Hartz didn’t kill the fleas, but it nearly killed my cat

I had lived in the same rental home for a few years with no flea problems, but in 2003 we got a cat and a flea outbreak. We were itchy and needed a solution.

My family had used Hartz Flea Soap on our dogs when I was a kid, and I’d never heard anything bad about the brand. So I picked up a couple of Hartz products at the store — a topical product for Jackal, and a spray-on product for the carpet and furniture. It’s been so long, I couldn’t tell you exactly what we got, but I had faith (ill-placed, apparently) that Hartz was safe and reputable. Jackal was roughly a year old, and the products seemed to be indicated as fine for adult cats. We treated everything — the cat, the sofa, the carpets, bedding, etc. The house was stinky, but that would be a small price to pay for no more fleas!

About 12 hours after using the products, we noticed that Jackal was shivering. Something wasn’t right — she was shaking and seemed unsteady on her legs. She made low moaning noises and we immediately panicked. This was not the usual behavior of our healthy kitten! We sacrificed our themometer and took her rectal temperature, which was quite high. So it was time for an emergency vet visit.

The vet ran blood panels and did a physical exam. He couldn’t find signs of any specific illness, and thought that she seemed to be reacting to a poison. When we told him about the flea chemicals, he came to the conclusion that they were the root of the problem. Jackal got two baths, steroid shots, and a lot of nutritive paste to get her back on her feet. We threw out a lot of belongings that had been treated with the flea spray, and cleaned everything else thoroughly. And we still had fleas.

We feel very lucky that Jackal was alright at the end of this ordeal — clearly, these products are toxic and have contributed to the sickness and death of other animals. We switched to Advantage soon after the incident, and have never had fleas (or a poisoning) since.

I recently started a job with a cat-loving officemate, and she lost one of her kitties to a flea product poisoning. I don’t know if it was Hartz, but it was a drugstore topical treatment for fleas. Her sister, a vet, instructed her to bathe the cat immediately… and the poor thing died in the middle of the bath.

It devastates me to see other cats suffering similar fates, and Hartz building their business.

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