We are familiar of the saying “curiosity kills the cat”, but do you know that dog food, your lotion, and even your kitty’s favorite room window are part of the long list of cat dangers?
Considering the number of toxic household items around the home that could turn out to be a cat poison, it is actually easy to get your cat killed by mistake.
In the US alone in 2017, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Hospital reported 199,000 cases of potential poisoning among pets. Considering that our frisky felines are playful by nature, it is not surprising if a good portion of the pet poisoning cases involves cats.
Know the Various Substances Considered Toxic for Your Cat
Nothing beats any poison antidote except prevention. Cats, by nature, are curious and playful, but their learning style is similar to that of a toddler. You cannot afford your kitty exposure to life-threatening poisons, so here are a few things to consider before anything bad happens:
As your kitty’s foster parent, it would be good to know of the following substances you need to keep away from your cat:
- Medicines and Dietary Supplements
Human medicine is not the same as cat medicine and should be kept out of your frisky feline’s way. Your kitty might think that your bottle or jar of medicine is a sound-making toy that is worth rolling around and those tiny capsules and tablets bits and trinkets to play with.
What you think as a painkiller, cold medication, or dietary supplement could be choking hazard – and worse, a secret poison that could kill your cat.
Substances like Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are highly toxic to felines. Dietary supplements may contain caffeine and other related compounds that can cause difficulty in breathing, seizures, and even heart problems.
Also, please take note that your tablet and capsule bottles contain silica gel which could be an additional hazard for your kitty.
Veterinary medications can be potential hazards. Letting your pet cat take medicine without proper consultation or vet recommendation may cause an overdose.
There is also the possibility of giving the wrong medicine to the wrong species which could lead to unwarranted negative effects like allergic reactions. This is especially true for flea and tick products where wrong treatment or application could be dangerous.
An overdose of Vitamin D is also dangerous for your kitty.
Our kittens tend to lick us to show affection or tend to rub on us and then later groom on their fur. What we do not know is that in letting them do this, we become potential hazards. This is because we hoomans put on cosmetics like soap, shampoo, scents, makeup, and all the other substances we put on our skin, hair, and face.
A lot of topical ointments and creams have flurbiprofen (sounds like ibuprofen, and you know by now what ibuprofen can do to our frisky felines), and other related substances. These can cause our poor kitty kidney problems, anemia, lethargy, loss of appetite and will to eat, diluted urine, and Melena (that black, tarry, or even bloody stools that would make us screw our faces at the thought of how painful this probably felt for our poor cat when it pooped).
Sunscreens, on the other hand, contain zinc oxide that is highly poisonous to cats. The same goes for tea tree oil and citronella which are found in some lotions and other skin applications.
- Insecticides and pesticides
- Rodenticides -Non-kitty friendly chemical rodenticides can cause problems such as bleeding, seizures, and even kidney damage.
- Cleaned toilet water – When we put toilet cleaning tablets in a water tank, the water that gets out of the tank every time we flush becomes clean water, but it is still definitely not safe for the cat.
- Fertilizers – Fertilizers may cause upset stomach, indigestion, and digestive tract blockage.
- Heavy metals – Lead, for example, is easily absorbed yet difficult to detect because they come from many places such as linoleum, some consumer products, and paint chips and dust from the sand of older homes where layers of paint are sanded or scratched off.
- Human Food
Sometimes we feed our feline friend food scraps from our plates and tables but what we do not know is that there are some human foods that are meant only for humans and not for our cats.
Grapes, raisins, avocado, and food products with xylitol are examples. Xylitol is an artificial food sweetener found in food products that humans find ingestible – but poisonous for our cats.
Onions and garlic can cause damage to a hapless kitty’s red blood cells, thereby, causing hemolytic anemia. When you are raising kittens at home by feeding them baby food, please check the ingredients for onion flakes or powder as this would make the baby formula a definite no-no for the cats.
Other ingredients that you need to be wary of and avoid feeding to cats are raw potatoes, unripe tomatoes, apricots, cherries, apple seeds, and certain nuts. Their stomach does not have the proper mechanism to handle these food types and feeding them food with such ingredients might induce vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs. It contains methylxanthines which, if ingested by your cat, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, and hyperactivity. In worse cases, chocolate can cause the poor feline abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, and seizures.
Milk is relatively safe for cats but you still need to check for any adverse effects. Some cats are lactose intolerant so you need to check with the vet first before feeding any type of milk to them.
Food leftovers especially bones are not advisable for the kitties. This is because broken bones can cut the poor cat’s digestive tract while big pieces could get stuck. If and when this happens, the poor feline will have to get hospitalized and worse, go through surgery.
