Identifying Common Cat Poisons: Signs and Remedies

Image Credit:Brian Howell

There are several household items that are harmful to cats but are not common feline poisons. This is due to the fact that cats either do not have regular interaction with the substance or will otherwise avoid it. Common poisons in cats are those that are both harmful to cats and to which cats may have increased access in the home. AnimalWised discusses five of the most prevalent cat poisons, as well as their symptoms and treatment.

Poisoning with permethrin

Permethrin is an insecticide that belongs to the pyrethrin family of chemical compounds. It is often used in canine deworming as a sort of flea and tick treatment in the form of a pipette. It is also used as an antiparasitic agent in medicated sprays and shampoos. Some permethrin-containing products may also contain additional active components and are utilized in the home, garden, and agriculture.

These chemicals are beneficial due to their high topical adsorption. This means they can be applied to the animal’s skin and evenly distributed to protect it from parasites. It’s also beneficial because it’s non-toxic to most animals, with cats being an exception. Permethrin, however, is particularly harmful to cats.

Permethrin is hazardous because cats lack the ability to metabolize some medicines. This is due to the fact that they are digested in the microsomal system of our cats’ livers, followed by oxidation and conjugation with glucuronic acid. The problem is that cats lack the enzyme glucuronidase transferase, which conjugates the chemical with glucuronic acid. These chemicals’ detoxification is slowed, which increases their toxicity.

Permethrin poisoning in cats is most common when a cat shares a home with a dog that has been dewormed with this product. Cats will groom their entire family, including dogs. This implies they can consume it by licking the chemical off the dog’s fur. 

Permethrin toxicity in cats manifests as follows:

Cats with permethrin toxicity may experience tremors, coordination seizures, fasciculations, dyspnea, itching, diarrhea, vomiting, and poisoning. Treatment varies depending on the route, with oral administration, emetics, and activated charcoal as adsorbents.

Permethrin cutaneous poisoning in cats requires bathing with a mild detergent or keratolytic shampoo to prevent absorption. Management of intoxication symptoms involves fluid treatment, oxygen delivery, diuretics, muscle relaxants, and anticonvulsants. Isoflurane inhalation anesthesia is recommended for anxious cats. Deworming medication is necessary for protection against external parasites.

Rodenticides are poisons used to kill small mammals, including mice, squirrels, and voles. Popular forms include anticoagulants like bromare. These poisons are not species-specific, meaning they can kill other creatures that consume them, even if not considered pests. Cats can be poisoned by consuming the poison directly or ingesting rodents that have already consumed it.

Cat rodenticide poisoning treatment

Treatment will be determined by the circumstances of the poisoning:

If the intoxication happened within the last 3 hours, emetics, stomach lavage, and activated carbon are frequently required.

Oxygen therapy is needed for respiratory distress or severe anemia, diazepam for convulsions, thoracentesis for hemothorax, blood transfusion, vitamin B complex supplements, and subcutaneous vitamin K therapy for bromadiolone poisoning.

Poisoning from NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) are a type of painkiller that reduces both pain and inflammation. Not all NSAIDs are OK for cats. Ibuprofen is a common anti-inflammatory medication. It helps to reduce inflammation by blocking the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes by the enzymes COX (cyclooxygenases) and LOX (lipoxygenases).


Image Credit:kumi Matsukawa

This chemical inhibitor serves to lower fever, regulate pain, and combat inflammatory processes. As potent medications, they can also harm the gastrointestinal mucosa and the kidneys. This is not the primary issue with cats. The problem with cats is that they are metabolized by conjugation with hepatic glucuronic acid, which is mediated by an enzyme that cats lack, specifically

As a result, the medications linger in the cat’s body for a longer period of time, increasing their toxicity. The higher the dose, the more dangerous the substance. Unfortunately, it only takes a small amount to be lethal in cats.

Among the signs of this intoxication are the following:




Pain in the abdomen

gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers

Damage to the kidneys and liver




NSAID toxicity in cats: treatment

If you have unintentionally or unknowingly given your cat an NSAID such as ibuprofen, you should seek immediate medical attention. They can induce vomiting with emetics such as xylazine and perform gastric lavage with activated charcoal if less than two hours have passed.

N-acetylcysteine is another popular supplement for glutathione production. This will aid in the inactivation of the unconjugated medication and the function of the liver. The dose is 70 mg/kg, administered orally four times per day. Oxygen therapy may be required in animals suffering from hypoxia and respiratory distress. Sucralfate can preserve the gastrointestinal mucosa, and fluid treatment can help prevent dehydration.

Although NSAIDs used in human medicine, such as ibuprofen, are toxic to cats, there are NSAIDs approved for veterinary usage. Learn more about one of them in our post on carprofen for cats.


Image Credit:Bigbird3

Cats can become poisoned by contaminated or spoiled food, leading to endotoxins released by bacteria. Botulism and salmonella are two common types of serious food poisoning in cats, causing alterations in intestinal permeability, motility, and the nervous system. Clinical signs of spoiled food poisoning include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dyspnea, spasms, incoordination, hypermetria, seizures, endotoxic shock, and death. To treat this poisoning, nervous symptoms like seizures must be controlled with anticonvulsants like diazepam. In endotoxic shock, gastric lavage with activated charcoal every 2-4 hours and digestive symptoms treated with antibiotics are required. Common toxic plants for cats include lilies, oleanders, dumb cane, azalea, hydrangea, ivy, croton, daffodil, aloe vera, and poinsettia. To treat plant poisoning in cats, go to a veterinary center and inform them of the plant they ingested. Veterinarians should induce vomiting and gastric lavage, treat symptoms, and stabilize the cat with fluid therapy and oxygen therapy. Although gastrointestinal problems are common symptoms of cat poisoning, these issues are not exclusively caused by poisoning.