It’s Poison Prevention Week, so we’re going to be looking at pet poisons found around the home. In this article, we’re listing some of the more common poisons that affect cats. Below is our roundup of the ten most common cat poisons. See our top 10 dog poisons.
The 10 Most Reported Cat Poisons
Dog Flea Products (Permethrin)
Flea and tick products marketed for dogs should never be used on cats. These products often contain permethrin, which is toxic to cats. Cats are unable to metabolise permethrin, allowing it to interfere with the nervous system. Many spot on permethrin products contain a lethal dose if used on a cat. Symptoms of poisoning include tremors, seizures, disorientation, hyperthermia and ultimately, death.
If your cat has been poisoned by permethrin, rinse the area with warm water to prevent further absorption and contact a veterinarian immediately. Read more about permethrin poisoning in cats.
We use a wide variety of cleaning products daily in our homes. Inquisitive cats are more likely to jump on to surfaces and get at these products than dogs. When using cleaning products at home, be sure that cats aren’t able to jump up and lick at them. It’s usually best to keep cats out of the room when using cleaning products. These products can burn, cause irritation or worse when consumed.
Rodenticides used to kill rats and mice are widely available for purchase. Commercial rodenticides are often designed in a way to make them less hazardous to humans. Bait stations and bait boxes offer protection against accidental consumption by pets, but it is possible for a curious cat to get to the pellets. Loose bait can be a significant hazard if spilled or left lying around.
Consumer rodenticides are anticoagulants that can cause internal bleeding or haemorrhaging. Symptoms can be hard to spot at first (lethargy, weakness), but can progress due to internal bleeding. Treatment requires a daily dose of Vitamin K over one or more weeks, given by a veterinarian.
Cats are known to nibble on plants and foliage out of boredom or curiosity. Although grass-grazing is thought to be beneficial for a cat, some plants are toxic. Lilies are particularly toxic to cats. All true lilies (Lilium spp.) should be considered a hazard and avoided by cat owners.
Although the actual mechanism of toxicity is unknown, lilies cause damage to the feline kidney. This ultimately leads to kidney failure. All parts of the lily plant (stem, leaves, pollen etc.) and even the water they are kept in, can be toxic.
Human Medications & Supplements
Some of the most common human medications accidentally consumed by cats are antidepressants and ADHD medication. The US Pet Poison Helpline noticed a significant trend in venlafaxine poisoning. This is an antidepressant that seemed to be involved in poisoning cases more often than other antidepressants.
Some common symptoms of antidepressant toxicity include hyperthermia, tremors, vomiting, diarrhoea, cardiac arrhythmia or possibly seizures. As little as one pill is needed to cause toxicity – depending on the medication.
Antifreeze contains the toxic chemical ethylene glycol. Antifreeze is often brightly coloured, which can make it appealing to a cat. It is usually found beneath parked cars, where it has leaked or spilled. Antifreeze poisoning requires treatment with an antidote within a 12 hour time-frame. Vomiting, difficulty breathing and seizures can start 30 minutes after consumption. After 24 hours, severe acute kidney failure occurs which is fatal without treatment.
Slug Pellets and Insecticides
Slug pellets contain a compound called metaldehyde. Slug pellets are vibrantly coloured, making them attractive to cats. If ingested vomiting, diarrhoea, increased heart rate, salivation, unconsciousness or liver damage could occur. Liquid or organic slug pellets are preferable to standard pellets.
Essential Oils & Fragrances
Essential oils such as nutmeg, tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus, or frankincense can cause toxicity. It is thought that the lack of the enzyme glucuronyl transferase makes these oils toxic to cats.
These oils are most dangerous when cats consume a large amount. For example, aromatic diffusers used to fragrance the home. Cat owners should avoid applying essential oils to the coat, which some natural remedies recommend. Cats will groom themselves, ingesting the oil. An overdose could result in incoordination, hypothermia, dehydration, tremors or even coma.
Glow sticks and similar glow-in-the-dark party jewellery contain the toxic compound dibutyl phthalate. Cats tend to be drawn to these items, but they should not be allowed to play with them. During play, a cat can easily break apart a plastic glow stick, spilling the toxic liquid inside.
The glowing liquid is bitter, which should stop the cat. However, if some of the liquid is ingested by accident, it can cause organ damage. Warm water and a towel can be used to remove excessive liquid from the mouth, then veterinary advice should be sought.
Cats don’t show any preference to sweet items. This makes chocolate poisoning much less likely in cats than in dogs. However, the toxic compound in chocolate (theobromine) is even more toxic to cats than dogs.
Although unlikely, chocolate toxicity does occur in cats. As little as 10-15g of dark chocolate is enough to cause vomiting in a 4kg cat. You can use our chocolate toxicity calculator to get an idea of how much chocolate is toxic.
This list of cat poisons was put together from the top cat toxins reported to the Pet Poison Helpline. Many more cat poisons can be found around the home and garden. A full list of cat poisons can be found here.
Image credits: Stan Shebs CC BY-SA 3.0 / FlatIcon