- Houseplants and Flowering Plants
Plants such as azalea, rhododendron, sugar palm or sago palm, lilies, and Kalanchoe schefflera are some plants toxic to cats. Lilies, for example, can cause life-threatening kidney failure regardless of amount ingested.
Sugar palm or sago palm, on the other hand, can cause acute liver damage – and take note, sugar palm fruit is edible to humans and is mixed with other ingredients in certain recipes so please make sure that the food you feed your feline does not have sago.
Morning glory causes kitty hallucinations. Wandering Jew, on the other hand, can cause allergic reactions and rashes.
There are other plants that we have in our homes which may not be safe for our feline friends, so it is advisable to know them to be safe.
- All Strings, Cords, and Wires
Kitties love to play and find all stringy objects purrfect toys that are worth pawing and gnawing. Strings and cords for blinds, however, are choking hazards for our cat.
Choking may also be the outcome of a kitty that gnaws and swallows small string-type objects like flosses. Ingestion could also lead to indigestion and stomach blockages that would require surgery for their removal.
Wires may also cause more harm to our kits than just mere choking. There are cases of cats getting electrocuted and, for those who survive, getting their small mouths burnt due to chewing off protective layers of these wires.
- All Things Rubber or Plastic
Anything rubber that your cat may like to play with or bite and gnaw is dangerous. Rubber items like these can cause indigestion, choking, and other gastrointestinal problems.
Plastic bags have a similar effect to the kitten as swallowed rubber. They cause abdominal pain and indigestion and may block the poor cat’s stomach.
- Poisonous and Stinging Insects
Insects like Spanish flies, poisonous spiders, bees, wasps, caterpillars, centipedes, scorpions, fire ants may have venom or sting that could cause not only allergic reactions but could also poison your cat. Include on the list certain poisonous reptiles, frogs, and venomous tiny animals.
- More Household Hazards
- Household appliances such as washing machine, dryers, flat stoves, ironing board, paper shredders, salt lamps e.t.c
- Being run over by your car – Always check your cars especially before you switch engines on especially in car hoods and under cars. Don’t leave pets in your car unattended when you go to a nearby shop. The poor soul could get heat stroke or run out of oxygen.
- Feline high rise syndrome
- Holes and Boxy areas like chimneys and ground-level fridges
- Decorations like Christmas trees, balls, Christmas lights (mind the wires), and all things hanging.
How To Be Safe From Cat Poisons and Hazards?
- Store and dispose of all substances and chemicals in the house properly
Store all substances in strong, spill-proof, and properly sealed and labeled containers. Keep these chemicals and items in areas unreachable by your cat.
- Make sure that your cat is not near when using these chemicals
Do not leave chemical containers open when in use while the cat is around. Better yet, have the cat displaced from the work area where you are using these poisonous substances.
Any spills regardless of the amount must be properly cleaned immediately. Do not allow your kitty to be within the vicinity until everything has been cleaned up. Rags, mops, and paper towels used for cleaning must be properly disposed of, set aside or kept away from the cat.
- Consult your local authorities regarding proper disposal of chemical wastes
Wastes like antifreeze so that your cat or any neighborhood pet will not get wind of these toxic materials. Local authorities have household hazardous waste programs that will assist you regarding toxic waste disposal. You can even schedule an appointment for collection in some of these localities.
- Do not let your cat lick you or rub you
Especially when you have just applied cosmetics mentioned in the list above. The part that your cat rubbed on could be licked during the grooming session and even if the toxin indirectly ingested is a small amount, it could still make our poor kitty sick.
- Use organic substances as well as pet-safe materials
for cleaning, cosmetics, and the like if possible. We never know when our kitty would feel like doing some hugging or licking on us or on some surface around the house. You may even consult with the vet to check if the organic substances you are using are safe and if they are not, you can always ask around for pet-healthy alternatives.
- Keep your cat away from mousetraps and poisoned baits
Some baits have scents that can be attractive to our cat. Others may have smells that will intrigue our inquisitive felines.
We definitely do not want them to consequently tinker with the poison that comes with those baits just because of curiosity. Another problem would be if they get attracted to the mouse and whatever it is that has already been poisoned or caught by the bait.
- Be aware of How Cats Can Acquire Poison
Ingestion of toxic substances is not the only way a cat may get poisoned. Your kitty can also get the toxins through:
- Indirect contact by eating, playing, or touching poisoned prey
- Indirect ingestion by licking someone who had been in contact with the poison
- Grooming portions of the fur that got in touch with the poison
- Grooming contaminated paws and other parts of the body that got in contact with poison
How To Detect Signs and Symptoms of Cat Poisoning?
