HEALTH & CARE

How to Treat a Poisoned Cat: Know the Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late

poisoned gray cat
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

It is no secret that cats are very finicky eaters, but this doesn’t mean that our whiskered friends can’t make mistakes like accidentally ingesting a poisonous substance. They may also come in contact with chemicals from household cleaning products, which they can then swallow when they lick their paws or fur. Knowing how to treat a poisoned cat can mean the difference between life and death.

Cats are careful most of the time, but they are also curious creatures. Their propensity for adventurism can lead to them exploring and trying out new things. Exposure to certain household products could prove to be disastrous for our feline friends. As a cat parent, it would be helpful if you get yourself acquainted with first aid basics for a poisoned cat so that you’d know what to do in case your pet gets into trouble.

After reading this article, you should not only be familiar with treating a poisoned cat. You should also have an enhanced awareness of the possible sources of poisoning, thus reducing the likelihood that your feline friend would get involved in cat poisoning.

What are the Common Causes of Cat Poisoning?

cat smelling tulips

There are five main sources of poisoning in cats. These are:

  • Medications designed for humans such as antidepressants and painkillers

  • Houseplants like lilies, tulips, daffodils, sago palms, and azaleas

  • Insecticides

  • Household cleaners like laundry detergent, toilet bowl cleaners, and kitchen surface cleaners

  • Glow sticks and jewelry

Even human foods like onions, garlic, and chives can be poisonous to our whiskered friend as these can irritate their stomach and cause their red blood cells to rupture. Be wary, too, of giving your cats gums and candies because these may contain the sugar substitute xylitol that’s harmful to them.

Rat and mouse poison can also be poisonous to cats. The same goes for chemical hazards like paint thinner.

Cats may also be poisoned if they are exposed to certain chemicals. For example, carbon monoxide which is a colorless gas that can come from automobile exhaust can cause drowsiness, lethargy, and even abrupt death. Aside from automobile exhaust, this gas can come from other sources like a faulty exhaust system or a non-vented furnace.

Common Symptoms of Cat Poisoning

sick tabby cat

How would you know that your cat has ingested a poisonous substance? What are the signs and symptoms that you should watch out for?

There are many signs and symptoms of cat toxicosis that you should be aware of. One is vomiting since the cat’s body will try to eliminate the poisonous substance from the system.

Diarrhea may also happen in poisoned cats. There’s also the possibility that the stool has blood in it.

Poisoned cats may also excessively salivate. Drooling usually happens when the cat ingests house plants and household cleaners.

Other signs and symptoms of cat toxicosis are difficulty breathing, lethargy, depression, irritation on the skin area, convulsions, shaking, and coughs and sneezes. Poisoned cats may also lose consciousness.

See Also: How to Tell If Your Cat is Sick

How to Treat a Poisoned Cat

Obviously, the first thing you should do when you realize that your cat has been poisoned is to call the veterinarian. Expect the vet to ask you about the cause or source of the poisoning, so try to identify the product’s name as well as the quantity that your pet might have ingested. You should also be able to tell the time that has passed since your cat ingested the poison.

But we all know that it would take some time before the vet can attend to your pet. So, what should you do to stabilize your pet while waiting for the professional to come over to your place?

Step #1: Make Your Cat Comfortable

gray cat lying

First, bring your pet to an open, well-lit and well-ventilated area if he is unconscious or very weak. This way, you can observe other symptoms that you may want to report to the veterinarian. It’s also one way to allow the pet to get fresh air.

Moreover, this can help you isolate your cat from other pets that you may have in your house. The last thing you want to happen is for your other pets to get exposed to the same cause of cat toxicosis.

In bringing the cat to a well-ventilated, well-lit place, carry him by carefully holding his body firmly. If you’re unsure where to bring him, just go to the bathroom or kitchen since these areas of the house are not only well-lit but also have enough water sources.

Step #2: Prevent Further Contamination

Vets also recommend wrapping the cat in a towel and putting him in a box. This would prevent the cat from further contamination especially if there is some of the chemical left on his coat.

If you suspect that the chemical is on his coat, bathe your cat immediately after the vet has cleared him. Using clippers, you can also clip off the possibly contaminated hair. Remove his collar, too, as this may have also been contaminated. Then wash your hands in liquid dish soap to remove as much contamination as possible.

Step #3: Water Treatment

orage cat drinking

After securing your pet, you might be tempted to give him something to eat. But here’s something you should keep in mind: never give a poisoned cat anything to eat if you are not sure of the cause of the poisoning. Moreover, it is also dangerous to try home remedies unless instructed by your vet.

If your cat is awake and if the vet approves it, you may give him some fresh water to drink. Fresh water can help reduce the impact of toxic products that can damage the liver and kidneys. You can use a syringe to help the cat drink.

See Also: How to Syringe Feed a Cat

Since we’re talking about water, you ought to know that there are certain causes of cat toxicity where water treatment can be very helpful.

For example, shampoo, soap or detergent can cause symptoms like dizziness, diarrhea, and vomiting. If the cat ingested a small amount of these chemicals and if your vet gives you the go signal, you can give water to your pet.

