We know that alcohol is one of the many substances considered poisonous for cats.
An Eastern saying goes like this: “to combat poison with poison,” and it is actually easy how to kill a cat considering the number of toxic hazards around the house.
But did you know that a cat was once saved from anti-freeze poisoning using multiple shots of vodka? In the case of Tipsy, the poor kitty which nearly died from ingesting antifreeze; animal doctors at Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) of Queensland gave Tipsy an intravenous (IV) drip of diluted vodka.
Can We Afford Another Tipsy?
Ethylene glycol, or antifreeze, is a substance highly toxic to cats that there is a small time slot for it to be safely destabilized to turn into another form that a cat’s body can process. It so happened that during the poor cat’s first aid treatment at the hospital, someone had brought some of the counter agent – ethanol. That ethanol happened to be a bottle of vodka.
Vodka, however, like all other alcohol – is considered toxic to cats.
In 2017 alone, there had been 199,000 reported cases of potential poisoning received by the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA-APCC). Considering that our frisky felines are playful by nature, it is not surprising if a good portion of the poisoning cases involves pet cats.
As cat parents, we should not let our kitties taste poison anytime – not even to teach them to avoid poison. Tipsy may have survived his ordeal a year ago and has been happily living in his new forever home; but for the rest of us and our kitties, we cannot rely on luck alone. There must not be another Tipsy.
How, then, should we save our kitty babies from these toxic hazards?
Prevention Is Always Better Than Cure
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:
Know the Various Substances Considered Toxic for Your Cat – 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 such as antidepressants, cold medicines, diet pills, pain relievers (ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen), food supplements, cancer medicines, anti-inflammatory medications, and stimulants are cat poisons. An overdose of Vitamin D is also dangerous for your kitty.
- Human Food and ingredients that contain chives, onions, garlic, alcohol, caffeine (coffee, soda, tea), chocolate, grapes and raisins, xylitol (in toothpaste and sugarless sweets, gums, and candies), and yeast dough are toxic for your feline pet.
- Human cosmetics such as nail polish products, nail polish remover, perfume, aftershave, hair dye, hair spray, suntan lotion, hand creams, massage oil, and other cosmetics may contain poisonous chemicals like flurbiprofen, zinc oxide, tea tree oil and citronella, and other similar substances or materials.
- House and community plants have to be checked with the ASPCA website through their complete list of indoor and outdoor plants poisonous to cats to determine if they are safe for your pet.
- Household chemicals such as insecticides, bleach, detergents, antifreeze, dog flea and tick medication (pills, sprays, shampoo, collars), de-icing salts, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, rodenticides, insect and rodent bait, mothballs, lamp salts, and potpourri may contain ingredients and materials highly toxic to your kitty.
- Synthetic materials like rubber bands and plastic bags have ingredients poisonous for your feline friend. In addition, these materials can cause gastrointestinal problems since they cannot be processed by your kitty’s digestive tract.
- Poisonous and Stinging 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.
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 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
Memorize and Keep Those Hotlines
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
Detect Signs and Symptoms of Poisoning As Soon As Possible
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.
Expect Any of These Treatments
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.
Other Important Things to Note
A good way of being prepared for these types of scenarios is to discuss this ahead with your vet before anything bad occurs. This way, you will also know whether it is advisable to bathe your cat in the hopes of removing the poison while waiting for the vet or the pet emergency center to arrive.
Another is to share everything you have learned to everyone in your house. In this manner, everyone is aware and every member – including children – will cooperate in keeping your house happy, healthy, and kitty-safe.