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Poisoning in Cats A Guide 2023

Should you have any suspicions that a cat has been subjected to poisoning, immediate action is of paramount importance. You should reach out promptly to your veterinarian or the closest animal hospital. Alternatively, you can contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. The sooner the cat is diagnosed and treated, the more likely it is that the treatment will prove successful.

As an organization, Alley Cat Allies is deeply committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of cats, and we understand that you share this commitment too. This is why raising awareness about potential threats to cats, including poisoning, is so important. By familiarizing ourselves with the usual causes and symptoms of poisoning in cats, as well as the necessary preventative measures, we are better equipped to act swiftly and effectively when faced with such situations, thereby enhancing our chances of saving their lives.

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Signs of Poisoning in Cats

The signs of poisoning in cats can greatly vary based on the type of poison they have been exposed to. Nonetheless, there are several common symptoms you should be aware of. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Drooling: Unusually high amounts of saliva could indicate that a cat has ingested a toxic substance.

  2. Vomiting: Frequent or intense vomiting can be a strong indication of poisoning.

  3. Loss of appetite: A sudden decrease in food intake may be a symptom of discomfort or illness due to poisoning.

  4. Excessive thirst or urination: Drinking or urinating more than usual can signal kidney problems, often caused by toxic substances.

  5. Diarrhea: Loose or watery stools could be a result of a cat’s body trying to expel harmful substances.

  6. Nervousness or hyperactivity: Changes in behavior, such as increased restlessness, can be symptomatic of certain types of poisoning.

  7. Muscle tremors: Uncontrolled muscle movements might be an indicator of nervous system disruption due to toxins.

  8. Lethargy and weakness: A sudden loss of energy or muscle strength could be a sign that a cat’s body is fighting off the effects of poisoning.

  9. Pale or yellowish gums: Changes in gum color can signal issues with oxygenation or liver problems, potentially due to poisoning.

  10. Racing heart rate: An abnormally fast heart rate can be an immediate response to certain toxins.

  11. Loss of consciousness or coma: This is a severe symptom that requires immediate veterinary attention.

  12. Coughing or vomiting blood: These are serious signs that internal damage may have occurred due to a toxic substance.

  13. Seizures: Convulsions or uncontrolled body movements can occur in response to certain types of poisons.

Remember: It’s crucial to be aware that while some poisons may cause immediate signs of illness, others can take days before symptoms begin to manifest. Always remain vigilant for any sudden changes in a cat’s behavior or physical condition.

What to Do if You Suspect a Cat Has Been Poisoned

In the unfortunate event that you believe a cat has been exposed to poison, either through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact, it’s crucial to stay calm but act swiftly. Here’s the immediate action plan you should follow to potentially save the cat’s life:

  1. Promptly seek professional help: Don’t hesitate to reach out immediately to your veterinarian, a nearby animal hospital, or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680.

  2. Identify the source of the poison: If it’s feasible, determine what substance caused the poisoning. Relay this information to the veterinarian during your initial phone call, as it can greatly assist in determining the appropriate treatment plan.

  3. Collect a sample of the poison: If possible, secure a sample of the substance suspected to have caused the poisoning. Place it in a container or, alternatively, bring along the container or label of the product believed to be poisonous. When you transport the affected cat to the veterinarian, bring these with you. Remember to wear gloves to protect yourself and maintain the integrity of the evidence.

  4. Avoid unguided treatments: Never attempt to administer treatment to a cat suspected of poisoning without explicit instructions from a veterinarian. For instance, you should NOT induce vomiting unless specifically directed to do so by a vet.

  5. Transport the cat to the vet immediately: It’s vital to get the cat to a veterinarian as rapidly as possible. Cats that have been poisoned have the highest chance of recovery when they receive prompt medical attention. The earlier the intervention, the better the prognosis.

  6. Consider community cats: If the cat suspected of being poisoned is a community or feral cat not used to human interaction, attempt to safely trap her and transport her to the vet immediately. Trapping might prove challenging, so for tips and strategies on trapping hard-to-capture cats, refer to Alley Cat Allies’ guide on “Tips for Hard-to-Trap Cats

What to expect at the vets

Here’s what you can anticipate at the veterinary clinic or hospital when dealing with a potential poisoning case:

Upon arrival, the veterinary team will likely perform a series of tests to either confirm or rule out poisoning. These tests could include blood and urine analyses to assess the cat’s overall health and determine the presence of any toxic substances.

If the vet concludes that the cat has indeed been poisoned, they might administer an antidote, if one is available for the specific toxin involved. For instance, ethanol is often used as an antidote for antifreeze poisoning.

