The third week of March is Poison Awareness Prevention Week. Started by John F. Kennedy in 1961, the goal is to raise awareness of the risk of poisoning from household products.
While not necessarily a cat-specific week, it is nonetheless an important date for pet owners. Every week, the APSCA and Pet Poisons Hotline receive hundreds of calls about poisoning in pets. The most common cat poisons vary between the ASPCA and the Pet Poisons Hotline, but both share similar products, highlighted in the image below (feel free to share and raise awareness).
Cats are not small people and are not as efficient at metabolising substances as humans. Common medications which are safe for humans are extremely toxic to cats, even in low doses. On top of that, they are diligent cleaners, and anything that their coat comes into contact with is ingested when the cat grooms.
Toxins can affect any body system, including the kidneys, heart, liver, and brain. Most toxins are life-threatening and will require immediate and aggressive therapy to save the cat. Unless instructed by a veterinarian, do not attempt to treat a cat who has ingested poison at home.
How does poisoning occur?
- Deliberate administration of non-prescribed medications
- Accidental overdose (medicating a cat twice, or administering too much medication)
- Cat ingesting toxic substances (food, plants, medications)
- Ingestion of toxic substances on the coat (such as antifreeze)
- Exposure to toxic substances in the environment
Common signs of poisoning:
Symptoms will vary depending on the poison ingested but common signs include:
- Unsteady gait (ataxia)
- Loss of appetite
- Dilated (enlarged) pupils
- Increased or decreased thirst
- Increased or decreased urination
How can you help?
Share information about common poisons on social media.
Educate friends and family on the dangers of poisoning in pets, including never administering medications to cats unless under veterinary supervision, locking up household chemicals, switching to cat-friendly products, and keeping toxic plants out of the house. The following page has a detailed list of plants toxic to cats, including common and scientific names.
If you hear or read incorrect or dangerous information, politely (you catch more flies with honey) point out the dangers.
Ask florists to place flyers in their shop with warnings about toxic flowers, especially lilies which are popular in floral arrangements.
Keep all medications locked up.
Have one person responsible for medicating pets.
If you have dogs, avoid topical flea products.
Teach children to not feed pets without adult supervision.
Be careful when buying flowers for friends and family. Make sure the arrangement only contains flowers which are non-toxic to cats.
Don’t feed cats human food.