How To Tell If Your Cat Ate Something Poisonous

And what to do 🤕

sick cat laying down

Cats are really good at hiding how they’re feeling, especially when they’re sick.

So it’s super important to know what signs to look out for if your cat ever eats something he shouldn’t.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Erica Irish, a veterinarian and member of the board of advisors for BetterPet, to find out how to know if your cat eats something poisonous and what to do if he does.

Signs of poisoning in cats


Symptoms of poisoning can vary depending on what your cat ate.

“It depends on the type of poison,” Dr. Irish told The Dodo. “Some poisonous plants may cause gastrointestinal signs, like vomiting or diarrhea, if ingested, or they can cause tongue lesions and excessive drooling if just irritating to chew upon. Certain topical flea products made for dogs, when applied to cats, can cause neurologic signs, like tremors and seizures. If rat poison is ingested, it can cause bruising, bloody vomit and internal bleeding.”

While your cat can show different symptoms depending on the type of toxin he ate or was exposed to, here are some general signs of poisoning you can watch out for:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Drooling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Depression
  • Increased thirst
  • Pale gums
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Jaundice
  • Mouth or skin irritation

It’s important to note that if your cat does eat something bad, symptoms can show up anywhere from immediately to several days later, so you should keep a very close eye on him and seek veterinary help as early as possible (and if you know he ate something bad, don’t wait until he develops symptoms to get medical help).

“Symptoms for some poisonings can occur right away (minutes or hours) or within 48 to 72 hours,” Dr. Irish said. “Rat poison can be absorbed very quickly, showing signs within hours, while overdosing on anti-inflammatories may take two to three days to start showing symptoms.”

Things that are poisonous to cats


There are a lot of everyday products and foods that you might not realize are harmful to cats.

“Cats should not eat chocolate, caffeine, xylitol (the sugar-free agent in gum), macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, chives, grapes and raisins,” Dr. Irish said.

Some other foods that are poisonous to cats include alcohol, raw or undercooked eggs, meat or fish, and yeast dough.

A lot of common household products are toxic to cats, too.

“This list can be quite long, and it is forever changing!” Dr. Irish said. “Ideally, you’d want to keep your kitties away from any cleaners you use, especially liquid bleach and powdered drain cleaners. Essential oils can be very irritating to cats’ airways, and salt lamps are poisonous if licked.”

Dangerous household products include bleach, prescription medications, pain medications, rat poison, essential oils, soap, air fresheners and dog medication (such as flea treatment). Many of these products are harmful to people if ingested also, so they’re a little easier to remember to keep away from your cat.

And finally, there are a number of plants and flowers that are poisonous to cats as well.

Lilies and daylilies are some of the most toxic flowers to cats — even pollen from these flowers can lead to acute kidney failure. Some other poisonous flowers include daisies, mums, tulips, azaleas and daffodils.

Some poisonous houseplants include aloe, jade, snake plants, sago palm, kalanchoe and English ivy.

What to do if your cat is poisoned


Because symptoms can take some time to show up for certain toxic substances, it’s important to take your cat to the vet immediately if you think he ate something poisonous.

“You should call your local vet, emergency vet or one of the poison hotlines made for pets,” Dr. Irish said. “This includes the ASPCA and the Pet Poison Helpline.”

Try to bring as much information with you to the vet as you can to make diagnosing and treating your cat as quick and easy as possible.

“You can tell them your cat’s name, age and body weight,” Dr. Irish said. “You should also inform them of any preexisting conditions, like heart disease or kidney disease. If you have the plant or product that was ingested, bring this with you so the vet can read the label. It also helps to know how long ago the ingestion occurred and how much was ingested.”

If your cat eats something toxic at night after your vet’s office closes, don’t worry — your vet will likely have an after-hours service to direct you to an emergency hospital, Dr. Irish said. Or you can call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Long story short, bring your cat to the vet immediately if he’s acting weird, and if you know he ate something toxic, don’t wait until he shows symptoms to take him to the vet.

“If your cat is suddenly acting strange or ill, contact your local vet or ER right away!” Dr. Irish said.

Cat poisoning treatment


How your vet treats your cat will depend on a few factors, including what type of poisonous substance your cat ate, how much he ate, how long ago he ate it and if he has any other conditions or illnesses (which is why it’s important for you to try to provide as much information to the vet as you can).

Possible treatments for poisoning include:

  • IV fluids to flush the toxin from the body
  • Anti-seizure medication
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Induced vomiting
  • Activated charcoal to prevent absorption of the toxin
  • Ethanol (for antifreeze poisoning)

And the best way to treat cat poisoning is to prevent it!

“Keep plants out of reach or outdoors,” Dr. Irish said. “Avoid using essential oils in your home. Keep medications and household cleaners tucked away in drawers or cabinets. Do not leave certain foods out on the counter where your kitty can reach them.”

It can be scary if your cat gets sick from eating something he shouldn’t, but if you’re aware of the symptoms of cat poisoning and take your cat to the vet immediately if he does get sick, your cat will most likely be just fine.