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Did flea spray hurt my cat?



This cat did not die!

I can’t say for sure that Sergeant’s flea spray caused my cat Luxor to have a seizure and nearly go blind, but I will never use it again.

Maybe you wonder why a responsible pet owner who spends way too much money on premium, grain-free pet food would use a flea repellant available at the grocery store. The embarrassing truth is twofold: 1) I favor my dogs over my cat, who has always been prone to sinking his razor fangs into my calves regularly. 2) I succumbed to greenwashing.

Through greenwashing, companies play up the “environmentally responsible” or “natural” aspects of their products. Sergeant’s spray does contain some natural ingredients, including peppermint oil. However, hyping the use of these naturally-derived ingredients seems disengenous if those same substances are potentially very dangerous when sprayed on an animal that grooms itself with its tongue.

What Sergeant’s packaging doesn’t say — but the ASPCA does — is that peppermint oil, although naturally occuring, is toxic to cats.

Sergeant’s (and other makers of similar products) skirts the safety issue with the fine print. According to the label, the spray is “safe for use around children and pets when used as directed.” Yet, the directions say to apply the spray onto the cat. Of course, the directions also warn of “Hazards to humans and domestic animals” and suggest contacting a veterinarian in the event of persistent “sensitivities.”
Again, I can’t be certain that my use of this spray is what made my cat very, very sick about 30 hours later. After seeing the bottle and considering that I had used the product on him before, the emergency vet seemed confident that his sudden seizure, glaucoma symptoms and frighteningly low platelet count were attributable to a systemic issue, most likely lymphoma.

To our great relief, a couple days and some powerful meds later, Luxor was almost back to himself. The rapid recover, though, does seem consistent with a poisoning or severe allergic reaction. The vet at our regular animal hospital agreed, although he did not discount totally the lymphoma possibility. It’s just nearly impossible to know for sure.

My gut says the problem was the flea spray. And despite what my neighbor says, I’m not just trying to take on guilt. The simplest answer is usually the right one, and given the time elapsed and the cat’s age (roughly 5), a reaction to flea spray seems more plausible than lymphoma or a tick bite or a rare immune disorder.

The truth is, I probably very nearly killed my cat. That sucks. It sucks so much that I can’t believe I’m admitting it in public.

But if there is any silver lining to this scenario, it’s this: If the flea spray was to blame and not lymphoma, then Luxor seems to have made a complete recovery, which means he still has a lot of years left to terrorize me. With a lymphoma prognosis, the future would be a lot more grim.
But I still wish this had never happened, and I promise to be a more conscientious cat owner from now on.

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About crystalwayward

I live with two formerly wayward dogs. I care deeply about the environment, and I think gardening is a revolutionary act.

Posted on June 20, 2011, in Cats. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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