Let us face it – our cats are just like Schroedinger’s cat – we will never know they have been poisoned unless we see or hear of our kitties’ symptoms. There are two types of indicators you need to look out for. Once one of the two types is observed, the vet has to be contacted right away:
Signs of Contact With Poison
- Common sense – contact your vet right away if you have seen your cat ingesting or licking the toxin.
- When we see our cat toying with some type of poison, it is best to have our kitty “decontaminated” right away.
- Strange or unfamiliar objects and/or residues on your kitty’s paws, fur, or vomit.
- Plants, containers, and newly-applied surfaces that have been chewed on or spilled – examples of newly-applied surfaces are newly-varnished furniture and newly-bleached or cleaned clothes.
- Puddles of chemicals and chemically-treated water with traces of pawprints
- Unusual odor on your cat – from its vomit, feces, sprays or urine.
Sometimes there is no trace or evidence of the type of poison your kitty has ingested. But once you observe any of the following symptoms, call your vet immediately:
- Gastrointestinal indicators such as loss of appetite, diarrhea, drooling or vomiting
- Respiratory indicators such as breathing difficulty, coughing, or wheezing
- Increase in water intake, rise in frequency of urination, crying and urinating in front of you
- Rashes, skin irritation, swollen insect bites on the skin
- Neurological indicators such as seizures, imbalance due to loss of muscle coordination, and loss of consciousness
- Lethargy, depression, and weakness
- Discolored, pale, or yellowish gums
Perform First Aid and Call the Vet Immediately
If you see the signs and symptoms mentioned above, do the following immediately:
- Ensure that your kitty is away from the poisonous substance or where the poison is located. If it is already on your kitty’s paws or parts of the body, prevent your cat from grooming.
- Remove your kitty’s collar or anything it has on when you saw it contaminated to ensure that no poison accumulated on what your cat is wearing.
- If the poison is on your cat’s fur or skin, try to remove as much of it as possible with paper towels and rags. Make sure your hands are well covered. Carefully remove the poison and keep it as far away from your cat’s nose and mouth as possible; but keep it for evidence.
- Do not bathe, soap, or clean your cat unless confirmed by the vet or the emergency respondent to avoid complications.
- If your kitty got poisoned by breathing particles, bring your cat to an open area where there is much oxygen for the cat to breathe.
- Take note where, when, and how the poisoning occurred.
- Collect a portion of the poison – including the packaging and container – for evidence, if possible.
- Contact your vet right away or any of the pet emergency hotlines if the vet is not around, even if you have observed that your cat has not licked or groomed itself afterward. This is to ensure that your cat gets observed in the next hours for any possible poisoning as well as for any decontamination process.
- Do not give any home remedies – making the poor cat take in more might worsen the ingestion.
- Do not induce vomiting.
Cat Poison Hotline Numbers
It is always reassuring to know, memorize, and even keep a list of hotlines and contact details of those who can help you save your kitty – or anybody else’s cat – should any poisoning or suspicion of poisoning happens. Here are some of the numbers you may need to consider memorizing and writing down:
- Vet – It is a must that the very first number you need to memorize by heart and to contact is your vet’s number. This is because aside from you, your vet knows the most details regarding your kitty’s health.
- ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA-APCC)
- Pet Poison Helpline
- Red Cross Pet Care
Have the numbers of these persons/facilities written among the rest of the emergency hotlines on your phonebook as well as on your house phone sets
Treatments If Your Cat Is Poisoned
Once you have followed the steps mentioned above, leave the treatment to the vet or to the pet care authorities unless they themselves instructed you to do the treatment. Expect that treatment may either be in the form of antidote if there are any available, or it could be any of the following:
- Induced vomiting
- Activated charcoal – this is usually given orally to your kitty; activated carbon reduces the amount of poison by absorbing the toxin in your cat’s digestive system. This, however, is only good if the poison has not been absorbed yet by other organs that are outside the digestive system.
- Intravenous treatment and fluid flushing
- Medications for reducing symptom effect – this includes medicine for tremors and seizures, as well as antivenin and antihistamine
Cooperate With the Vet For Follow-ups
Once your vet has administered all the treatment possible, the vet may require you to do follow-ups regarding your feline friend’s condition. This includes home medication (with vet-prescribed medicine, of course), special diet, as well as following check-ups. Any changes to your cat must be relayed to the vet for the best course of action.
Share the Learning
Always take note of the various steps and procedure you and your vet have taken in order to help your kitty survive. Relay what you learn to the community – this is one way of helping reduce cases of poisoning and mortality among felines.