Are you concerned that your cat has been exposed to poison?
If you’re worried that your pet has recently come into contact with a potential toxin, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435, your veterinarian or visit the local animal emergency location near you.
It is important to give your veterinarian or poison control as much information as you can. If you have a bottle, container, label or leaf that might be a potential toxin with you that your cat ate – have any of these things with you when you call so that you can better describe the potential toxin.
Please be advised that there may be a nominal charge if you call poison control, so have your credit card ready.
Any time you have a concern about possible exposure, call your veterinarian or ASPCA immediately. Add your vet’s number and the poison control number mentioned above to your contacts on your phone right now. It could save your cat’s life.
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:
- Human Medications 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 while it may be tempting to treat your furry pal’s symptoms (or “clinical signs” in vet-speak) with the same medication that you take, this is never a safe choice.
Human medications, especially at human doses, can be fatal for cats. 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. Even aspirin which is sometimes prescribed for dogs can easily cause a lethal overdose for your kitty.
There is never a situation where you should give your cat human medication without a veterinarian’s advice and approval. 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 also 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 a wrong treatment or application could be dangerous.
An overdose of Vitamin D is also dangerous for your kitty. If there is a chance that your cat has accidentally ingested some of your medication, call for help immediately.
Bring the medication bottle with you so that your vet can easily determine the best course of action for your cat. The sooner your cat can be treated for any side effects, the better that treatment will work.
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, diluted urine, and Melena.
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.
Although it’s colloquially called antifreeze, Ethylene Glycol is a bright green or orange liquid chemical that is essential in maintaining the temperature of your engine throughout the year.
On its own, Ethylene Glycol is odorless and colorless. However, manufacturers add bright coloring to help people identify the liquid safely.
Antifreeze has a sweet taste that can be enticing to animals. Coolant leaks or spillage from topping off fluids can leave dangerous puddles that your cat – including neighborhood strays – may find.
Washing your cat’s feet and coat should be the first course of action should there be antifreeze leak nearby. However, ingestion requires emergency intervention.
The effects of antifreeze typically start with upper gastrointestinal distress (vomiting) due to acidity, followed by a wobbly gait and lethargy. A feline experiencing antifreeze toxicity may also have oral sores or lesions.
As a cat’s body continues to process Ethylene Glycol, it will show signs of acute kidney failure. Your cat’s kidneys may become enlarged and painful and you may notice decreased urination with low appetite.
Finally, antifreeze toxicity can lead to seizures, coma, and finally, death.
For the safety of your cat, antifreeze should not be kept inside your home and should be properly stored and disposed of. If you discover a spill or leak in your driveway or garage, follow the safe handling and cleaning protocols.
Antifreeze is also toxic to wildlife. For the safety of wild animals in your area and any pets that may be on the roam, clean and thoroughly rinse any Ethylene Glycol spills from your driveway.
- Other Chemicals
- 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
Food leftovers – 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.
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.
Other food scraps, especially bones, are not advisable for your kitty. 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.
Other notable human foods and beverages that you shouldn’t be giving to your cat are the following:
Chocolate – Chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs. It contains methylxanthines (coffee and theobromine) which, if ingested by your cat can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, and hyperactivity.
In worse cases, chocolate can cause poor feline abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death.
Exactly how toxic it can be for felines depends on the type of chocolate that your cat ate. As a general rule, the darker the chocolate, the more levels of theobromine and caffeine there are. White chocolate has the lowest levels while baker’s chocolate has the highest.
Keep in mind for your cat’s safety that no amount of chocolate – even white chocolate – is considered safe for cats to consume. Also, some cats are lactose intolerant so you need to check with the vet first before feeding any type of milk to them.
Caffeinated Beverages – It may seem like a cute photo opportunity to share a sip of your morning coffee with your best kitty, but it’s safest to keep it all to yourself. Found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and many sodas, caffeine can be toxic to cats too.
