When I go for my daily walks in my suburban neighborhood this time of year, not a day goes by that someone hasn’t just fertilized their lawn. I can see the granules on the sidewalk, and sometimes, I can even smell the chemicals. I am strongly opposed to the use of chemical fertilizers, and I don’t understand the obsession with flawless green lawns. But mostly, I worry about the effect lawn chemicals have on the cats who come in contact with them – and that can happen even if your cats never leave the house.
There is no question that lawn fertilizers and pesticides are hazardous to pets and humans. Pets especially can absorb pesticides through their paws or lick them off their bodies. In addition, pets can be exposed to pesticides when they eat grass.
Lawn chemicals tracked indoors contaminate air and surfaces inside the home
But that’s not where the danger ends. You also bring some of the chemicals found in fertilizers and pesticides indoors on your shoes. An EPA funded study in 2001 found that 2,4-D and dicamba (chemicals used in herbicides) are easily tracked indoors, contaminating the air and surfaces inside residences and exposing children and pets at levels ten times higher than pre-application levels.
Signs of pesticide poisoning
Insecticide and pesticide poisoning is always an emergency situation and requires immediate veterinary attention. Symptoms of pesticide poisoning are:
• Excessive salivation
• Tearing of the eyes
• Excessive urination
• Muscle twitching
• Difficult breathing
• Abdominal pain
• Unsteady gait
Repeated exposure to phenoxy herbicides like 2,4-D may affect the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract and muscles. Pesticides containing chlorophenoxy acids can cause anemia, neutropenia (low white blood cell count), and thrombocytopenia (low platelet count.).
Keep cats (and humans) safe from lawn chemicals
The sad thing is that it’s so easy to keep cats (and humans for that matter) safe from these harmful chemicals: simply stop using them! There are plenty of natural and organic alternatives to these chemicals that are not only safer for your pets, but also friendlier to the environment.
If you have cats that go outside, consider keeping them indoors during the time of year when fertilizer use is most rampant. And even if your cats never go outside, remember to take your shoes off before you go inside the house so you don’t track residual chemicals inside. It doesn’t take a large dose of these toxic substances to cause a potentially deadly problem.
As for my own lawn, it’s survival of the fittest: I don’t fertilize at all. I also don’t water. And you know what? Every year, my lawn turns green in the spring, and grows through the summer. It gets mowed every couple of weeks. If I had my way, I wouldn’t even do that, I’d grow wildflowers and enjoy an even more natural look. Unfortunately, my homeowners association frowns on that. My lawn may not look as “perfect” as some of the lawns in my neighborhood, but I know that it’s safe for the critters that live in my backyard, and for any dogs or cats that may be passing through.