Cat Safety and Wellness Information
Cats are curious animals, and their curiosity can get them into some dangerous, or even fatal, situations. However, not all dangers to cats are due to the cats' inquisitivness. Some dangers to cats are due to things humans have done, or have not done.
All homes with cats need to be "cat proofed". That means putting away all breakables, knives, medicines, poisons, cleaning products, plastic bags, yarn, thread and needles, etc. Cats can jump up onto counters and climb up to places you might not think they can. Some cats can even open some types of cabinets! They can also get under and behind some furniture and appliances that you did not think they could.
Look carefully around your house for anything a cat might swallow or get hurt from. Crawl on the floor to see what a cat would see under and behind beds, appliances and furniture. Be sure to pick up all small objects such as rubberbands, needles or pins, dropped pills, bits of ribbon or yarn, etc.
Learn about what foods and plants are dangerous for cats to eat, and what medications can lead to severe illness or death in cats. NEVER give medications meant for humans to cats, unless the actual cat's vet told you do. Some medications for humans will kill cats, such as Tylenol. Some foods humans safely eat are toxic to cats, and can cause serious problems, or even death.
The Animal Poison Control Center Hotline (APCC) is a resource for any animal poison-related emergency, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, and you cannot get to a veterinarian, call the APCC: (888) 426-4435. A $60 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.
Toxic or Dangerous Foods
Toxic Medications and Substances
Chocolate is Toxic to Cats
by Margaret Schill
Chocolate is toxic to cats (and dogs). Chocolate contains caffeine, and the compound theobromine, which is a heart stimulant as well as a diuretic. It can cause the cat or dog's heart rate to increase or the heart to beat irregularly, which puts the animal at risk. It affects the gastrointestinal system, causing vomiting and diarrhea and it may cause stomach ulcers. Theobromine also acts on the nervous system, causing convulsions, seizures and sometimes, death. The level of theobromine present in chocolate varies depending on the type of chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is.
If your cat (or dog) has ingested chocolate, call your veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately. The effects are not immediately apparent, but if not treated right away, things will become very problematic. There is no antidote for chocolate poisoning.
For more information see:
Onions are Toxic to Cats
by Margaret Schill
Onions- raw, cooked, dehydrated, diced, sliced, powdered, any way you can think of, are toxic to cats- and dogs also. They can cause a type of anemia called Heinz body hemolytic anemia. All parts of onions are poisonious to cats- stems, flowers and bulbs.
Onions contain allyl propyl disulfide. This substance damages red blood cells by breaking down hemoglobin in the blood cell. Heinz bodies are small, round projections of damaged hemoglobin that stick out from the red blood cells. Essentially, the blood cell bursts. The damage to the red blood cell is permanent. Hemoglobin is what carries oxygen to the cells of the body. Feline hemoglobin is approximately two to three times more prone to damage than is that of other animals.
Signs of onion poisoning include: Vomiting, diarrhea, reddish or brown colored urine (due to the hemoglobin that burst out of the red blood cells), allergic reactions, pale gums and tongue (indicating anemia). Weakness, depression, rapid heart rate and rapid respiratory rate may be observed as a result of there not being enough oxygen reaching the tissues due to the lack of hemoglobin. Cats can develop contact dermatitis from skin exposure to onions. Anemia and liver damage will be revealed by blood testing.
Onion poisoning can occur with a single ingestion of a large amount, or the poisoning can occur over time due to repeated meals containing small amounts of onion. Some people feed baby food to cats that won't eat, to try to tempt the cat to eat something. One must read the labels and not use any that have onion powder or onion salt in them. Many baby foods do have onions in them. (However, baby food does not contain all the correct nutrients for cats, so is not suitable for feeding to cats long term.)
The effects of onion poisoning may take several days to show, but by the time there are symptoms noticed, damage has been done and treatment will be more complicated. In some cases, the effects of onion toxicity is fatal if not promplty treated. If a cat (or dog) is treated within about 2 hours of ingesting onions, the treatment may be simply induction of vomiting (provided there are no contraindications), gastric lavage, and the administration of activated charcoal. If things have progressed, however, to where symptoms are showing, a cat may need to be hospitalized to received fluids, a blood transfusion, oxygen therapy and other ongoing care.
If your cat has eaten onions or a food with onions in it, don't wait for symptoms to appear to take your cat to the vet!
