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Cat Flea Control Products Warning

Grassroots Movements

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It should not be surprising that the EPA investigation of Hartz Mountain products comes as a direct result of a grassroots movement of upset consumers who believe their cats' illnesses and/or deaths were a direct result of using Hartz products on their cats. Possibly the largest and most active of these is HartzVictims.org, in existence since November, 2002, with hundreds of stories by disgruntled consumers. The "Against Hartz" web site offers a comprehensive list of related sites, news releases, and articles.

The news media were quick to pick up on the consumer allegations, and investigative reporters from newspapers, radio, and television stations around the U.S. played a part in solidifying the grassroots efforts.

Hartz Lawsuit

Shortly after the release of the EPA report, a class action lawsuit against Hartz Mountain Corporation was filed by the law firm of Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP, on behalf of a woman whose three cats allegedly suffered severe reactions after one dose of the drops. It is believed that lawsuit was settled with the corporation, but it is unknown exactly how many class plaintiffs eventually participated.

Officials of the Hartz company still stand firmly behind their product, and its President and CEO, Bob Devine, has issued a statement to that effect.

Other Safety Tips

Aside from permethrin, another ingredient to avoid in flea and tick preventatives is organophosphates, which may be at least partially suspect in Mad Cow Disease. The CFA warns against the use of any flea control products containing organophosphates. Permethrin is one, another is phosmet, and a third is diazinon. Diazinon is particularly toxic to Persian cats, according to this article, which states in part:

    Cats are more sensitive to organophosphate insecticides than most other animals. Currently, there are few flea products in the United States labeled for use on cats that contain organophosphates as an active ingredient. The few that can be used on cats contain a small concentration of organophosphate. However, many household sprays and products that are specifically labeled "for use on dogs only" are widely available. Again, avoid these dog products!

There have even been a few documented cases of "organophosphate intoxication" of professional pet groomers who regularly use organophosphate dips on their client dogs and cats.

To review, these precautions should always be taken when using flea and tick products on your cats:

  1. Always, ALWAYS carefully read and closely follow label instructions.
  2. NEVER use an OTC product intended for dogs on a cat!
  3. Do not use any flea control products on very young kittens, pregnant cats, very old cats, or sick cats, without your veterinarian's supervision.
  4. Avoid products containing organophosphates, including permethrin.
  5. Closely watch your cat for adverse reactions after administering topical flea products.
  6. If adverse symptoms appear, such as drooling, tremors, ataxia (difficulty walking), or seizures, immediately wash the application area with mild soap, rinse with water, then get the cat to the veterinarian right away. If "after hours," go to an emergency clinic.
  7. If your cat goes outdoors, avoid the use of organophosphates in yard and lawn sprays.

Jinx, the cat I mentioned at the beginning of this article, is doing well, so far, thanks to the knowledgeable intervention of my friend, Eileen Poole. The area where the flea drops were applied was washed thoroughly with a mild detergent, and rinsed. Jinx's owner is monitoring his condition carefully, as some toxins work slowly.

Jinx's owner learned the hard way. If you learn nothing else from this article, I hope you will take away with you the importance of reading labels, of being aware of your cats normal health, and to act without delay if anything seems amiss.

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