voluntarily deciding to add a bittering agent (sometimes called a “bitterant”) to their antifreeze. They also add a bitterant called “Bitrex”® to their screen wash. It is probably the same chemical that is added to their antifreeze. Although Halford’s products contain a bittering agent, they sell products from other manufacturers that don’t.

Antifreeze with bittering agent
Antifreeze with bittering agent
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

In the UK, as far as I am aware, there is neither a legal requirement to add a bittering agent to antifreeze, nor to use propylene glycol, which is much safer than ethylene glycol, the commonly used but highly toxic chemical. I have to ask, Why? A defective government, probably.

See also: (a) making antifreeze unpalatable and (b) saving a cat who has ingested antifreeze.

In the USA, there were attempts to create a legal requirement to add a bitterant. However, a bill, the Antifreeze Bittering Act of 2009, died a death at the committee stage. To me, it seems extraordinary that such a simple and useful piece of legislation cannot become law. Bitterant also save the lives of kids as well as cats and wildlife.

The objective of the Antifreeze Bittering Act of 2009 was:

To amend the Federal Hazardous Substances Act to require engine coolant and antifreeze to contain a bittering agent so as to render it unpalatable….

Thankfully and wisely, the manufacturers voluntarily decided to add bitterant to all antifreeze and engine coolant. This puts the USA ahead of the UK in this regard. In the UK, there are still many cases of the deliberate poisoning of cats by people putting food down laced with antifreeze. It is time for all manufacturers in the UK to follow the US example.

Those are the “facts” as I have researched them. There are probably other manufacturers who have been equally responsible. If a visitor knows of a manufacturer, please comment.

What I am yet to discover is how effective a bittering agent is to stop cats licking up antifreeze. Will a cat be able to smell the bittering agent when the antifreeze is mixed with food as is often the case in malicious poisonings? I suspect a cat will pick up the smell because they have an excellent sense of smell, which well beyond the capabilities of humans.

14 thoughts on “Bittering Agents Saving The Lives of Cats?”

  1. I’ve had a reply now too

    Halfords Auto
    5 April 10:22
    Hi Ruth
    Thank you so much for taking the time to contact us, we at Halfords value any feedback.
    We will most certainly be passing your comments on to our category teams and also our quality team who work hard to ensure we deliver our products to a high standard.
    Many thanks
    Social Media Team

    • It’s good, isn’t it? The response is a bit formulaic but you actually got a response and the fact they put bittering agent in their antifreeze tells me that someone at Halfords is thinking.


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