The majority of the treatment will be centered on relieving the symptoms and maintaining the cat’s stability while her body processes and eliminates the toxins. Your vet may induce vomiting to expel the poison, administer activated charcoal to absorb toxins still present in the gastrointestinal tract, provide intravenous fluids to support hydration and kidney function, or offer other medications to manage specific symptoms.

As the treatment progresses, the veterinary team may perform additional tests to monitor the cat’s condition and ensure that the toxic substance has been fully eliminated from her system. These follow-up tests are crucial for assessing the effectiveness of the treatment and determining the next steps in the cat’s recovery process.

Surprising Household Items that are Toxic to Cats

It may come as a surprise that many everyday items, including those used for personal consumption, decoration, or cleaning, could pose significant risks to your feline companions. As a rule of thumb, if it can harm a human, it’s very likely it can harm a cat too. Always keep cleaning products, chemicals, and medications stowed away securely in areas inaccessible to your cats. Use child-proof containers and place them out of cats’ reach.

  1. Medications: Always presume that all of your medications could be toxic to cats. This caution should extend even to cat-prescribed medicines if they accidentally ingest an overdose. Should you drop a pill on the floor, pick it up without delay.

  2. Anti-freeze: This substance is a frequent cause of cat poisoning during the colder months. If you accidentally spill antifreeze, even outside on a driveway or street, it should be cleaned up right away.

  3. Houseplants and flowers: A variety of common indoor plants and flowers found in bouquets can be harmful to cats. Lilies, chrysanthemums, azaleas, rhododendrons, tulips, daffodils, sago palms, and festive poinsettias are all toxic to cats. Always research before introducing new plants into your home and choose those that are safe for curious cats who might want to nibble on them.

  4. Insecticides: Cats grooming themselves after coming into contact with recently treated areas could ingest harmful chemicals. Opt for more natural and humane methods to manage insect issues where possible.

  5. Rodenticides: Cat exposure to rodenticides can occur directly or indirectly, such as eating a rodent that has ingested the poison. Avoid using such products, and instead consider more natural and humane methods for rodent control.

  6. Cleaning Products: Ensure all cleaning supplies like bleach, laundry detergent, surface cleaners, carpet cleaners, and toilet bowl cleaners are stowed away in places inaccessible to your pets.

  7. Flea and Tick Medications: Overdosing on these common pet medications can be harmful. Always use the correct dosage corresponding to your pet’s weight and follow the administration guidelines. Never use dog flea and tick medication for cats and vice versa.

  8. Human Food and Beverages: While we humans may enjoy chocolate, alcohol, coffee, tea, energy drinks, onions, garlic, gum, and candy, these items can be toxic to cats. As a safety precaution, it’s best to avoid sharing your food with your cats.

By being aware and taking necessary precautions, you can ensure a safer environment for your feline friends.

What to do if you suspect your cat has been poisoned? 

If you suspect that a cat has been poisoned or if someone is threatening to poison a cat, here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Seek Immediate Veterinary Attention: Ensure that any cat who is suspected to be poisoned receives prompt veterinary care. Transport them to the veterinarian or an animal hospital without delay.

  2. Inform the Local Authorities: Report the incident to your local law enforcement agency as soon as you can. Provide a detailed account of the situation while filing a police report. This helps establish an official record of a potential violent crime. Having a prepared written statement detailing the incident, along with all relevant dates and times, can be helpful.

  3. Document the Evidence: If it can be done without trespassing on another person’s property, take photographs of any evidence indicating that a cat has been harmed, killed, or threatened by poison. Document the contact details of anyone who has firsthand knowledge of the incident. Also, gather and preserve any emails, notes, voicemails, or other communications containing threats or admissions related to poisoning. Include these when filing your police report.

  4. Raise Awareness in Your Community: Distribute flyers within your neighborhood to raise awareness about local and state laws pertaining to animal cruelty and poisoning, as well as the potential penalties for such crimes. These flyers serve to alert the community, including the potential poisoner, that the cats are under vigilant watch and that poisoning is illegal. If a cat has been harmed or killed by poison, the flyer can also serve as a warning for others to be vigilant.

  5. Arrange for a Necropsy if Necessary: If a cat has been killed, consider having a necropsy (the equivalent of a human autopsy) performed. This procedure helps establish the exact cause of death and may assist in identifying the specific poison used, potentially aiding in the identification of the perpetrator. For more detailed information about what to do if a cat you care for has been harmed or killed, please refer to relevant guides or consult with a veterinary professional.

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