For more information, see:
Raw Fish Diet Dangerous for Cats
by Margaret Schill
A raw fish diet is dangerous for cats. Raw fish contain an enzyme called thiaminase, which destroys vitamin B-1 (Thiamin). That will then result in a Thiamin deficency, which will cause total lack of appetite, general weakness, and physical wasting (due to not eating), abnormal posture, and seizures. Thiamine deficiency also can lead to death.
Raw fish may contain some parasites, such as tapeworms, which the cat will then wind up with after eating the raw fish. (That can happen to humans too!)
Even when cooked, fish does not contain all the nutrients cats need. Many cats do come to love tuna fish, so some people feed that to their cats often. However, a diet of fish will cause nutritional deficiency of some kind in cats. That will then eventually lead to serious disease. Contrary to some beliefs, fish is not a natural food for domestic cats.
Fish can be served to cats sparingly as treats, or to entice a sick cat to eat.
Most commerical fish flavored cat food does contain more than just fish, and has added supplements to provide for the daily nutrient needs of cats. Still, one should not feed commercial fish flavored cats foods as the only food to cats.
Ribbon, Tinsel, Yarn and String Dangerous to Cats
by Margaret Schill
Ribbon, tinsel, yarn and string are very dangerous to cats. They start chewing on them, but can't spit them out due to their barbed tongues. Sometimes the tinsel, ribbon, yarn or string can wind up wrapped around the cat's tongue. As the cats try to spit out the ribbon, tinsel, yarn or string, they wind up swallowing the whole length. This can then result in an intestinal blockage, or worse, the severing of the intestines as the intestinal muscles contract and expand.
If you see tinsel, string, ribbon etc, sticking out of a cat's mouth, or rear end, NEVER pull it out! You can wind up severing the intestines if you do that. Take the cat to the vet if the cat has swallowed a string like object.
Keep all ribbon, tinsel, yarn, string and dental floss away from cats!!
For more information, see:
Increase in Hyperthyroidism in Cats Linked to Chemical Flame Retardants
by Margaret Schill
There has been an epidemic of hyperthyroidism in pet cats in the United States over the past 25 or so years. Prior to that time, it was rare in cats. Researchers say this situation may be due to dust from fire-retardant chemicals, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Fire retardant chemicals were introduced in the 1960's and have been commonly used in many household items such as furniture, carpets, mattresses, polyurethane foams, electronic products, plastic components of computers and televisions, circuit boards, and textiles.
In a study published Aug. 15, 2007 and reported in Environmental Science & Technology, (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2007, 41 (18), pp 6350–6356) researchers took blood samples from 23 cats, 11 of which had hyperthyroidism. They found that the cats with the disease had levels of PDBEs that were three times higher than younger cats and cats without the condition.
Since cats are lower to the ground, they would breath in more of the PBDE dust in carpets, furniture, mattresses, etc. than humans. In addition, since cats lick themselves to groom, they wind up ingesting the PBDE dust, increasing their exposure to the chemicals. Older cats would have had a much longer exposure than younger cats.
PBDEs are also found in canned cat food, particularly in fish/seafood flavors, such as salmon and whitefish. PBDEs have made it into our oceans and lakes, entering the bodies of fish and marine mammals. A study done in 1996 and reported in Environmental Science and Technology, v.35, n.6, February 14, 2001 found PBDEs in all salmon samples taken from Lake Michigan.
A study published in July 2004 ( Environ. Sci. Technol., 2004, 38 (20), pp 5306–5311) reporting on analysis of foods from grocery stores showed many foods contained PBDEs, with fish have the highest levels of all other food types. The second highest PBDE levels were found in chicken liver.
Research has also established that PBDEs can cause liver and neurodevelopmental toxicity.
The above would help explain the findings of a case-control study reported in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association September 15, 2000, Vol. 217, No. 6, Pages 853-856 that risk for hyperthyroidism was increased in cats that preferred fish or liver and giblets flavors of canned cat food.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats include, weight loss, increased or sometimes decreased appetite, increased drinking of water and increased urination, vomiting, diarrrhea, increased activity or lethargy, poor coat condition and excessive shedding.
Rather than hyperthyroidism being a "normal" occurrance in older cats due to aging, it seems it likely is due, at least in part, to a buildup of exposure to PBDE toxins.
The dilemma for cat owners is how to reduce the risk for our cats. Not feeding fish flavored canned foods or chicken liver too often will be helpful to reduce the risk. Avoiding items treated with flame retardants where possible would be helpful as well.