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Answers from vets about your cat:

The Top 5 Cat Toxins

Posted December 18, 2014 in Cat Toxins & Poisons

Dr. Justine Lee discusses the top five household dangers for cats in 2012 as reported by the Pet Poison Helpline. For more from Dr. Lee, find her on Facebook!

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:

  1. Cat walking on shelfTopical spot-on insecticides
  2. Household cleaners
  3. Antidepressants
  4. Poisonous plants
  5. 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

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.