I am, ahem, itching to camp on the Bruce Trail (Ontario, Canada) in July. I have two kittens at home.

What should I use as mosquito repellent? I am afraid to use the ubiquitous DEET-based spray as it poisonous to cats (and my kittens are fairly small, so it doesn't take much).

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    Related outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/15740/… Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 15:59
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    Hi Censored! As you feared, DEET is out, 100%! Are you talking about taking the kittens with you on your trip, or treating yourself and then coming home, and changing your clothes before contact with your cats? There aren't a lot of options, but there's more wiggle-room if you won't be with your cats while you're using your mosquito repellent. Also, do you have objections to using "natural" products with essential oils instead of chemicals? Instead of a comment here could you edit that into your question so other people would get a bigger picture of your plan. Thanks! Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 20:05
  • I checked with two sellers of pre-treated clothing. They said permethrin can be okay if fully dry. The National Pesticide Center disagreed. They said even dry clothes can be dangerous if a cat might chew on them, especially a kitten. I'm going to try to reach my vet for you tomorrow, and will write an answer if I get one! Some wildlife center employees aren't allowed to use any pesticides. We don't use them, but it does get frustrating. I commend you for caring enough about your kitties to even ask for advice! Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 23:18
  • I am not bringing my kittens on the trip. I am concerned about DEET-treated stuff though. Commented Jul 6, 2018 at 9:30

4 Answers 4


One strategy is to use whatever repellent you want, but, if it harmful to cats, thoroughly shower and wash your hair and change into uncontaminated clothes after your trip and before you get home. Wash the contaminated clothes at a friend's house or at a Laundromat, put them in an uncontaminated bag and throw the contaminated bag away. That is, take no contaminated clothing, skin, hair or other objects home.

This is a lot of trouble -- true, but these are kittens and worth a lot of trouble. My only reservation -- will you do this as fanatically as necessary for the kittens? ab2, aka cat lover

Edit in Response to Comment from @Wigwam: OOPS! You need to check out how easily the skeeter repellent washes out. "This is good advice, but know that you can't easily wash permethrin out of clothes. When professionally treating clothes, permethrin can survive dozens of washings. But if you DIY from a bottle you buy at Wal-Mart, that can survive 5 or 6 washings."

Addendum: See the answer of @Alexander, which, IMO is the simplest and most elegant and most foolproof way to safeguard the kittens.

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    This is the best advice! As ab2 said, it's a lot of trouble, but the fact that you asked the question shows that you want to do the most responsible thing! Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 23:24
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    This is good advice, but know that you can't easily wash permethrin out of clothes. When professionally treating clothes, permethrin can survive dozens of washings. But if you DIY from a bottle you buy at Wal-Mart, that can survive 5 or 6 washings.
    – Andrew Jay
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 15:33

As one of the minority of the population that cannot use DEET (it makes my skin burn!) I use plant-based solutions. There are several options on the market that use either citronella or geraniol or a combination of both, and I find they work well enough for my needs. Plus, in addition to being safe for dogs and cats, some people are using them intentionally on their pets as flea repellents. See here and here.

Further, although irrelevant to the question, is the increasing concern that just as we humans created staph that resists our antibiotics, we are also creating mosquitoes that resist DEET. So switching to a different repellent could help in more ways than one.

Enjoy your hike, and the safe return to your kittehs.


I also ty to avoid chemical mosquito repellents, but I am quite successful with appropriate clothing to repel mosquitos. It really helps a lot and you do not have to apply it again and again throughout the day. Mosquito nets for the head for example may look a bit silly and impair vision a little bit. But they are very effective to keep insects away from your head. Similar things are true for trousers, shirts etc. If you keep this in mind when selecting clothes you can reduce chemical repellants a lot (I hardly use them at all).

  • This is the best answer.
    – ab2
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 12:55
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    It varies depending on sport how good this answer is. Camping, as OP asks, yes. Fishing, yes. Hiking, maybe, depends on how much heat you need to shed. Mountain biking, no. Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 12:46

Conside using Picaridin which has similar effectiveness as DEET, but with fewer risks. I would of course try to avoid overexposing your cat to it due to thier grooming behaviors, i don’t think incidental contact with you after outdoor activities will pose a strong risk.

I found some references here that it should be safer for cats:https://novacatclinic.com/how-can-i-protect-my-cat-from-mosquitos/

I’ve also heard that there are no published scientific studies to back this up with more concrete evidence based proof. This is likely because Picaridin is a much newer product on the market, only approved for use in the U.S. in 2005 and europe in 1998.

I would definitely continue to avoid DEET and Permethrin due to known toxicity in cats.

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