Hazards at home

Poisoning risks to cats from household products

source: Alexander Campbell, from Veterinary Poisons Information Service
Feline Advisory Bureau Journal vol 38(3), July 2000 p73

Cats are at risk from household products, which can be divided into three categories: disinfectants, petroleum distillate products, and low-toxicity household products. Disinfectants can cause inflamed skin, hair loss, and severe damage to the eyes. They can be absorbed if the skin is broken. Cats may groom themselves and suffer from mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhoea, salivation, and appetite loss. Severe cases of poisoning can lead to respiratory problems, coughing, depression, and pyrexia. Affected cats need
prompt treatment, and should be washed, with a collar fitted so they are unable to groom themselves. Vomiting should not be encouraged, since foam can enter the lungs. Water or saline should be used to irrigate the cat's eyes, if they have been affected, and the eyes should be checked for damage to the cornea.

Petroleum distillate products include turpentine substitute. They are irritants, and can lead to depression of the central nervous system (CNS), as well as pneumonia. Cats may suffer similar symptoms to those caused by disinfectant poisoning, and in addition may suffer from tremors, tachycardia, weakness, and abdominal tenderness. Cats that inhale these
products may suffer respiratory problems, cyanosis, fever, and CNS depression. Hand degreasers or non-solvent detergents may be needed to wash the cat, which should again wear a collar. They should also be under observation at a vet's in case of serious exposure, due to respiratory risks. Cats that eat some other products, such as putty, nappy rash creams, and wax candles, may simply suffer from mild gastrointestinal problems.