Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DAVCECC, DABT
Own a cat? Know how to “cat-proof” your house?
If you’re not sure if your house is appropriately pet-proof, read on!
Pet Poison Helpline, in 2012 listed the following for the most common feline poisons:
- Topical spot-on insecticides
- Household cleaners
- Poisonous plants
- Human and veterinary NSAIDS
While the majority of poisoning calls to Pet Poison Helpline involve dogs, almost 10% of the calls are from cat owners. Thanks to a cat’s curious nature, cats often are more likely to investigate new items and get themselves into trouble (After all, curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back!). Thankfully, cats are typically fastidious eaters – in other words, they don’t gorge and eat massive amounts of things the way dogs do. (After all, dogs do eat their own poop, unlike dignified cats!). That said, because cats have an altered ability to metabolize drugs or poisons through their liver, they are often more sensitive to certain products or chemicals as compared to dogs or humans.
So, the top poisons for cats?
1. Topical spot-on insecticides:
These are common flea and tick medications that you can find at your veterinary clinic or at the local pet store. These typically contain high concentrations of a chemical derived from the Chrysanthemum flower. While very safe in dogs, pyrethrins or pyrethroids are highly toxic to cats. Accidental poisoning in cats typically occurs when pet owners apply dog insecticides to their cats, or when cats lick the medications off dogs. Lesson to learn? Always read the fine print, and never apply a “small dog” flea and tick medication to a “big cat” without consulting your veterinarian first! If cats are exposed to these insecticides, it can result in severe tremors, seizures, hyperthermia, and death when untreated.
2. Household cleaners:
While most household cleaners such as surface cleaners are safe, some are much more dangerous to cats, including laundry detergent, drain cleaners, concentrated toilet bowl cleaners, rust removers, and lime-away products. If accidentally licked or ingested by a cat, it can cause severe profuse drooling, chemical burns to the mouth and esophagus, difficulty breathing, and vomiting. When in doubt, make sure to wipe up any excess liquid or residue, and keep your cat out of the room while you are cleaning!
Surprisingly, one of the top 5 feline toxins is a human antidepressant medication called Effexor. Other common antidepressants include brands such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Cymbalta – all which can be quite poisonous to cats. For some unusual reason, cats seem to be drawn to the smell or flavor of Effexor, making it appealing to them. While most cats are difficult to pill, they electively eat this one on their own! Unfortunately, it can be quite dangerous when ingested, and result in signs of lethargy, vomiting, tremors, seizures, hyperthermia, and diarrhea. When in doubt, keep all human medications out of reach of your cat.
4. Poisonous plants:
While cats are naturally carnivores, they seem to enjoy munching on greenery. If you own a cat, however, that means keeping houseplants out of reach. More importantly, it means keeping bouquets out of the house. Why? It’s because some cut flowers or plants can be deadly to cats. Of all plants, lilies – specifically ones like Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show (Lilium and Hemerocallis spp.) – are extremely toxic. These are commonly found in florist bouquets, as the flowers are fragrant, inexpensive and long-lasting. Very small ingestions of two or three petals or leaves – or even pollen licked off a cat’s coat – can result in severe, potentially irreversible acute kidney failure.
5. Human and veterinary NSAIDS:
When in doubt, never give a pain medication to your cat without consulting a veterinarian. Common, over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) include drugs such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen; while we use this commonly in humans, even ½ a pill can be potentially fatal to a cat. If ingested, NSAIDS can result in stomach ulcers and severe acute kidney failure.
When in doubt, when it comes to an accidental pet poisoning, it’s always safer and less expensive to seek treatment immediately. If you think your cat was poisoned, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) immediately for life-saving advice! Keep in mind that you can’t induce vomiting in cats at home safely, so most of the time, an emergency visit is a must!
Better yet, now that you’ve seen the top 5 poisons dangerous to cats, go cat-proof to keep our four-legged feline friends safe!
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.