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Cat poison prevention

Poisoning in cats is common, especially as there are many popular household items that are toxic to your pet. All cat owners must be aware of the common poisons so that you can try to keep your cat's environment safe and recognise any signs of illness.

Common poisons

These are the most common poisons that we see affecting cats. However, if you are concerned about any other poisons, then contact our veterinary team for more information.


Ethylene glycol, found in many antifreeze and car de-icer products, is highly toxic to cats and other animals. Unfortunately, cats seem to be attracted to its sweet taste and even ingestion of a small amount can be fatal.

Signs of ethylene glycol poisoning:

  • Vomiting

  • Unable to stand

  • Seizures

  • Respiratory distress

Later, signs of kidney failure may develop - such as increased thirst, altered urination, bad breath, lethargy, vomiting and weakness.

Ethylene glycol ingestion is often fatal, but immediate veterinary treatment can improve your cat’s chances of survival. If you suspect your cat has come into contact with ethylene glycol then contact our veterinary team immediately for advice. Treatment before the kidneys are affected is most likely to be successful.


Metaldehyde is found in some types of slug pellets and is very poisonous to cats if eaten.

Clinical signs occur quickly after ingestion:

  • Tremors and twitching

  • Seizures

  • Increased body temperature

  • Respiratory distress

Unfortunately, this type of poisoning is often fatal, but the quicker veterinary treatment is started the better your cat’s chances of recovery.



Lilies are highly toxic to cats, as all parts of the plant and flower can cause harm. Even pollen falling on your cat's coat can cause illness if your cat ingests it while grooming.

Clinical signs include:

  • Vomiting

  • Increased drinking

  • Increased urination

  • Lethargy (quiet in self)

If you think your cat has had contact with lilies, phone us immediately. Without rapid veterinary treatment, this type of poisoning can cause irreversible kidney damage.

Other plants

Many common household plants are irritants if cats eat them and while they are not usually fatal, ingestion can make your cat unwell. To keep your cat safe, try choosing cat-friendly plants for your house and garden.

Cleaning products and fabric detergents

Cleaning products, such as bleach, certain disinfectants, and fabric detergents, can be irritant to your cat if they ingest any or come into contact with the product when grooming.

Clinical signs include:

  • Vomiting

  • Increased salivation

  • Diarrhoea

  • Gastrointestinal discomfort

  • Ulceration of the mouth

  • Skin burns

With supportive treatment from our vets, the majority of cats will go on to fully recover.


Unlike dogs, most cats do not routinely eat human food. However, there are a few foods that can cause them to be unwell that you should keep out of their reach.

  • Chocolate – Theobromine found in chocolate is poisonous to cats, as well as dogs, so be aware that chocolate should be kept away from your cat.

  • Alcohol – Drinks and foods containing alcohol should be kept away from your cat, as even a small amount of alcohol can make them unwell.

  • Caffeine – Any products containing caffeine can cause your cat to suffer from heart palpitations and experience unpleasant or dangerous muscle twitching.

  • Onions – Ingestion of onion or garlic products over a long-time can result in the development of anaemia.



Paracetamol should never be given to your cat because they are unable to break down paracetamol in the same way that we can. This means even a tiny amount is highly toxic.

Clinical signs include:

  • Vomiting

  • Swelling of the face and feet

  • Brown mucous membranes

  • Respiratory distress

Without rapid veterinary treatment, paracetamol poisoning can be fatal, so contact our team for advice if you think your cat has eaten any paracetamol.

Human medications

All human medications should be kept out of reach of your cat. Our medications are usually not suitable for cats and they can suffer serious effects from overdosing, even if the active ingredient isn’t directly toxic to felines (which many are). If your cat does ingest any human medications, contact us immediately with information about the drug and the amount taken. Our vets can advise whether further treatment is needed.

Pet medications containing permethrin

Some dog flea treatments, including, spot-ons, shampoos, and medicated collars can contain permethrin, which is highly toxic to cats. Permethrin can also be found in some insecticide powders and sprays that are used to treat your house. Commonly, cats come into contact with permethrin as a result of owners using a dog flea product on their cat or a cat having contact with a recently treated dog.

Clinical signs include:

  • Vomiting

  • Increased salivation

  • Staggering and wobbliness

  • Increased body temperature

  • Tremors

  • Seizures

  • Respiratory distress

If you suspect that your cat has come into contact with permethrin, you should contact us immediately. Permethrin poisoning can be fatal without early veterinary treatment.

What to do if you suspect your cat has been poisoned

If you think that your cat has come into contact with something poisonous then there are several steps you should follow.

  1. Remove your cat from the source of the poison.

  2. If the poisonous product is on your cat’s coat, try to stop them licking their coat. You could use a buster collar.

  3. Phone us immediately, so one of our vets can give you advice and arrange for your cat to be seen if necessary.

  4. Our vets might advise you to follow some first aid steps before bringing your cat in to see us e.g. washing your cat’s coat to remove any poison. This is to try and reduce any further ingestion of the toxin and does not replace veterinary care.

  5. If you can, bring the poison and any packaging with you to help our vets treat your cat.

If your cat has been poisoned you must contact us as soon as possible. The earlier your cat can be given veterinary treatment the better their chance of survival.

How to prevent your cat from being poisoned

It can be impossible to completely control what items your cat has access to if they go outside. However, you can keep your home environment cat friendly by being aware of the common cat poisons.

How to make your house safe for your cat:

  • Ensure no poisonous flowers or plants are kept in your house or garden.

  • Avoid using any cleaning products that could harm your cat.

  • Avoid using or keeping metaldehyde slugs pellets around your home or garden.

  • Try to use car products that are free from ethylene glycol.

  • Make sure that all flea medications are suitable for cats to use.

  • Keep all human medications safely out of reach of your cat.

  • If you have a canine companion as well as a feline friend, speak to your dog’s vet to ensure your dog is given flea treatment that is safe to be used around cats.

When a cat is poisoned, they need to receive emergency veterinary care to give them the best chance of recovery. So, if you suspect your cat has had contact with something that could make them ill, then contact our veterinary team asap for further advice.


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