Another Common Household Chemical Linked to Harming Cats

Kitty wasting disease, or hyperthyroidism (a common endocrine disorder in adult cats) has been on the increase for the past few decades.  Scientists are testing different common household chemicals that cats are exposed to in order to determine what may be triggering the health condition in house cats. At this point both PBDE and PFAS chemical compounds have been linked to possibly triggering hyperthyroid disease in house cats.

PBDEs one possible contributor to Kitty Wasting Disease

About a year and a half ago we reported on the research being done to test the impact of common household chemical compounds known as PBDEs. In a small pilot study scientists found cats had PBDE levels 20 to 100 times as high as those typically observed in American adults.  (Researchers also found relatively large quantities of PBDEs in several types of cat food, particularly seafood-flavored canned foods.) In a subsequent study researchers hyperthyroid cats tended to live in homes that were particularly saturated with the flame retardants. And another study found that hyperthyroid cats had significantly higher levels of three types of PBDEs in their blood than healthy cats did.

Backstory on PBDEs

Since the 1970s PBDEs (a class of flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers) have been routinely added to many household goods, including couch cushions, carpet padding and electronics.  These chemicals leach from our sofas and TVs and latch onto particles of house dust, coating our floors and furniture (where many house cats spend much of their time).  What makes these chemical compounds particularly pernicious is that PBDEs have a chemical structure that resembles thyroid hormones and may mimic or compete with these hormones in the body, binding to their receptors and interfering with their transport and metabolism.

PFAS also a likely contributor of Kitty Wasting Disease

Now researchers have begun testing other types of commonly used household chemicals to determine if they also may be contributing to the increasing problem of hyperthyroidism in house cats.  In this latest study scientists tested per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as ‘PFAS’. They found that  there may be a link between higher levels of PFAS chemicals in the environment and higher levels of hyperthyroidism in pet cats as they age.

What are PFAS chemicals?

PFAS are a family of more than 3,000 structures of highly fluorinated chemicals used in industrial processes and consumer products, such as protective coatings for carpets, furniture and apparel, paper coatings, insecticide formulations (bug spray), non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil, as well as cleaning products, and paints, varnishes and sealants.  Due to manufacturing and packaging practices, PFAS are also present at low levels in some food products.

The pilot study on PFAS and hyperthyroidism in house cats

The study involved analyses of blood samples from older cats in Northern California. Investigators examined the animals’ exposures to PFAS and compared PFAS levels between cats with and without hyperthyroidism.  While further studies are needed these preliminary results suggest there may be a link between higher levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment and higher levels of hyperthyroidism in pet cats as they age.


Journal Reference:  Miaomiao Wang, Weihong Guo, Steve Gardner, Myrto Petreas, June-Soo Park. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in Northern California cats: Temporal comparison and a possible link to cat hyperthyroidism. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 2018; DOI: 10.1002/etc.4239



Solutions: Many of the same solutions for minimizing exposure to PBDEs inside the home environment also apply to minimizing exposure to PFAS chemicals.  Additionally, check out the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) ‘Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’ fact sheets on PFAS chemicals.  Here are a couple useful links: 

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and Your Health  

PFAS Fact Sheet

PFAS Frequently Asked Questions (Tox FAQs)