What are the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in cats?

Tabby kitten looking up © Leigh Hyland RSPCA Australia

Even the smallest amount of antifreeze can cause kidney failure and death when ingested by cats. Accidents from accidental spillages can be avoided by storing bottles safely, cleaning up spillages instantly and disposing of antifreeze products responsibly. Signs of antifreeze poisoning in cats include vomiting, a sleepy or depressed demeanour, a drunk-like and uncoordinated state, as well as seizures and difficulty breathing. Signs can begin to show after 30 minutes post-ingestion, with kidney failure indicators showing after two or three days. We advise that you contact your vet immediately if you suspect poisoning.

Most people are unaware of the danger to pets from antifreeze poisoning.

Ingesting the smallest amount can cause kidney failure and death, especially in cats.

We and International Cat Care (formerly Feline Advisory Bureau) want to remind people to take care.

Keep pets safe

Accidental poisonings from spills/leaks, as well as leaking water coolant from cars happen every year, leading to pet death. Regularly check your car to ensure it isn't leaking water coolant. Take care storing, using and disposing of antifreeze and water coolant. Most accidental deaths are avoidable. 

  • Always keep antifreeze in clearly labelled, robust, sealed containers, away from pets and their environment.
  • Clean up spills immediately, no matter how small. Ensure pets cannot access the area until it's clean and safe.
  • Always dispose of antifreeze and water coolant safely and responsibly. Contact your local authority for advice; see www.direct.gov.uk and 'search for your local council in England' on the home page. 

If you suspect antifreeze poisoning

If you suspect your pet's come into contact with antifreeze, leaked water coolant or if showing any of these symptoms get them to a vet immediately:

  • Vomiting
  • Seeming depressed/sleepy
  • Appearing drunk and uncoordinated
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Difficulty breathing

Signs of antifreeze poisoning can show 30 minutes after ingestion. It can be two/three days before signs of kidney failure are seen.

The sooner your pet receives veterinary treatment, the better their chances of survival.

If left untreated, antifreeze poisoning can cause pain, suffering and distress and ultimately death.

Recent antifreeze poisonings of cats

The RSPCA and International Cat Care are deeply concerned and saddened about antifreeze poisonings in cats across Britain.

Poisoning cats can constitute a criminal offence; under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 the maximum penalty for anyone found guilty is up to 6 months imprisonment and/or a £20,000 fine. 

Rock salt advice

Rock salt (used to grit roads in winter) can be toxic to animals, see: Rock salt poisoning in pets (pdf 101KB).

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