Chlorine and bleach are two other products which your cat may ingest and lead to poisoning. It’s not uncommon for cats to drink water from pools or cleaning buckets which may contain these chemicals. Common symptoms of ingesting these chemicals are vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, lethargy, and depression.

Just like in the case of shampoo and detergent, first aid for chlorine and bleach poisoning should include the provision of water. You may use a syringe to help your pet drink.

Step #4: Consider If You Should Make Your Cat Vomit

As mentioned earlier, the vet will ask you about the cause of the cat toxicosis. It is thus imperative that you get a sample of the material. Keep the vial, packaging, or the container.

You’ll need all the info available when you are interviewed by the veterinarian. All these details can guide the vet in determining if the cat should be made to vomit or not.

Veterinarians won’t usually recommend inducing the cat to vomit especially if the poison has been ingested for more than two hours. After all, part of the poison has already been absorbed by the cat.

Furthermore, vomiting a cat who has ingested alkaline products like bleach and rust removers as well as products derived from petroleum like gasoline and kerosene is not recommended since the poison can lead to further damage to the feline’s mouth, throat, and esophagus.

Pets who have lost consciousness, look very weak, or has difficulties standing should also not be made to throw up because aspiration pneumonia can become a secondary problem. Aspiration pneumonia happens when a cat, or any pet for that matter, inhales vomit into the lungs.

But as they say, there are exceptions to the rule. The vet may instruct you to try to make the cat throw up if your pet ingested antifreeze or ethylene glycol within the last two hours. Just a teaspoon of this liquid often found in garages can kill the cat, thus inducing the pet to vomit is critical.

Arsenic is another source of cat poisoning which may necessitate inducing vomit. It’s a mineral found in chemical compounds like herbicides, insecticides and wood preservatives. Cats may accidentally ingest these compounds, or eat grass regularly treated with such herbicides. Symptoms may range from diarrhea, lethargy, loss of consciousness, to death.

Cats may also need to be induced to vomit when they ingest human medications such as aspirin and rat poison.

Now you may wonder: what should you do if the vet gives you the go-signal to make your whiskered friend throw up?

Find 3% hydrogen peroxide in your house. It’s the only household item safe enough to be used in making a cat vomit. Just don’t take a chance at the stronger and concentrated type often used in hair coloring as this isn’t safe for use in our feline friends.

The dose of hydrogen peroxide is one teaspoon per 5 pounds of body weight. You can administer it to a cat using a child’s plunger. Hold your pet and then gently insert the plunger into his mouth, just behind the upper fangs. Push the plunger and dispense about an ml at a time into the cat’s tongue. Let him swallow it.

If that doesn’t work, here’s one trick you might want to try. Mix the hydrogen peroxide with some honey so that it would be more palatable to the cat. Then let him walk around to encourage hydrogen peroxide absorption.

Hydrogen peroxide should induce vomiting in cats within 15 minutes. If your pet still doesn’t throw up 15 minutes after you’ve administered hydrogen peroxide, you can give another dose. If he still doesn’t vomit after 15 minutes, don’t try it again. It is best to wait for your veterinarian.

The vet may use other drugs to induce vomiting such as xylazine. These are prescription-only medications that can only be administered by a vet.

Step #5: Using Activated Charcoal

active charaocal

Aside from giving your cat 3% hydrogen peroxide, there’s another way to treat a poisoned feline while waiting for veterinarian assistance—the use of activated charcoal.

Activate charcoal is a drug that comes in several brand names such as Toxiban and CharcoAid. It comes in powder form and is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in veterinary medicine.

This drug is known to drastically improve a feline’s chances of survival by reducing the damage done by the poison to the body. However, this should be given within an hour after the cat has ingested the poison. If the poison has entered the cat’s bloodstream, then this drug won’t be as effective.

You can administer activated charcoal to your cat by using a syringe. Another way is to mix it with water. Doses may vary depending on the cat’s size although the rule of thumb is to use 2 grams per kilogram of the cat’s body weight.

However, activated charcoal won’t be effective in treating cats who have ingested corrosive poisons like ethanol, fluoride, and cyanide. So it is still recommended that you consult the vet before giving activated charcoal to your cat.

Wrap Up

cat rubbing against a vet

Cat parents like you should be aware of the basics of cat toxicity, including the common sources of feline poisoning as well as basic first aid.

Call a veterinarian right away if you notice that your cat is exhibiting symptoms of poisoning such as diarrhea, excessive salivation, lethargy, shaking, and loss of consciousness. Find the possible source of poisoning as your vet will need this in determining the appropriate treatment method.

If your vet gives you the go-signal, try to induce the cat to throw up using 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Activated charcoal may also save your cat’s life.

Prognosis for cat toxicity depends so much on timing. Simply put, the sooner that your cat is given medical attention, the better his chances are. Thus, keep in mind the things you’ve learned from this article, so you know what to do in the event that your cat gets poisoned.

What symptoms is your cat exhibiting? Have you ever dealt with a situation of cat poisoning before? Do you have any tips you can share? Let us know if you do because your comments can save lives. If you’re just reading this article to be prepared, then good on you to think ahead. You may also want to read our article on how to tell if a cat is dying.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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