How to recognise cat poisoning symptoms and what to do
There are a number of everyday household items that can be poisonous to cats, so as they are inquisitive animals it's important to keep them out of their reach. This visual guide lists some common cat poisons, explains what the symptoms of poisoning are and what to do.
Most importantly, if you suspect your cat has ingested poison, take them to a vet immediately.
Common cat poisons
Spot On dog flea treatments: Never use a dog treatment on a cat. Some dog flea treatments contain concentrated permethrin insecticide, which is highly toxic to cats. Cats can even be poisoned simply through contact with any dogs that have been recently treated with flea spot on products containing concentrated permethrin, so read labels and take care.
Human medicines: Common painkillers such as ibuprofen, aspirin and paracetamol can be deadly – just one paracetamol tablet can be enough to cause severe illness or even death.
Antifreeze: Antifreeze is lethal to cats – ingestion of just a small amount can lead to kidney failure and death.
Household chemicals: Disinfectants (particularly those containing phenol, which usually go cloudy when added to water) and decorating agents like white spirit are toxic to cats. Pest control such as slug pellets, insecticides, weed killers and rodent bait are also very dangerous.
Lilies: A number of plants can be toxic to cats, but the lily, in particular, can be lethal. Cats have been poisoned by simply brushing against toxic plants and then licking the pollen from their fur, so avoid them altogether. You can see a full list of plants that are dangerous to cats by reading our guide to toxic flowers and plants.
Human foods: Certain human foods including onions, raisins, coffee and chocolate can poison your cat. It’s also worth noting that although it’s not poisonous, a common food intolerance in cats is to lactose in milk.
Cat poisoning symptoms
The symptoms of poisoning can vary, but the most common signs are:
- Appearing ‘drunk’/uncoordinated
- Difficulty breathing
What to do if you think your cat has been poisoned
- Do not panic
- Seek veterinary advice immediately – even if your cat appears well, as delaying for just a few minutes may endanger their life
- Do not try to make your cat vomit or feed them salt water, without veterinary advice
- Take any samples or packaging of the suspected poison with you to show the vet
- Keep other pets away from the toxic source
Prevention is better than a visit to the vets so keep poisonous substances out of cats’ reach as anything that gets on your cat’s feet or fur is likely to be ingested when they are grooming. Potentially toxic items should ideally be stored in a sealed container or closed cupboard or shed.
This list and advice is not exhaustive. For further advice please consult your vet, and to read our guide to keeping your cat safe.