Poisons in Cats

A poison is any chemical substance that is harmful to the body. This may includes manufactured products such as prescribed drugs and cleaning solutions, and also natural herbs and other plants. The innate curiosity of cats may lead them to lick or taste things that are poisonous. Fastidious grooming may cause a cat to lick poisonous products from his body coat.

Poisoning in Cats

Most dangerous and common animal poisons are palatable poisonous substances that encourage licking and ingestion. This makes them an obvious choice for intentional poisoning. Cats may also be poisoned by these products if they eat a rodent who has ingested poisoned bait. It must be remembered that even domesticated indoor cats may hunt and kill small prey animals—rodents, insects, or small reptiles.

Most cases suspected of being malicious poisoning actually are not. Cats, by nature, are curious and have a tendency to explore out-of-the-way places such as wood piles, weed thickets, and storage areas. They also hunt small animals, often chasing them into confined spaces. These environments put cats into contact with insects, dead animals, and toxic plants. So, it also means that in many cases of suspected poisoning, the actual agent will be unknown. The uncountable variety of potentially poisonous plants and shrubs makes identification difficult or impossible, unless you have direct knowledge that the cat has eaten a certain plant or product.

Many cases of poisoning occur in the home or in the garage/dust-bin area. Potentially poisonous substances should be kept in secure containers and, ideally, in cupboards that close securely (remember that prying paws can open some cupboard doors). Poisonous indoor plants can be removed and outdoor plants can be fenced off from pets. Keep medications in childproof containers and inside secure cupboards.

The Top Ten Poisonings in Cats:

According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, following are most common poisonings that occur among cats.

  1. Permethrin: insecticides designed for dogs; never use dog flea and tick products on cats!
  2. Other topical insecticides; follow directions carefully.
  3. Venlafaxine, a human antidepressant that goes by the brand name Effexor; apparently, cats are attracted to the capsules.
  4. Glow jewelry and sticks; the liquid inside is toxic.
  5. Lilies; virtually all varieties of lilies can lead to kidney failure.
  6. Liquid potpourri; cats may lick this or clean it off their paws after stepping in it.
  7. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen and aspirin.
  8. Acetaminophen (Tylenol); even one tablet can be fatal for the cat.
  9. Anticoagulant Rodenticides; cats may eat these products directly or may eat rodents who have the poison in their system/systems.
  10. Amphetamines; even very small amounts are serious.

If your cat ingests an unknown substance, it is important to determine whether that substance is a poison. Most products have labels that list their ingredients, but if the label doesn’t tell you the composition and toxicity of the product, call the Animal Poison Control Center in your city & country. You can also log onto www.aspca.org and click on “Animal Poison Control Center” for more information, including a list of toxic and nontoxic plants.

Common Signs of Poisoning in Cats:

  • Breathing problems
  • Confusion
  • Coughing
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Gastrointestinal irritation
  • Salivation
  • Seizures
  • Shivering
  • Skin irritation
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

In some cases, you can call the emergency room at your local veterinary hospital, which may be able to give you information about how to treat the poison. Specific antidotes are available for some poisons, but they cannot be administered unless the poison is known, or at least suspected by the circumstances. Some product labels have phone numbers you can call for safety information about their products.

When signs of poisoning develop, the most important step is to visit with your cat to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital at once. If possible, find the poison and don’t forget to take the container with you. This provides the emergency personnel with an immediate diagnosis and better treatment.

If the cat has ingested the substance recently, residual contents of the poison are often present in the stomach. An initial and most important step is to rid the cat’s stomach of any remaining poison.

The most effective way to empty the stomach is to pass a stomach tube, remove as much of the stomach contents as possible, and then wash the stomach out with large volumes of water. This must be done by your veterinarian.

Induce Vomiting to Your Cat:

In many cases, it is preferable to induce vomiting at the scene rather than proceed directly to the veterinary hospital. For example, if you see the cat swallow the poisonous substance, it is sometimes best to make the cat vomit it right back up. Similarly, if the poison was ingested within two hours but it will take 30 minutes or longer to get to a veterinary facility, it is frequently advisable to induce vomiting at home.

DO NOT Induce Vomiting If:

  •  If the cat has already vomited
  •  If the cat is in a stupor, breathing with difficulty, or shows any sign of neurological involvement
  •  If the cat is unconscious or convulsing
  •  If the cat has swallowed an acid, alkali, cleaning solution, household chemical, or petroleum product
  • If the cat has swallowed a sharp object that could lodge in the esophagus or perforate the stomach
  • If a product contains a hydrocarbon (like petroleum jelly, gasoline, kerosene, brake fluid), emesis (vomiting) is typically contraindicated due to the high risks of aspiration pneumonia.
  •  If the label on the product says, “Do not induce vomiting”

How to Induce Vomiting and Prevent Poison Absorption:

Induce vomiting by giving the cat hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). A 3 percent (3%) solution is most effective.

Give 1 teaspoon (5 ml) hydrogen peroxide per 10 pounds (4.53 kg) body weight of the cat, with a limit of 3 teaspoons, each teaspoon should be given after a wait of 10 minutes. If the cat doesn’t vomit after the first dose, you may repeat every 10 minutes, up to three times, until the cat vomits.

If possible, get your cat to walk around or shake him gently in your arms after giving the hydrogen peroxide. This often stimulates vomiting.

Once the poison has been cleared from the cat’s stomach, give him activated charcoal to bind any remaining poison and prevent further absorption.Use Activated Charcoal for treating Cat Poisonings

Activated Charcoal is commonly used to adsorb digestive gas. It also protects the body from overdosing on harmful toxic substances. Due to its large surface area, activated charcoal has high adsorption properties, meaning that it keeps certain substances from being absorbed in the body’s gastro-intestinal tract.

The most effective and easily administered home oral charcoal product is compressed activated charcoal, which comes in 5-gram tablets. The dose is one tablet per 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of body weight.

If activated charcoal is not available, coat the intestines with milk and egg whites using 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) egg whites and 1⁄4 cup milk. Mix this and give the cat about 2 teaspoons (10 ml) by mouth. Administer into the cat’s cheek pouch using a plastic syringe, or add to food. If you use the syringe, drop the mixture in cheecks because cats may aspirate it into his lungs, which can lead to aspiration pneumonia.

Intensive care and good treatment by your veterinarian improves the survival rate for cats who have been poisoned. Intravenous fluid infusins support circulation, treat shock, and protect the kidneys. A large urine output and use of diuretics also assists in eliminating the poison. Contortionists may be given for their anti-inflammatory effects. A cat in a coma may benefit from tracheal intubation and artificial ventilation during the acute phase of respiratory depression.

A cat who is beginning to show signs of nervous system involvement is surely in deep trouble. Get your cat to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Try to bring a sample of content coming out in vomit or, better yet, the actual poison in the original container. Do not delay administering first aid. If the cat is convulsing, unconscious, or not breathing, administer CPR.