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Are Mosquito Repellents Safe for Cats?

Last Updated: 16.06.24


Mosquito repellents are generally not safe for your cat, but if you really need to keep the insects away, you can try a natural mosquito repellent. You probably shouldn’t use DEET and essential oils, and you should never use permethrin-based products on your cat. Fortunately, there are some relatively safe substances such as picaridin that you may employ effectively.


DEET and Permethrin

Most substances meant to keep insects away are based on a DEET formula. This chemical was developed in 1944 to keep mosquitoes away, and since then it has been used by the large public against mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and many other insects.

The compound has the power of hiding you from the insects by masking your smell. You can find DEET in many products in different forms, but you should know that using it too much is dangerous for humans, but especially for pets. This chemical has been blamed for several cases of illness in the USA, so you should be careful around it.

Although the National Pesticide Information Center doesn’t provide too much information on DEET when it comes to pet safety, there are many other reports that suggest a high-toxicity of DEET for cats. The pets are more susceptible to ingesting the substance and that’s why it can be more dangerous for them. Furthermore, they are smaller and that means they get a higher dosage from the substance.

The chemical is a serious one and that’s why veterinarians don’t recommend it to be used around pets. It is possible that DEET has very severe effects on the cat’s nervous system. The symptoms can be so harsh that they can include staggering, tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and even seizures.

It’s clear thus that the substance should be kept as far as possible from the small pets.

The same can be said about permethrin, which is a substance of the pyrethrin family. This substance is the number one cause of cat poisoning in the world. Although safe for most animals, Permethrin is dangerous for cats, because they are much more sensitive to it. Unfortunately, many products contain highly-concentrated permethrin and they are thus dangerous.

The substance is so dangerous that it can cause your cat to suffer, even if the cat only comes in contact with a dog that has been treated with it. Furthermore, the symptoms are severe, life-threatening even – the cat suffers severe muscle tremors, uncontrolled seizures, and 40% of the cats die as a result of permethrin poisoning.

If you know that your cat has come in contact with the substance, or if you want to be safe, you should offer it prompt veterinary treatment. When looking for insect products that you can use around your home, make sure you read the label and check that the substance is not present in them.



Essential oils

But these are not the only substances that cats are highly allergic to. Any mosquito repellent based on essential oils can be a real danger for the feline. Although in the past there were certain oils considered to be safe for them and they were even recommended for certain uses, like mite infestations, it is now proven that essential oils are dangerous for cats.

And that danger is present no matter if the substance is ingested, inhaled, or applied to the skin. Because cats don’t have certain enzymes that help them metabolize certain chemical compounds, their liver will get affected and bombarded with the excess dangerous substances. Thus, exposure to essential oil products leads to liver damage and even worse, to liver failure, seizures, and eventually death.

Keep in mind that natural doesn’t always mean safe, and that applies for ingredients in repellents as well. Many pet owners look for mosquito repellents with natural ingredients, but repellents containing essential oils are unsafe for cats, although they can be great for humans and dogs.

When buying a mosquito repellent make sure it doesn’t contain any essential oil, as cats can get intoxicated in many ways. Even if you don’t have any other alternative, use the repellent where your cat doesn’t have access. Some of the most used essential oils in repellents are those derived from lemongrass, eucalyptus, citronella, or citrus fruits.


Keeping bad substances away

Most of the times cat poisonings happen because owners accidentally or intentionally apply products meant for dogs on their cats. The products that owners can use on dogs often contain compounds of the pyrethrin family, which is safe for the canines, but deadly to felines. The cats lack the metabolic capabilities of quickly getting rid of the harsh chemicals.

The ingredients are safe for dogs and humans, but cats get more exposure to them, and that is mainly because of their grooming habit. Cats will keep themselves clean by licking their fur, and in doing so, they will ingest the bad chemicals. They sometimes lick other animals or the place where animals have sat, so that is a dangerous habit as well.

When it comes to essential oils, your cat may get exposed to them without you noticing. Although the effects of essential oils aren’t as harsh, they still need to be avoided. Make sure you keep any repellent or substance containing them away from your cat, in well-sealed cabinets.

Using diffusers, candles, or room sprays containing oils isn’t a good idea either. They can be knocked over, and that will expose your cats to them. Even if your pets don’t directly come in contact with them, these items will still produce airborne fumes that the animals will either inhale, or they will lick off their fur.

It is advisable to keep the more sensitive cats, the kittens, and the elderly ones safe by not letting them stay in any room containing a diffuser of some sort. Also, it is a good idea to avoid using any kind of aromatherapy jewelry when you’re around your cat.


Quick treatment

If you know that your cat has come into contact with a dangerous substance, the first thing to do is immediately give it a thorough bath in liquid hand-dishwashing soap. It is recommended to do that 2 or 3 times. But if you know you can’t keep your cat still when washing it, go to a veterinarian immediately.

However, if the cat came into contact with the substance and some time has passed, your only course of action is to take it to the vet as soon as possible. That is also the case if your cat was affected by the substance through inhalation or ingestion. The vet will be able to sedate the pet and stop the adverse effects.



So what can you do?

Before using any kind of substance, make sure that the environment is safe, to begin with. You can reduce the number of mosquitoes around your house by eliminating any standing water and long grasses.

You should also use mosquito traps, as these will make the environment a dangerous one for mosquitoes and they will be encouraged to go somewhere else. Keeping your cat indoors during high-activity hours, early morning and at dusk, will keep it safer from mosquitoes. This will increase the chances of your cat suffering fewer bites.

But if you want to be even safer, one thing that you can do to keep mosquitoes away from your cat is to use products that contain picaridin or pyrethrin. Picaridin is a substance that the World Health Organization considers being safe, and it was developed in 2005 in Germany. Numerous tests have been conducted on the substance and it has been proven to be toxic to salamander larvae only. It is thus good for cats.

Pyrethrins represent a class of organic compounds that proves to be highly-efficient against insects by damaging their nervous systems. They are considered to be low-toxicity compounds, and they are biodegradable. They provide the lowest risk of intoxication for your cats.




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