The old saying “curiosity killed the cat” is unfortunately often true. All too frequently, cats get into poisonous substances. Cats may find medications or eat an animal that has been poisoned, such as a rodent or bird. Strychnine is the toxin used in many rodent poisons, and it affects the neurological system. People often don’t think about the fact that when you put out gopher or mouse bait, you can end up unintentionally poisoning the local feline populace as well.
If you see your cat eating a poisoned animal or the bait itself, get the cat to veterinarian as soon as possible. However, you may not always see your cat in the act of eating something she shouldn’t. Pesticides used on lawns, flea treatments, cigarettes, various mushrooms, antifreeze, and many other common household products are toxic to cats.
Many over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen (which is used in Tylenol and various cold products) are also potentially lethal to cats. Sadly, many accidental poisonings happen when an owner attempts to medicate a cat without consulting a vet. Doing so is often fatal because cats are far more sensitive to acetaminophen than dogs. Just one tablet can actually kill a cat.
Unfortunately, poisoning can be difficult to diagnose, especially if you don’t see what the cat ingested. However, if you notice your cat seeming especially sluggish or depressed, keep a particularly close eye on her. The effects of some poisons don’t appear for days or even weeks. If your cat has any type of seizure, starts vomiting, loses her appetite, or has difficulty walking or breathing, call your veterinarian immediately.
At the vet’s office, your cat will be examined and probably receive a number of tests in an effort to diagnose the problem. Antidotes exist for a few poisons, so if you have a suspicion as to what the poison may be, tell the vet. Of course, the best antidote to poisoning is not to let it happen in the first place. So “pet proof” all areas that have potentially dangerous substances and be sure to read product labels carefully before exposing your cat to any products, such as flea treatments.