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Cat DEET Toxicity

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Cat DEET Toxicity

Insect repellents that have DEET.

With the warm breezes and fun days of summer, come bugs. That bottle or can of insect repellent is never more than an arms distance away. Hopefully it is behind a door that your cat cannot open! Insect repellents that contain DEET can be extremely toxic to cats. While they may be used in moderation on humans, they should never be used on cats.

There have been numerous studies done on the effects on humans but the affect on animal systems is quite different. DEET needs to be kept away from cats. It can come in contact orally, dermally (through the skin) or through the eye. Any of these avenues can cause complications.


DEET is found in insecticides. It is a known ingredient in sprays to increase the rate of penetration into the skin. In combination with fenvalerate, which is an insecticide, it has caused serious toxicity in cats. Products containing the combination have been taken off the market.

Some human insecticides contain DEET. Caution should be used with their application as well. There are effective products without DEET that will not harm you or your cats to the same degree.

There are numerous symptoms of DEET toxicity:

Tremors, increased salivation, ataxia (dizziness, lack of coordination), Cat Vomiting, Cat Loss of Appetite, Cat Diarrhea, Cat Seizures, hypothermia are the most prevalent. Lethargy, increased salivation, cough, and tremors (shaking) have been documented.


Eyes: for contact with the eyes, flushing for at least 30 minutes is recommended. If this cannot be done sufficiently by the owner, call the vet.

Skin: using a mild dish soap, bathe the cat repeatedly until the fragrance of the product is completely gone from the coat. Repeat as often as necessary to accomplish this.

Oral: if your cat ingests a small amount of a product containing DEET, treatment may not be necessary. If there are no signs of distress within 30 minutes give your cat a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide, up to 3 tablespoons. This may be repeated 3 times to induce vomiting.

If clinical signs appear in the cat after it is exposed to DEET the cat should be taken to the vet. For seizures or tremors, Valium may be given. If that is not effective, other medications may be used. Lab tests will be drawn to determine liver and kidney function, as well as electrolyte imbalance.

If parts of the container have been eaten as well, the cat should be monitored for irritation from the foreign body. Symptoms such as vomiting, bloody stools or other intestinal issues need to be addressed. There is always the possibility that the material needs to be surgically removed.


The usual prognosis for DEET exposure is usually good. The cat should be recovered within twenty four to seventy two hours. This will always depend on whether or not the appropriate care was given after the exposure. If it has not, symptoms can increase and the condition can worsen. Keep all products not designed for cats, away from cats.

Suggested Products

Plantaeris for Cat Diarrhea LessStress for Cat Anxiety

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