UK

British cats are STILL dying despite food recall


More than 500 cats have had a a rare blood illness that has been linked to premium dry food brands.

New figures show there have been at least 528 cases of the illness since February alone.  

Feline pancytopenia causes the number of blood cells that cats have to drop. 

Lawyers representing owners claim thousands of cherished pets have become sick and vets believe many cases could also have gone undocumented. 

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The foods watchdog announced the recall of a large number of hypoallergenic dry cat food products made by the Fold Hill Foods company and sold under several different brands.

The recall was announced on June 17 and covers several leading brands of dry food from Applaws, plus others owned by Pets at Home and Sainsbury’s.

At least 330 cats have died, according to Royal Veterinary College figures – but the true number is likely to much higher. Pictured: Sarah Lawrence with her cat Shadow. Shadow’s brother Sterling was believed to be poisoned and died

Apart from the distress, owners have been faced with vet bills of more than £9,000. 

Michelle Victor, who is leading a group legal action by lawyers Leigh Day, said: ‘We now believe there could potentially be thousands of victims.

‘If you look at the number of cat owners in the UK, the scale of this could be very large indeed.

‘What we have found is that many cases have been retrospectively diagnosed by vets. This suggests many cases may have been missed.

‘It is likely a lot of cats have died and their owners are not aware of the real reason.

Lawyers representing owners claim thousands of cherished pets have become sick and vets believe many cases could also have gone undocumented. Pictured: Sterling the cat who is believed to have died from cat food poisoning

Lawyers representing owners claim thousands of cherished pets have become sick and vets believe many cases could also have gone undocumented. Pictured: Sterling the cat who is believed to have died from cat food poisoning 

‘At the moment Fold Hill Food products appears to be where the issues may have occurred, but there is no distinctive, concrete proof at this stage.’

She said most cats ‘cannot be treated’ and the issue ‘could lead to an overall loss of confidence in the food chain for pet food’. She added: ‘A huge number of people have lost their family pets. They are part of their family and they are really, really hurting.’

The Royal Veterinary College is aware of 528 cases, with a 63.5 per cent death rate recorded, which equates to 335.

HR director Sarah Lawrence, 36, and husband Rob, 37, a firearms police officer, lost Maine Coon Sterling, three, and now fear for Shadow, also a three-year-old Maine Coon. They both had AVA anti-hairball cat food but Sterling always ate first while Shadow was often sick after eating which may have saved his life

HR director Sarah Lawrence, 36, and husband Rob, 37, a firearms police officer, lost Maine Coon Sterling, three, and now fear for Shadow, also a three-year-old Maine Coon. They both had AVA anti-hairball cat food but Sterling always ate first while Shadow was often sick after eating which may have saved his life 

The illness is called feline pancytopenia and results in a rapid decrease in the concentration of blood cells, putting the cats at risk of infection and bleeding. Common signs include lethargy and loss of appetite, although in some cases there is spontaneous bleeding from the mouth or bruising.

The college said: ‘Investigations do not suggest a link with common feline infectious diseases, common toxins or deficiencies/excesses in vitamins or minerals. We are still collecting data from practising veterinarians, as well as testing food samples.’

‘Our cat was in so much pain that he had to be put down’ 

HR director Sarah Lawrence, 36, and husband Rob, 37, a firearms police officer, lost Maine Coon Sterling, three, and now fear for Shadow, also a three-year-old Maine Coon.

They both had AVA anti-hairball cat food but Sterling always ate first while Shadow was often sick after eating which may have saved his life.

Mrs Lawrence, of Burgess Hill, West Sussex, said: ‘We lost Sterling on June 13 – two days before Fold Hill Foods put out their recall.’ She said she took him to the vet when he became seriously ill, adding: ‘We received a call saying he was in too much pain and we had to make the awful decision to put him down.

‘Afterwards, the vets asked us what food he had been eating. They confirmed he had been eating the same food as the other cats who had died from this syndrome.

‘But we are worried for Shadow now. We are monitoring him daily.’

Details were made public by the Food Standards Agency in June, but the announcement was overshadowed by attention given to the handling of Covid-19.

The FSA said tests carried out on batches of the food have identified the presence of mycotoxins, which are produced by certain types of mould. It said: ‘Mycotoxins are widely found in some types of feed and food and do not, in themselves, indicate they are the cause of feline pancytopenia.’

The FSA said pet owners should check the dry cat food they are using and return products from suspect batches.

Fold Hill Foods, which is based in Lincolnshire, describes itself as the UK’s ‘leading farm to bowl pet food manufacturer’. It sells the Applaws range through Amazon and pet shops. Also under suspicion are the Pets at Home AVA range and two Sainsbury’s products, including ‘by Sainsbury’s Hypoallergenic Recipe complete dry cat food with Chicken’.

A government spokesman said: ‘We are investigating a possible link between specific cat food products and feline pancytopenia. There is no evidence to suggest this outbreak presents any risk to human health.’ Fold Hill Foods said: ‘On the June 15 we issued a voluntary and precautionary recall of selected cat food products from AVA, Sainsbury’s and Applaws.

‘Assisting the FSA’s investigation is an absolute priority for the business and there are a number of tests on food samples and ingredients being conducted by independent laboratories. There is no definitive evidence to confirm a link at this stage between the cat food products and feline pancytopenia.

‘We continue to fully co-operate with both the FSA and the Royal Veterinary College.’

Michael Bellingham of the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association said: ‘We would like to reassure cat owners that a thorough investigation is under way.’



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