What to do if you think your cat has been poisoned:
- Stay calm. Remove your cat(s) from the source of poison.
- Contact your vet for advice immediately; inform them when, where and how the poisoning occurred. If appropriate, carefully take the packaging, plant or substance with you to the vet. Be careful not to expose yourself to any harm.
- Follow your vet’s advice. If you are advised to take your cat(s) to the vet, do so quickly and calmly.
Never attempt to treat or medicate your cat(s) yourself. Some medicines for humans and other animals may be poisonous to your cat.
Never attempt to make your cat vomit. Do not use salt water as this is extremely dangerous.
If the skin or fur is contaminated, wash thoroughly with mild shampoo and water, rinse well and dry.
Keep your cat(s) away from any other animals to avoid cross contamination.
Never ‘watch and wait’ in any case of suspected poisoning. If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, act fast and contact a vet for advice immediately.
Preventing poisoning in cats:
Under the Animal Welfare Act all pet owners have a legal duty to provide for their pets’ needs, including the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease. Preventing your cat from coming into contact with poisonous substances and treating any accidental poisonings quickly and appropriately is an important part of responsible pet ownership.
In the home:
- Keep houseplants in containers placed where your cat(s) cannot reach them. Collect up any dropped leaves or petals.
- Keep pesticides, such as rat baits, away from the areas your cat(s) have access to.
- If treating your pets with insecticides at home, remember to separate them from other pets to avoid cross-contamination.
- Watch your cat(s) closely when they are running free indoors.
- Ensure areas your cat has access to are free from, and not overhung by, poisonous plants.
- Ensure your cat’s/cats’ water supply cannot become contaminated, and change it regularly.
Common cat poisons:
The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) is a specialist 24-hour emergency service which provides information and advice to veterinary professionals and animal welfare organisations on the treatment of animals exposed to toxic substances.
Some of the most common, potentially severe cat poisons reported to the VPIS are:
- Lilies (Lilium spp)
- Ethylene glycol – which is the active ingredient in Antifreeze
- Spot-on flea treatments for dogs – many contain an ingredient called Permethrin which is poisonous to cats
- Metaldehyde, a common active ingredient of slug and snail baits or pellets
- Decorating materials – items such as paints, varnishes, preservatives and paint and glass cleaners can contain petroleum distillates that can be harmful to cats
For more information about what substances are harmful to your cat speak to your vet.
More information about common poisons and cats is available on International Cat Care's website (formerly the Feline Advisory Bureau).
Read more about the dangers of Antifreeze poisoning.
Rock salt (used to grit roads) can be toxic to cats. Find out more in our factsheet:
Rock salt poisoning in pets (pdf 101KB).
Acknowledgement for this information is made to The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS). The VPIS is not a public access service. However some helpful information for pet owners is available on their website.