How much of a caffeinated beverage can be tolerated by your cat depends on the concentration of caffeine in the drink and how much your cat weighs. If your cat has stolen some caffeine, call your vet immediately. They can determine whether your cat has ingested a dangerous amount of caffeine.
Signs of caffeine toxicity are vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rate and/or rhythm, elevated temperature, seizures, panting, and even death.
Grapes and Raisins – While grapes and raisins are a healthy snack for us, they can be dangerous and even deadly to your cat. It’s not clear exactly what is in grapes that can cause your cat to become sick, nor is it clear how many grapes are safe for a cat to ingest, so avoidance is the only safe option.
Raisins, which are dried grapes, are more concentrated so it takes fewer raisins than grapes to cause problems.
Grapes and raisins can cause sudden onset of kidney failure. Signs of acute kidney failure (renal failure) are an increase in thirst, frequent urination, vomiting, dehydration or general weakness.
Your veterinarian can help you provide supportive care if your cat ate a toxic amount of grapes or raisins. But it’s better if you can bring your cat in as soon as exposure has occurred.
Your vet may determine that they can induce vomiting before the grapes or raisins have been digested enough to cause harm. Never attempt to induce vomiting at home without consulting your veterinarian.
Alcohol – Whether you like a glass of wine with a meal or enjoying a cold one after work, always keep your alcoholic beverage out of reach from your cat.
The chemical component of alcoholic beverages that cause people to feel slightly relaxed, tipsy or even wildly drunk is called Ethanol. This is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant.
While most people are generally capable of ingesting more than a few servings of an alcoholic beverage without suffering anything but a hangover, even a small sip can be life-threatening for your furry pal.
As with many toxins, the severity of the situation depends on how much your cat has ingested and how big your cat is. There is a large difference between your Maine Coon sneaking a quick taste of your light beer and a kitten ingesting a shot of tequila.
With any alcohol ingestion by your cat, you should consult with your veterinary professional immediately; even if all they did was lick their paws after dabbing at the drink. Signs of Ethanol toxicity in your cat can become apparent anywhere between ten minutes and two hours of ingestion.
Signs of alcohol poisoning can vary depending on what kind of alcohol your cat was exposed to and how much was ingested. Signs can include lack of coordination, dizziness, low respiratory rate, vomiting, urinary or fecal incontinence, decreased metabolism, low blood sugar, seizure, heart attack or even death.
- Houseplants and Flowering Plants
If your cat is normal, it likes to rub up against the plants and flowers or nibble on buds and stems. While some plants like catnip are completely safe for cats, others can cause unpleasant side effects or even death.
Some common plants that are toxic to felines are Autumn Crocus, Tulips, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Daffodils, Kalanchoe Schefflera, Sugar Palm or Sago Palm, Lilies, Cyclamen, Morning Glory, Wandering Jew, Oleander, among others.
Lilies, for example, can cause life-threatening kidney failure regardless of the amount ingested. Sugar Palm or Sago Palm, on the other hand, can cause diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, acute liver damage, and bloody stool. And take note, Sugar Palm fruit is edible to humans and is being 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.
If your pet has ingested any of the plants listed here or a different toxic plant, your cat may experience oral discomfort, gastrointestinal issues, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, renal failure or even death. But that would all depend on what plant and which part of the plant your cat has eaten.
This is not a complete list, however. If you are uncertain whether a plant your cat ate is toxic, call your vet or poison control. If you can, collect a sample of the plant in question to show your veterinarian or to describe to ASPCA.
- 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 cats than just mere choking. There are cases of cats getting electrocuted and for those who survive, get their small mouths burnt due to chewing off the protective layers of these wires.
- Rodent Bait
Cats are naturally hardwired to see rodents as prey. People, on the other hand, would be happier if mice were forever eradicated.
This is why we often turn to the use of poisonous rodenticides when there are mice in our homes. Different rodenticides may use different poisons, but the result is still a dead rodent.
