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Dr. Barchas, my lawn needs some serious attention!
I would like to put one of the popular “weed and
feed” solutions on it, but I worry about my cats
who like to scamper around in the yard. Is this
stuff harmful to pets? If they play in the lawn,
then lick their feet, will there be any harmful
effects?

Kitty
Washington State

Some lawn treatments purport to be safe for pets. Others don’t make that claim. You should investigate your product’s label to see what it has to say about the matter.

However, even the supposedly safe products can cause problems in the wrong circumstances. I have seen dogs go into shock from allergic reactions to natural pest control agents containing only corn cob meal. Many natural or “safe” products can cause irritation if applied to the skin or eyes. And don’t forget that manure, the most natural fertilizer of all, is hardly safe to ingest.

Cats are at relatively greater risk for problems associated with lawn care products. First, they are much more sensitive to many compounds than other animals. Many products that are used routinely around or on dogs and people (such as permethrin, an insecticide) are not safe for cats.

As well, you have touched upon another issue that cat lovers should remember. Cats have unique grooming habits. Anything applied to a cat’s body is likely to get swallowed as the cat grooms itself by licking. Therefore, if your cats walk through lawn fertilizer, or any chemical, they will end up consuming it when they clean their feet.

Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to reduce the risk for your pets. Always use lawn products that claim to be safe for pets. Follow the instructions on the package. And, most important, don’t let your pets onto the lawn until an appropriate amount of time has passed.

In reality, the risk to pets is low when owners exercise common sense and use lawn products as directed.

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