Cats How to Identify Poisoning in your Cat

Published on October 10th, 2014 | by Debbie Martin


How to Identify Poisoning in your Cat

Perhaps your curious cat has gotten into your medical cabinet and has chewed into a pack of ibuprofen tablets. Or maybe your feline friend has taken an interest in a potted plant and has chewed off some of the leaves. Perhaps you left some chocolate on the table and your furry friend had a feast – and is now looking very ill. There are many situations in which a cat can be poisoned and this happens all too often.

Cats can be poisoned by a number of different things, including human medications and foods, plants, chemicals and other substances. Most cats will be poisoned when they get into common household goods or products including antidepressants, cold and flu preparations and painkillers. Some of these situations will just result in the cat having an upset stomach with vomiting for a few hours and then they are okay. However some substances (such as antifreeze for example) can result in a painful and quick death for your feline friend.

So what should you do if you think that your cat has eaten something poisonous? The most important thing to do is to keep calm and act quickly – the sooner your cat is treated the higher the chance that they will survive.

Identify the Poison

It is important to figure out what your cat has eaten, so you know how serious the situation is. You might be able to tell right away from the empty container or packet that has been ripped open. Or, you might see the offending substance in your cat’s vomit.

Once you identify what your cat has eaten, you should bring in the packet or bring in a sample of vomit or anything your cat might have chewed for your veterinarian. This will help them to identify what the poison is quickly, so that they will know how best to treat your cat.

Taking Your Cat to the Vet

If you think that your cat has eaten something poisonous, you should absolutely take them to the vet as soon as you are able. This is especially true if your cat is losing consciousness, having seizures, is having difficulty breathing or is already unconscious. You should bring the pet in immediately, telephoning the vet ahead to let them know you are on the way.

If your cat has any of the poisonous substance on their skin or fur, wash it off and stop your cat from licking their fur. You might also want to flush out your cat’s mouth with clean water.

Since this is an emergency, you might not be seen by your cat’s regular vet so you should make sure that you inform them of the species, breed, age, sex and weight of the animal. You should tell them anything you know about the exposure, such as the amount of the poison they ingested and the time that has elapsed since they ate it. The more information the better, as it will help your vet to diagnose the poisoning and deal with it in the most effective way possible.

How to Avoid Poisoning in Cats

Make sure that all drugs are kept out of reach, ideally in a locked cabinet. Sometimes well-meaning pet owners will give their cats human painkillers and other medication to make them feel better, but this is a very dangerous thing to do. All human painkillers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and paracetemol, are extremely toxic to cats and can even be deadly. If your cat needs a painkiller, ask your vet to prescribe something that will be safe for animal consumption.

Also if you have flea and tick control products for cats or dogs or insect repellent, these chemicals should be kept locked away too. If you don’t already have a locked cabinet to keep medications and other chemicals in, it is worth it to invest in one for the safety of your cat (and children!). If you are treating one of your pets with insecticides, keep them away from your other pets so that they will not lick each other’s fur and ingest the substance by accident.

Watch out for common household plants as well. You might think that lilies are pretty, but all varieties of lilies are very toxic and can be deadly if your cat chews on them. Other harmful plants for cats include sago palm, rhododendron, kalanchoe, azaleas and schefflera.

Be careful when using any rodent killer products that are designed to kill mice and rats, as cats can stumble across them and become very ill as a result. Only use them in areas that are totally inaccessible to your pets.

Be aware of seasonal dangers as well. In the winter the roads and paths will be covered with rock salt which can make your cat sick if eaten. In the summer there is a greater chance of chemicals such as sunscreen and bug spray being left around, which can also be toxic for your pet.

It is also very important to keep all household cleaners, such as detergent, disinfectant and bleach away from your cat. One of the most dangerous chemical products for cats is antifreeze, because cats love the sweet taste of it. Only a very small amount of this chemical can be fatal for your cat, so make sure that you clean up any antifreeze spills immediately and don’t leave containers of this liquid lying around.

Another cause of poisoning can be human foods, which are high in fat and sugar and will often cause a lot of gastrointestinal upset in your cat. As much as you might be tempted to share your meal with your cat, don’t feed him scraps from the table. If you want to give him a treat, you should opt for a cat treat that is designed for them to eat.

Preventing poisoning in your cat takes a lot of care and prevention, but it is something very important to be aware of. Your cat can get very sick from eating the wrong thing, so make sure that you do everything you can to avoid this from happening.

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About the Author

Debbie has worked for Beeston Animal Health for a number of years and although generally involved with the marketing these days she has a great deal of knowledge on many things to do with small animals.

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