Feline Toxins and Poisons

Wellness Plan

With their keen sense of curiosity, as well as their dedication to cleanliness, cats can get into the spirit of spring cleaning just as much as humans. The problem is that their curiosity can also get them into trouble if they make contact with a toxic substance. In 2012, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) answered more than 265,000 phone calls about pets exposed to poisonous substances.

Below is a list of common feline toxins:

  • Human or Veterinary Drugs
    Some of the most common drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are some of the most deadly to cats. One tablet can be fatal to a cat. Cats seem to like the taste of certain antidepressants, which may contain an alluring smell or flavor in the coating. Due to their altered liver metabolism, cats have difficulty metabolizing certain drugs. Keep all medications and prescriptions in a secure location. With any accidental medication ingestion, seeking immediate veterinary care is imperative.
  • Permethrin Poisoning
    The topical application to cats of flea control products marketed for dogs containing permethrins constitutes a major portion of feline toxicities reported to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. These incidents generally occur as either deliberate application of the product to a cat by an owner unaware of the dangers, or by the indirect exposure of cats to those products via such things as grooming of dogs on whom these products have recently been applied.
  • Poisonous Plants
    While it might brighten your home to bring some flowers inside during the warmer months, you might consider opting for the fake kind or make sure you research which flowers can be toxic to cats. Lilies, for example, can be most deadly to cats, as ingestion can cause severe, acute kidney failure. Small ingestions of two or three petals – even the pollen and the water in the vase – can result in potentially irreversible kidney failure. Seeking immediate veterinary care is imperative. Keep in mind that there are other plants toxic to cats. Check out this comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants as provided by the ASPCA.
  • Insecticides, Chemicals, and Pesticides
    Especially dangerous during the warmer months, exposure to insecticides can occur when a cat walks through an area recently treated with lawn and garden products, sprays, powders, or granules. Another occurrence of accidental exposure occurs when pet owners apply a canine topical flea and tick medication onto a cat or if a cat snuggles up close to a dog that has been recently treated. These medications are highly toxic to cats, and can cause severe drooling, tremors and life-threatening seizures. Always ask your veterinarian about appropriate use of topical flea medication for your cat.
  • Household Cleaners
    These include the most common household cleaners such as toilet bowl cleaners, laundry detergents, drain cleaners and carpet cleaners. Be sure to keep these products out of your cat’s reach and wipe away any excess. Consult a veterinarian immediately if you believe that your cat has been exposed.
  • Other Poisons
    While these are less obvious, other poisons such as glow sticks, jewelry, liquid potpourri, and antifreeze can be toxic to your cat. For instance, glow sticks and jewelry contain a bitter tasting liquid that can cause your cat to drool profusely. Cats are often exposed to potpourri oils by rubbing against leaky bottles or pots containing the oil, or from spilling the oil containing pots over themselves. Only a couple of licks or a small amount on the skin can be harmful, especially since cats are prolific self-groomers. Antifreeze poisoning usually occurs when pets lick antifreeze drops or spills off the ground. For a cat, as little as a teaspoon can prove fatal. In any of these cases, a trip to the veterinarian may be necessary.

Make spring a safe and enjoyable season for you and your pet by protecting them from these common feline toxins. Being proactive about your cat’s health, including scheduling regular veterinary visits, provides you and your cat the peace of mind to safely bask in the spring sunlight.

Additional Resources:

Contains a list of plants that are toxic and non-toxic to cats.

Pet Poison Helpline
A 24-hour animal poison control service. 


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