during the week of March 15–21, 2015, we celebrate National Poison Prevention Week. there are several poisons that can be fatal to cats without immediate treatment. read on to know what cat poisons to keep out of reach of your cats!
as an emergency critical care specialist and toxicologist, here are the top poisons I see cats getting into:
1. insecticides (e.g., flea and tick medication, insecticidal sprays or shampoos)
2. household cleaners
3. household plants (e.g., certain types of lilies and philodendrons)
4. human and Pet Prescriptions
5. lilies (e.g., Easter, Asiatic, tiger)
6. mouse and rat poisons
7. liquid potpourri
8. glow jewelry
certain types of chemicals are used to kill ants, fleas and roaches around the house, yard and garden. these often include a class of drugs called pyrethrins or pyrethroids. these chemicals are derived from the Chrysanthemum flower. while very safe in dogs, pyrethrins or pyrethroids are highly toxic to cats in high concentrations. the No. 1 cause of accidental poisoning? when cat owners put topical flea and tick medication designed for dogs onto their cats. if cats are exposed to these high-concentration insecticides, it can result in severe tremors, seizures, hyperthermia and death when untreated. if you think your cat was exposed, bathe the product off immediately with a mild, gentle liquid dish soap (e.g., Dawn, Joy, etc.), and get your cat to a veterinarian immediately for lifesaving care.
cats often surf countertops in the kitchen and bathroom, and as a result, they can accidentally be exposed to household cleaners. while most household cleaners (such as surface cleaners) are safe, some are dangerous to cats. these dangerous cleaners include corrosive products such as drain cleaners, laundry detergent, concentrated toilet bowl cleaners, lime-away products and rust removers. if your cat accidentally licks these chemicals, they will cause severe burns in the mouth and esophagus, resulting in profuse drooling, difficulty breathing and vomiting. make sure to wipe up any excess liquid or residue, and keep your cats out of the room while you are cleaning!
insoluble oxalate plants (e.g., Philodendron, Dieffenbachia) one of the most common houseplants is the hard-to-kill Philodendron. these plants contain insoluble oxalate crystals that can cause oral pain, swelling, drooling and vomiting when cats bite into them. if your cat does get into these, offer a small amount of milk or yogurt to flush these crystals out of the mouth. try to keep all household plants, cut flowers or bouquets out of reach.
lilies (e.g., Easter, Asiatic, tiger) while the majority of household plants aren’t that poisonous to cats, a few can be deadly. 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. ingesting just two or three petals or leaves — or even pollen licked off a cat’s coat or the water ingested from the vase — can result in severe, potentially irreversible acute kidney failure.
medications and prescriptions
Human prescription amphetamines (e.g., ADD/ADHD drugs) amphetamines are commonly used for attention-deficit disorder (ADD) in humans. when even a small amount is ingested by a cat, it can result in agitation, high blood pressure, a racing heart rate, tremors and even seizures.
human and veterinary pain medications (e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen) common, over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications include drugs such as aspirin, naproxen (e.g., Aleve), ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Midol) and acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol). while humans commonly use these medications, even half a pill can be potentially fatal to a cat. if ingested by a cat, some of these pain medications can result in stomach ulcers and severe acute kidney failure. acetaminophen can result in abnormal red blood cells in cats, causing difficulty breathing, panting, blue gums and, rarely, liver failure. never give any OTC medication or prescription pain medication to your cat without consulting a veterinarian.
human prescription antidepressants (e.g., Effexor, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Prozac) as with amphetamines, there is a unique smell that makes cats curious about chewing on dangerous prescription antidepressants such as Effexor, Prozac, Zoloft and Cymbalta. when ingested by a cat, antidepressants can result in severe poisoning, and cause signs of sedation, lethargy, vomiting, tremors, seizures, hyperthermia and diarrhea.
mouse and rat poisons (e.g., rodenticides)
if you own a cat, you shouldn’t use any poisons around the house, yard or garden. there are several types of mouse and rat poisons that can cause internal bleeding, acute kidney failure, cerebral edema or even severe gastrointestinal signs. thankfully, eating dead mice killed by these poisons typically doesn’t result in poisoning. that said, best to keep these poisons completely out of reach for all creatures.
while liquid potpourri and other chemicals aren’t necessarily poisonous to dogs, they can be very toxic to cats and result in corrosive burns to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract. rarely, liquid potpourri can result in thermal burns, corrosive burns, difficulty breathing and liver failure in cats.
certain types of glow costume jewelry often used during holidays intrigue some cats. the chemical dibutyl phthalate can result in profuse drooling and vomiting in cats. if dibutyl phthalate is consumed, flush out your cat’s mouth with something tasty like canned tuna water, chicken broth or milk. and then turn off the lights to make sure your cat’s fur isn’t glowing from the jewelry — if so, make sure to bathe it off with a mild degreasing liquid dish soap (e.g., Dawn, Joy, etc.).
lastly, remember that with any poisoning, the sooner you identify the poison and seek veterinary attention, the better the prognosis, the less dangerous to your cat, and the less expensive for you! when in doubt, contact your veterinarian, emergency veterinarian or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for lifesaving feline care. and more importantly, keep these poisons out of reach of your cats!