Cat owners urged to check pet food after possible link to deaths

Report by ITV News Meridian's Malcolm Shaw

Cat owners are being urged to check which dry food they are giving their pets after certain brands were linked to a rare and life-threatening illness, Pancytopenia.

More than 500 cases have been reported, but it is feared the true figure is much higher.

The manufacturer, Fold Hill Foods Ltd, has withdrawn a number of its products as a precaution. The full list is available on the company's website.

Pancytopenia is a rare and deadly blood condition where the number of blood cells (red, white and platelets) rapidly decrease, causing serious illness.

Symptoms of Pancytopenia include:

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Bleeding from mouth

  • Blood in stool, urine or vomit

Ben Mankertz, General Manager for Fold Hill Foods Ltd said: "We are alarmed and deeply saddened to learn of reports from the Food & Veterinary Authorities of some health issues in cats. 

"As cat owners ourselves, we fully understand how upsetting and stressful this situation is for families and although diet has not been confirmed as the cause, we would prefer to act now to ensure the absolute safety of cats.

"As one of the leading pet food manufacturers in the UK, ensuring your pet’s safety is our priority and therefore we have chosen to recall the ranges of cat food that we manufacture for the brands who have been identified. We feel this is the safest course of action until an exact cause of the issue has been found."

Fold Hill Foods Ltd has recalled a number of products it manufactures over safety concerns Credit: ITV News Meridian

One cat owner whose pet, called Sterling, suddenly fell ill after developing Pancytopenia at his home in Burgess Hill in Sussex, said: "They did everything they could to save him, he had a blood transfusion, they even tried some human drugs to try and restore his blood count but unfortunately the damage was too great and he was in a lot of pain. At that point, we had to make the decision to put him to sleep."

Experts are still trying to pinpoint exactly what has caused the deaths.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

Many vets are concerned that some owners may still be feeding their cats the food in question, as they have a long shelf life.

Veterinary surgeon, Dr Julia Mewes, said: "I'd like everyone to have a think about their less tech-savvy friends and neighbours who may not yet have had word. Spread the word. I just cannot bear the thought of any more animals suffering from a completely now preventable condition."

A spokesperson for the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) said: "The Royal Veterinary College continues its investigation into the sudden increase in feline pancytopenia in cats in the UK.

"Currently, we are sadly aware of over 500 affected cats. Investigations into an underlying cause do not suggest a link with common feline infectious diseases, common toxins (e.g. heavy metals, oestrogen) or deficiencies/excesses in vitamins or minerals. 

"Results of analyses by the RVC of cat food involved in the product recall published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have been shared with the FSA."