Keeping Cats Safe Campaign -Weedkillers - Protecting your garden but at your cat's risk?

As part of iCatCare’s Keeping Cats Safe

campaign we are highlighting the potential risk that weedkillers may pose to your cats.

Weedkillers or herbicides are used for the control of weeds. These products are for use in the garden and are generally less concentrated and less hazardous than professional products.

Cats are generally exposed to weedkillers during, or soon after, their use by walking on treated grass or brushing against wet plants and then grooming. They may also walk in or lick up spills or drips from sprayed weeds or, may occasionally chew treated plants, or rarely, be exposed to ‘spray drift’.

These are the chemicals to look out for that could potentially harm your cat;


Glyphosate is a widely used and readily available herbicide. It is present in many products as it is a broad spectrum post-emergence herbicide (that is, it is effective against different types of weeds and applied after the weed has started to grow), is of relative low toxicity, lacks residual soil activity, does not bioaccumulate and is biodegradable.

Some of the symptoms of poisoning are vomiting, anorexia and lethargy are common signs in cats after glyphosate exposure. There may also be diarrhoea, tremors, drowsiness and dilated pupils. Severe respiratory signs are a feature of glyphosate exposure in cats and can be fatal. Eye and skin irritation are also possible after exposure to glyphosate-containing products.

If the cat gets a product containing glyphosate on its fur or feet, it should be thoroughly washed. If a cat has ingested a small quantity, particularly of a dilute solution from grooming or licking a spill or from a wet plant, the vet may wash out the cat’s mouth and give oral fluids.


The chlorophenoxy derivative weedkillers include 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorphenoxyacetic acid), MCPA, mecoprop and dichlorprop. They are frequently found in combinations in products and are also used in lawn feed and weed products. They are available in granular form or as liquid; these chemicals are not very soluble in water and solvents may be present in liquid formulations.

The symptoms of poisoning in these compounds are irritant and can cause salivation, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and lethargy. In severe cases there may be blood in the faeces, lack of eating and progressive weakness and there may be ulcers in the mouth

Treatment of poisoning from chlorophenoxy derivatives is supportive. There is no specific antidote. In many cases exposure is minimal and decontamination of the paws and fur (using a detergent) and washing the mouth out with water, with rehydration and treatment to prevent vomiting is all that is required.


Ferrous sulphate is used as a moss killer. It may be available as the chemical itself, but is more commonly found in lawn feed, weed and moss killer products which contain a fertiliser (the feed), an herbicide (the weed killer, often a chlorophenoxy derivative) as well as ferrous sulphate (the moss killer). These products are generally used to revive the lawn during the growing period and are available as granular products for sprinkling on the lawn or products to be dilated in water and poured over the lawn.

The symptoms of an overdose of iron can cause toxicity because the body has no system of eliminating excess iron, and signs include gastrointestinal irritation and more severe problems if a lot is ingested. However, this is unlikely to occur unless the cat has eaten a large quantity of a moss killer. Walking on a treated lawn may cause irritation on the paws, and grooming the product off or licking treated grass may cause vomiting, salivation, diarrhoea and increased frequency of drinking.

If a cat has walked on a treated lawn its feet should be washed with a detergent and rinsed. If veterinary treatment is required it may be something to prevent the cat being sick or to rehydrate it if necessary.


Many different products are available for the control of weeds, but they generally contain only a few different herbicidal compounds; this is particularly true for those products for use in the garden (rather than agricultural products). Always read the packaging on herbiside products and use them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It may be difficult to prevent access to these products in free roaming cats and if you are concerned that the cat may lick treated plants or spills of herbicide, it may be best to avoid their use and control weeds by manual removal.

This post first appeared on International Cat Care, please read the original post: here

For more information contact International Cat Care at


07896 771622

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