Permethrin-treated clothing toxic to cats

Spraying clothes with permethrin

Some people spray the insecticide permethrin on their clothing to stop them being bitten by ticks. Ticks can cause nasty illnesses in people: Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

It sounds like a reasonable idea but permethrin is very toxic to cats. So if you own a cat, personally, I would not spray your clothes with this insecticide. Also I wouldn’t buy clothes pre-impregnated with permethrin. I just wouldn’t take any chances.

Veterinarians would probably say that it’s about dosage. Under a certain level cats are safe. Dr Charlotte Means the director of toxicology at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center said:

“It’s the dose that makes the poison,”

I disagree with her. Permethrin is poisonous to cats period. At lower dosages the symptoms of poison will be lessened to where they might be hardly apparent but the cat is still poisoned.

Apparently cats “seem to be deficient in one of the primary mechanisms for metabolising permethrin..[If an animal] isn’t able to normally metabolize it, break it down and excrete it, it can build up and be more likely to cause problems.” said Dr Means.

Dr Means provides advice about taking precautions when spraying clothes with insecticide. She says that a one percent concentration of the insecticide is unlikely to cause problems. I don’t like the word ‘unlikely’ in this statement. When it comes to cat health and safety I don’t believe a cat owner should take risks. Poisonings are serious matters. I like certainties on health issues, not probabilities. A cat owner will not know the concentration of insecticide on her clothes so how can she make a judgement that it is safe for her cat?

She also cautions against leaving permethrin treated clothes near where your cat sleeps. And to change clothes after coming in from outside when wearing permethrin treated clothes. Once again personally I would not follow this advice; don’t use permethrin in a home where there are cats. Although I do appreciate the heavy risk of being bitten by a tick. I see that. And I see the need to balance risks to the person against risks to the cat but…I think there are decent alternatives to using permethrin, a nasty substance from the cat’s perspective.

My advice is to avoid this insecticide totally if you have a cat. The risks are too high. It only takes a careless moment and you’ll have a major health issue on your hands.

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