ALL ABOUT DOGS and CATS Resource Center for Canine & Feline Lovers
Pet Health Articles
Go Green for Your Cat's Health
From the Editors of The Daily Cat
What do Easter lilies and antifreeze have in common? These, and many
other substances, are all poisonous to felines. “Cats have a very low
threshold for toxicity,” explains Dr. Trisha Joyce, DVM, of New York City
Veterinary Specialists. This uber-sensitivity in cats results from their body
producing little of the enzyme that other mammals rely on to break down
chemicals, leaving cats generally more vulnerable to toxins.
Jumping on the green-tech bandwagon, a handful of pet care companies are now hocking organic cat
wares to save Fluffy from the evils of plastics and perfumes. Below, Dr. Joyce weighs in on what to try and
when to proceed with caution.
Plastic has received bad press in the last few years as worried parents keep their children away from the
chemical BPA and legions of water drinkers refrain from refilling their plastic bottle empties. But is plastic
potentially bad news for your cat too? Yes, but for different reasons than for humans.
“A cat’s life span isn’t long enough that carcinogens impact them the same way as humans,” she explains.
Still, Dr. Joyce emphasizes that ceramic and metal dishes are not only better for the environment in
general but also for your cat’s skin. Plastic dishes retain bacteria and can cause chin acne, an
uncomfortable condition for your pet.
Veterinary Verdict: Choosing ceramic or metal over plastic is good for the environment and kitty’s
The slew of chemicals in traditional flea and tick products may seem like reason to stay away from them,
especially when “natural” flea remedies tout compounds that won’t pollute your pet’s bloodstream and
your family’s home. However, buyers beware. “I’m not a fan of any over-the-counter flea preparation,” Dr.
Joyce says. “You can get away with it for a dog, but cats are more sensitive and can have bad reactions.
Sometimes, chemicals can be good.”
Veterinary Verdict: Ask your veterinarian to prescribe a flea and tick medication. If you must try a natural
product, use one that’s approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Check with
your pet’s doctor before applying.
Without a doubt, natural cat litter made from wheat and corn is better for the environment. It breaks
down naturally rather than spending a lifetime in a landfill. The impact on your cat’s health? Inexpensive
litters in general create more dust, which can trigger asthma attacks. If you’re concerned about your cat’s
lungs, monitor how much dust is stirred up in the burying process. Switch litters if necessary.
Veterinary Verdict: Natural cat litter is best for the environment and produces the least dust, which is also
best for your cat’s respiratory system.
Over-the-counter cat shampoos often contain perfumes, which smell pleasant to cat owners but may
irritate sensitive feline skin. If so-called organic cat shampoos are perfume-free, your pet may tolerate
them. However, veterinary-prescribed cleansers are less likely to cause dry skin and allergic reactions.
Veterinary Verdict: If you choose an organic, over-the-counter product, make sure it is cat-specific as
opposed to a general pet shampoo. Look for the AVMA seal of approval. Be on the alert for signs of
allergic reactions (e.g., excessive scratching) after the first use.
When it comes to beds, collars and toys, carcinogens are not a big kitty health concern -- for reasons
explained above -- though the well-being of the environment may be. Such items are currently made from
a variety of recycled and organically grown materials, taking less of a toll on the natural world. “With cat
toys, the main health concern is not lead paint but a small piece that may break free and be ingested by
the animal,” says Dr. Joyce.
Veterinary Verdict: If being kind to the environment is on your priority list -- and it should be -- organic cat
accessories can help you meet your goal. When buying cat toys, forgo those with small pieces that may
General Tips for Choosing Organic Cat Products
- Buy products specifically made for cats as opposed to products for all pets.
- Look for a seal of approval from the AVMA.
- If your cat is doing well on a traditional product, think twice before making a switch to organic.
- Be cautious. Consult your veterinarian before trying new cleaning or medicinal products.
While organic goods appeal to consumers for a variety of important reasons, Dr. Joyce warns that the
industry is not yet well-regulated. “Theoretically, organic has less chemicals, and that’s best for cats
because they’re so sensitive,” she says. “But I recommend caution in experimenting with new products.
Try things slowly and only in moderation.” Those are words for the healthiest cats to live their nine lives by.