Sainsbury’s and Pets at Home are among the retailers recalling dry cat food over a potential link to an outbreak of a rare and fatal cat disease.

Cat owners are being advised by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Defra not to give their pets food made on behalf of the brands by manufacturer Fold Hill as a precaution.

It follows more than 130 cases of feline pancytopenia, an illness that can often be fatal in cats, since April, the FSA said.

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

The FSA said the current outbreak of pancytopenia was potentially linked to specific cat food products.

Cat owners are being advised to seek immediate advice from a vet if their pet is unwell and has been fed any of the food listed in the product recall.

Pet owners are also advised to use an alternative food if their cat’s usual food is included the recall.

Fold Hill Foods said products under the Sainsbury’s Hypoallergenic Recipe range and Pets at Home Ava range are being recalled.

Applaws products, which are sold by Amazon and other pet food shops, may also be unsafe.

Fold Hill Foods general manager, Ben Mankertz, said: "We are alarmed and deeply saddened to learn of reports from the food and 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."

Cat owners are being advised to seek immediate advice from a vet if their pet is unwell and has been fed any of the food listed in the product recall

Credit: Carlos G. Lopez/Moment RF

An Applaws spokesperson said: "Alongside other pet food brands, we’ve today announced a recall of some of our dry cat food ranges, manufactured by Fold Hill Foods Ltd, as the Royal Veterinary College works to understand a potential safety issue.

"While there’s much we don’t know, at Applaws, we cannot take any chances. That’s why we’ve placed a hold on supplies of certain batches of dry food sold under the Applaws brand and out of an abundance of caution, we’re also recalling certain batches.

"No other Applaws cat food products, including Applaws wet cat food, are affected by this precautionary recall notice, nor is Applaws dog food.

"Even though we don’t know for sure whether our Applaws dry cat food products have a role in this safety issue, we’re obviously concerned, not least because we take great pride in the quality of our pet food."

A Government spokesman said: "Working with the Royal Veterinary College, the Animal Plant and Health Agency and other Government departments across all four nations of the UK, local authorities and the pet food supply chain, we are investigating a possible link between specific cat food products and feline pancytopenia. There is no definitive evidence to confirm a link at this stage.

"No unsafe cat food has been identified but the manufacturer and brand owners affected, based on investigations so far, are taking the precautionary action of recalling and withdrawing cat food products that have been linked to affected cats.

"There is no evidence to suggest this outbreak of feline pancytopenia presents any risk to human health."

The products being recalled

Sainsbury’s:

Sainsburys Hypoallergenic Recipe complete dry cat food with salmon 1+years 800g

Sainsburys Hypoallergenic Recipe complete dry cat food with chicken 1+years 800g

Pets at Home:

Ava Kitten Chicken 300g and 2kg

Ava Adult Chicken 300g, 2kg and 4kg

Ava Adult Fish 2kg

Ava Mature Chicken 7+ 2kg and 4kg

Ava Senior Chicken 12+ 2kg

Ava Sensitive Skin & Stomach 1.5kg

Ava Weight Management 1.5kg

Ava Hairball 1.5kg

Ava Oral Care 1.5kg

Ava British Shorthair 1.5kg

Ava Persian 1.5kg

Ava Maine Coon 1.5kg

Applaws products (best before date between December 2022 to June 2023 with a site reference code of GB218E5009):

Applaws Cat Dry Chicken 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg

Applaws Cat Dry Senior Chicken 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg

Applaws Cat Dry Chicken & Salmon 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg

Applaws Kitten Dry Chicken 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg

Applaws Cat Dry Chicken & Lamb 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg

Applaws Cat Dry Chicken & Duck 400g, 2kg and 7.5kg

Applaws Cat Dry Ocean Fish 350g, 1.8kg and 6kg