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Top Household Poisons Affecting Cats

By: Alex Lieber

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As something to drink, carpet shampoo holds no appeal for most people. For you, the product's value is simply the way it cleans the mess your cat occasionally makes when she knocks something over.

However, your cat may have the philosophy of "nothing ventured, nothing gained" – and poison herself tasting the liquid.

Household cleaning solutions are one of the five most common causes of pet poisoning in the home, according to the Animal Poison Hotline. The APH is a 24-hour hotline available year round to pet owners and pet caregivers who are concerned about their pet's well being after ingesting an unknown or toxic substance.

Cats are famous for their frisky and inquisitive nature, which often leads them to consume harmful items. Unfortunately, the average household contains many potentially dangerous substances that your dog can get into.

Many hazards are seasonal, explains Dr. Lynn Hovda, RPh, DVM, DACVIM. For instance, antifreeze toxicities often rise during winter because people change their antifreeze mixture. Cats are sometimes attracted to the smell and taste of antifreeze, which is deadly. During spring and summer, cats are at higher risk to consume commonly used lawn care products such as fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides, not to mention poisonous plants.

To educate people on the most common toxic substances cats consume, APH has compiled the top five, ranking from the greatest number of exposures to the least number of exposures. They are:

  • Plants. Pets are infamous for eating plants, and suffering the consequences. Ingestion of all parts of the Easter lily, for instance, causes depression, vomiting and diarrhea, and can lead to kidney failure.
  • Pesticides. Hovda explains that most of these pesticides (and fertilizers) are not harmful when applied according to directions or by a qualified lawn care service. Pets are primarily poisoned by contact with concentrated products. This can occur if the product is not stored properly or if too much is used on the lawn. Insecticides are particularly dangerous because they have a higher degree of toxicity.

  • Household products and cleaners. Household products and cleaners vary quite a bit in chemical makeup and toxicity. Soaps, detergents, shampoos, alcohols, petroleum distillates and acids are some common ingredients. They can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea or chemical burns, leading to organ damage.

  • Prescription drugs. The container may be child-proof, but your cat may succeed in getting to the pills inside. All drugs should be placed out of reach of pets and children.

  • Over-the-counter medication. The same risks apply with OTC drugs. It is also important to remember that certain OTC drugs won't have the same effect on pets. (Aspirin, for instance, can be dangerous.)

    If you suspect a poisoning, call your veterinarian or clinic immediately with the following information ready:

  • Name of the poison
  • How much was absorbed, ingested or inhaled
  • How long ago you believe the poisoning occurred
  • Weight of your pet
  • Signs of poisoning: vomiting, tremors, excessive salivation, color of gums, heart and breathing rates and, if practical, body temperature.

    To learn more about poisoning and what to do, see the story Poisoning – General Information.

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