Symptoms of feline reactions to Raid flea pet or home treatments include: lethargy, depression, drooling, vomiting, seizures, and reddened, burned looking skin. Many serious side effects are due to overdoses in pet treatments or incorrect application of the product in the home.
The active ingredient of Raid is permethrin. Cats are extremely sensitive to this product, and even a few drops of concentrated permethrin are lethal. Read the label before you purchase any product.
In a concentration of 0.1 percent, pyrethrin is safe for cats. Raid Flea Killer Plus home and carpet spray contains a concentration of 0.140 percent pyrethrin. People apply this to all fabric surfaces, including pet bedding. The spray can linger in carpets for months after being applied. Raid and other home sprays can adhere to cats' fur, which they can lick off and ingest. This can lead to a toxic overdose.
Permethrin and Pyrethroids
Permethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid. Pyrethrins are compounds of six pyrethroids used in insecticides and is toxic. Pyrethroids break down the sodium ion channel in nerves, leading to paralysis and death when ingested by insects. They also lead to similar symptoms in humans. Cats and other animals have enzymes in their blood that rapidly break down pyrethroids. They are able to remove the toxic quality of the chemical before it affects them. Permethrin and pyrethroids can last for 2 ½ months in carpets. The Journal of Pesticide Reform says "cats are particularly susceptible to permethrin poisoning because their livers inefficiently detoxify this insecticide."
Organophosphate products block the breakdown of acetylcholine, which interferes with the nerve signals in the brains of insects, pets and humans. The resulting build-up of acetylcholine kills the insect, and can cause death in pets and humans. Cats are very vulnerable to organophosphates, because they lack enzymes for metabolizing or detoxifying these chemicals. The NRDC says "a cat's small size and unique behavior--in this case, grooming--work against them as well, making them particularly vulnerable to OP poisoning."
Feline First Aid
If you know your cat is reacting badly to Raid or another flea or pet treatment, wash him in warm, soapy water to remove any residue of the treatment. Use thick rubber gloves when you wash your cat, he is likely going to struggle and claw at you. Use Dawn or Ivory soap and make sure not to get it in his eyes. Take him to your veterinarian afterward.
Call your veterinarian for advice on what to do if your cat is exhibiting minor symptoms (rash, drooling or depression), as these symptoms can also be caused by other diseases or illnesses. If your cat is having a seizure, is vomiting or unconscious, take him to your veterinarian immediately. Tell your veterinarian about any pet or home flea treatments you have used in the past six months.
Before using a pet or home flea treatment, discuss the product with your veterinarian. Always follow directions for doses and use. Never use flea treatment products on kittens, or pregnant, sick or senior cats. Never use products labeled for small dogs; they contain higher doses of permethrin.
Consider using an organic, nontoxic flea treatment, such as Diatomaceous Earth, or vinegar or citrus based sprays. Vacuum and wash bedding every three days, and comb your cat every day.
- The Cat Fanciers' Association Inc.: Cats and Flea Control Products
- NRDC: "Poisons On Pets--Health Hazards from Flea and Tick Products"; David Wallinga, Linda Greer; 2000
- Fab Feline Advisory Bureau: Tackling Fleas on Cats
- "Journal of Pesticide Reform Spring 2002 Volume 22 Number 1 Insecticide Factsheet Pyrethrins/Pyrethrum":