Poisoning in cats

Spring is a good time to think about protecting your pet from the hazards of poisoning within the house. Depending on the toxin to which your cat has been exposed, she may show a range of unusual symptoms and behaviours. If you suspect that your cat may have been poisoned, don’t hesitate to contact your local Healthy Pet Club practice as soon as possible. Our vets are always available for advice and to deal with emergencies.

Why cats are at risk

Cats are at risk of poisoning within the house for a number of reasons:

  • Their curiosity causes them to explore unusual items
  • They spend a lot of time grooming, so they are likely to lick off anything that gets on their fur
  • Compared with some other species, their livers are less well equipped to handle and detoxify certain drugs and chemicals.

Toxic household items

Most houses contain a number of items that can be toxic to cats. The ones that affect cats most commonly are:

  • Human or veterinary drugs
  • Plants
  • Insecticides
  • Household cleaners.

Possible signs of poisoning

The signs of poisoning depend on the substance your cat has come into contact with. Some of the most common signs are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased drinking or urination
  • Increased drinking or urination
  • Bad breath
  • Jaundice
  • Red or inflamed skin
  • Swellings
  • Drooling
  • Temors
  • Incoordination
  • Seizures
  • Excitabilty
  • Coma
  • Hiding
  • Weight loss.


What to do if you suspect poisoning

The most important and urgent thing to do if you suspect your cat may have been poisoned is to contact a vet. If you cat is anxious or aggressive, or if you think it may have some of the poisonous substance on its coat, wrap it in a towel to prevent injury, and to prevent it from licking more of the substance off its fur. It is also important to take the contaminating substance with you to the vet, so that they can see what your cat has got into. This may be a bottle of household cleaning fluid, a plant (e.g. a lily), an insecticide meant for dogs (e.g. a pyrethrin-based anti-tick treatment), or a human or veterinary medicine (e.g. paracetamol).

Other hazards

Remember, too, that some human foods and drinks can be bad for cats. This includes alcohol, chocolate, coffee, tea, energy drinks and, in some cats, dairy products such as milk.

Keeping your cat safe

The checklist below will help you to keep your cat safe from potential poisons within the home:

  • Make sure that you shut away any substance that could cause problems
  • Wipe up any excess household cleaners after cleaning
  • Don’t give your cat a medicine meant for a dog
  • Don’t allow cats to lick dogs that have just been treated for ticks or fleas
  • Keep cats away from lilies.