Signs to know if my cat has been poisoned

Sometimes we think that cats being so “exquisite” with food, they will be poisoned less easily than dogs.  However, due to their curious nature and the fact that they groom themselves frequently, poisoning is not that uncommon.

Other reasons that predispose cats to poisoning with poisonous substances would be: their small body size, their habit of hiding so that exposure is not immediately evident, being specialized carnivores and lacking certain liver enzymes to break down some chemicals. This is why when cats are poisoned, they are less likely to recover.

How can a cat be poisoned?

The cats can be poisoned in several ways:

  • Poisoning from grooming their contaminated fur.
  • By ingesting a toxic substance directly or by eating prey that has been poisoned.
  • Absorbing toxins through the skin (particularly the feet)
  • By inhalation of the poison.

Main signs that my cat may have been poisoned

The clinical signs are highly variable and will depend on the venom in question:

  • Gastrointestinal disorders such as vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Skin problems ( inflammation, swelling).
  • Neurological signs such as tremors, incoordination, seizures, ataxia.
  • Respiratory symptoms including coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath.
  • Kidney failure( increased water intake, loss of appetite and weight loss ).
  • Behavioral problems such as excitability,  depression, apathy, excess sleep .

It is important to remember that while most poisoning cases will cause acute problems, chronic poisoning can also arise and is often even more difficult to recognize and treat.

What do I do if I think my cat has been poisoned?

  • Separate your cat from the source of the poison and isolate it from other animals.
  • If the poison is in the hair or feet, try to stop the cat from grooming itself.
  • Avoid causing your cat to vomit, unless directed to do so by your vet.
  • If your skin or hair is contaminated, wash thoroughly with mild shampoo and water.
  • Contact your vet for information and to act quickly. Try to know when, where, and how the poisoning occurred.

Common products that can poison your cat

There are many substances in the home that are potentially poisonous to cats:

1. Household products

  • Cleaning and hygiene products suchas bleach, cleaning liquids and creams, deodorants, disinfectants, washing tablets, concentrated liquids, and metallic polishes. Bleach poisoning is common in cats  , because its smell attracts them.
  • Human medications suchas laxatives, aspirin , acetaminophen, ibuprofen,  and antidepressants. Acetaminophen is often given to cats to relieve pain. It is very dangerous for cats and just one pill is enough to cause serious illness or death.
  • Automotive productslike antifreeze, brake fluid, gasoline, and windshield washer fluid. Antifreeze often contains ethylene glycol or methanol , which are toxic to cats, ingesting a minimal amount can lead to kidney failure and death.
  • Beauty products like hair dyes, nail polish, nail polish remover, and bronzer.
  • Decorating supplies like paint, varnish, paint remover, white spirit, and wood preservatives (like creosote).
  • Household products suchas mothballs, chocolate and bitumen.

Always make sure these products are stored in a safe place and that spills are removed quickly and carefully.

To avoid accidental poisoning:

  • Always keep antifreeze in identified, closed containers away from pets and their surroundings.
  • Clean up any spills immediately, no matter how small, and prevent pets from accessing the area until it is clean and safe.
  • Recycle your antifreeze safely and responsibly.

The earlier veterinary treatment is received, the better your chances of survival.

2. Pesticides

  • Insecticides suchas organophosphates and pyrethroids.
  • Molluscicides suchas metaldehyde and methiocarb. Poison for snails and slugs .
  • Fungicides suchas benomyl methyl thiophanate. Poisoning from ingesting pipettes for cats.
  • Ratkillers (killers of rats and mice) such as brodifacoum, difenacoum, chlorphacione, and coumatetralyl. These are the most common pesticides in poisoning, when the cat eats poisoned prey.

3. Products for the treatment of dog fleas

The permethrin is found in many products for dogs used in controlling fleas, flies and lice.

Poisoning can happen when cats are accidentally treated with such flea products or when they groom themselves or other animals treated with the product.

4. Toxic plants

There are many indoor and garden plants that are toxic. Most of the cats that come out do not eat poisonous plants, but do nibble on grass and other herbs, perhaps as a remedy for digestive problems.

If cats are permanently indoors, they may not have access to grass and may try to eat other things out of boredom or to try to access some plant material.


Inquisitive kitties can also taste the foliage, and because they are small they don’t need much to suffer the consequences. The solution is to provide a supply of grass for the cat, which can be easily grown in a pot or seed tray.

Cat grass is not a specific kind of grass, but a mixture of various plants similar to grass and which are indicated as a food supplement for cats. Therefore, most of the time the umbrella , the tape or the sowing cereals are used .

Some toxic houseplants are: Azalea, Cyclamen, Holly. Clivia, Caladium, Croton, Poinsettia etc.

It’s not just growing plants that can be a problem – cut flowers like lilies are highly toxic – not just the leaves but also the flowers and pollen. Less than one leaf ingested by a cat can cause kidney failure and urgent veterinary treatment is required to prevent death. 

Check flower labels for animal toxicity warnings.




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