Keeping Cats Safe: Avoiding Permethrin and Controlling Fleas

This post first appeared on iCatCare

We’re looking at permethrin this month in our Keeping Cats Safe campaign.

Permethrin is an insecticide sometimes found in flea treatment products for dogs that is extremely toxic to cats. Even a very small quantity can have very serious affects.

If you think you may have applied a flea product containing concentrated permethrin you need to contact your vet IMMEDIATELY. The same applies if you think your cat has been in contact with a dog that has been treated with permethrin.

Many cases of permethrin poisoning are accidental and happen because owners are unaware that it’s dangerous, assume that a product for dogs is suitable for use on cats, or don’t know that the product contains permethrin. Below are some simple steps to help avoid permethrin poisoning:

  • Never used a dog product on a cat.
  • Ensure that any flea treatments used are solely designed for cats.
  • Always read product descriptions and take note of warnings
  • If you have dogs and cats, don’t use a product containing permethrin on your dog.
  • Contact your vet if you have any concerns about a product.

Safely treating fleas

There are many different products available for controlling fleas in cats and these vary in their effectiveness and safety, we look at some of these below.

‘Spot-on’ products

‘Spot-on’ products are probably the most popular flea treatments as they are generally easy to apply and they are widely available. The ingredients used in these vary, and some are very good whilst others are much less effective (or less safe).

For advice as to which is the best to use, always speak to your vet who will know what is most suitable for your cat. Some products contain substances that kill adult fleas, others work by interrupting the development of fleas, and some do both.


Tablets can be useful if an owner finds these easier to administer than a spot-on.

You can find more advice about how to give your cat a tablet here.

Pump action sprays

Pump action sprays containing flea control products may be available and may be suitable for use as the pump action minimises any distress to the cat.

Insect (flea) growth regulators

As well as being present in some spot-on preparations or environmental sprays, flea growth regulators may also be available as an injectable product or as a product that can be given orally. These may be easier solutions for some cats, but should always be combined with a product that kills adult fleas.

What to avoid

International Cat Care doesn’t recommend the use of flea powders or aerosol sprays, as there are more effective, safer and easier to give flea control treatments. Similarly, unless flea collars are a type specifically recommended and purchased from a vet, collars available from pet shops and supermarkets aren’t recommended.

With any product that you use, it’s important to always follow manufacturer’s instructions, and if you are unsure about a particular product, consult your vet. If you’re treating a kitten, pregnant or suckling cat, you should check that the product is explicitly suitable for them.

You can read more about fleas and flea control in cats and the home here.

Keep up to date with the Keeping Cats Safe campaign.

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