Pet health care brand Bob Martin is to remove its on-animal flea medicinal products containing permethrin from sale in grocery stores to reduce the risk of misuse and misunderstanding around the active ingredient.

According to the manufacturer, mistakes at the point of purchase with the products are resulting in pet owners mixing up treatments for cats and dogs. Some owners, meanwhile, are simply unaware you cannot use a dog treatment on a cat.

These mistakes are resulting in permethrin poisoning in cats – one of the most commonly reported poisonings in felines worldwide.

The decision follows a campaign launched in August 2013 by feline organisation International Cat Care to get the products re-classified so pet owners must receive verbal advice from a vet, pharmacist or suitably qualified person before purchase. This itself followed online reviews and social media activity on these poisonings and the preventable deaths they caused.

Marketing manager and great granddaughter of founder Bob Martin Georgina Martin said animal health is the company’s “top priority”.

“We have decided to reclassify our permethrin-containing on-animal flea treatments to pharmacy-only and call for a change in licensing by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate so that they may only be purchased if advice is given about their correct use,” she said.

“This is the next step in our journey as a responsible business, having already voluntarily withdrawn permethrin dog spot-ons a few years ago, which we replaced with fipronil – the same active as used in leading spot-on treatments from the vet.”

According to Bob Martin, the move has been welcomed and supported by retailers, including supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, as well as pet stores.

Pet food buyer at Morrisons Nigel Grimes, for example, said it was important the supermarket’s pet-owning customers receive the “verbal advice and reassurance” on the use of permethrin-containing on-animal products.

“We feel this advice is needed at the point of sale and should be provided by a suitably qualified person in a pharmacy setting. We will continue to provide pet owners with on-shelf access to a choice of affordable health care for their animals from the Bob Martin range.”

In light of the decision, Bob Martin is to launch a new pesticide-free flea repellent collar to ensure customers are still able to buy a flea collar from the supermarket.

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