If you find your cat with a partially eaten rodent and you’re aware of rodenticides having been used in the area, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or your vet immediately.
If you have personally put out poison traps, make certain you give your vet the information on exactly what poison the trap contained. The effects of rodenticides on your pet can include internal hemorrhage, brain swelling or kidney failure.
Cats are curious creatures, so it’s possible that your feline friend may nose their way into a bag or box of rodenticide. If you keep rodent bait in your home, keep it safely packaged and out of reach of any children or pets.
To be safe, it’s recommended that you only use snap traps baited with peanut butter and oats in your home. Sticky traps may seem easy but they cause an unnecessarily prolonged death for rodents.
They are also incredibly difficult to clean off if your cat accidentally steps onto it. Food-baited snap traps are quick and lethal only to the rodents that find them.
Marijuana is gaining popularity as a medicinal drug among human patients. Legal restrictions on pot usage and possession are becoming less strict and marijuana is already legal in some states.
While humans enjoy the effects of marijuana without experiencing toxicity, it is not safe for cats.
Cats that nibble on marijuana plant leaves, ingest dried leaves or are exposed to secondhand smoke, may show signs of marijuana toxicity. Watch your cat for lack of coordination, excessive drooling, vomiting, seizures, extreme sleepiness or hyperactivity.
Don’t be embarrassed to call your vet as soon an exposure has occurred. They’re more interested in keeping your cat healthy than in what you do on your own time.
Cannabidiol, better known as CBD oil, may be safe for your pets as it does not contain the harmful compound THC. If you would like to consider the use of CBD oil for your cat, please discuss an appropriate plan with your veterinarian before beginning treatment.
- 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 can cause abdominal pain and indigestion and may block the poor cat’s stomach.
- Poisonous/Stinging Insects and Snake Bites
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.
If your cat has a bit of wanderlust, keep in mind that the warm months are when snakes are out. While not all snakes are venomous, it is safest to have your veterinarian examine any potential snake bite on your cat.
Feline snake bites are typically targeted to your cat’s muzzle (mouth/nose/face) or lower legs. If your cat comes home with two telltale punctures, bring your cat to your veterinarian or veterinary emergency hospital immediately.
If your cat has been bitten by a venomous snake, the sooner treatment begins, the higher the likelihood of recovery is. Clinical signs of snake venom exposure in your cat include sudden weakness, dilated pupils, vomiting, shakiness, tremors, and paralysis.
Never attempt to catch a snake you have seen bite your cat. It is unsafe for you or anyone nearby to attempt to handle a snake that is already in defensive mode. It is definitely not worth endangering your life.
If you are able to quickly take a picture or take a mental note of the snake, that may be helpful to identify if the snake is venomous.
- 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
Dispose of 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 localities.
- Do not let your cat lick you or rub you
This is 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 just a small amount, it could still make our poor kitty sick.
- Use organic substances as well as pet-safe materials
It’s safer for us to use natural/organic 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.
- Clinical Signs of Toxicity
There are many toxins in the world which your cat can become exposed to. If your cat is typically healthy and hasn’t recently been exposed to a sick animal but is experiencing any of the following, contact your veterinarian or call ASPCA.
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, and possibly with some incontinence.
- Respiratory indicators such as breathing difficulty, coughing or wheezing
- Increased thirst/increase in water intake, rise in frequency of urination, crying, and urinating in front of you
- Rashes, skin irritation, and 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 sudden weakness
- Discolored, pale or yellowish gums
- Dilated pupils
- Lack of response to stimuli
- Oral sores or lesions
This is not a complete list of all potential signs of acute toxicity yet. You know your cat best. If you are ever concerned, never be afraid to contact a professional immediately.
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 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 made any licking or grooming 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.
Treatments If Your Cat Is Poisoned
Once you have followed the steps mentioned above, leave the treatment to the vet or the pet care authorities, unless they instructed you to do the treatment. Expect that treatment may either be in the form of an 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.