The CATalyst: Poison Prevention for Cats by Steve Dale

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The CATalyst: Poison Prevention for Cats
By Steve Dale, CABC
Posted: March 8, 2012, 8 p.m. EST

March is Animal Poison Prevention Awareness month. Some think finicky cats wouldn’t scarf down something unhealthy; somehow, cats might know better. Of course, that’s not the case.

With indoor/outdoor cats, you simply don’t know what the cat may get into outside, from grazing on a dangerous plant, to lapping up potentially deadly antifreeze to dining on a rodent that has swallowed rodenticide.

Indoors, chomping on dangerous plants might still be an issue even if you are there to supervise. What if you didn’t know the Easter Lilly, for example, is dangerous if swallowed?

According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, the most common danger occurs when dogs and cats eat human pharmaceuticals. Another issue is dogs and cats who find their way into cleaning solutions. Most cats won’t intentionally swallow the stuff (unlike their canine cousins), but if they are forced to walk through it, they will groom if off.

The CATalyst Council came up with five concerns:

* Household Plants: The list of plants potentially poisonous to cats and dogs is long — 398 to be exact. That’s far too many to recall, but you can find a shorter list of plants poisonous to cats here. The full list not only includes what might be dangerous to cats, but plants that dogs and horses should stay away from are listed as well. For example, the commonly kept jade plant can make dogs and cats sick and so can Dracaena (often called the corn plant).

If your 10-year-old cat has never shown interest in your potted jade, you might not need to trash the poor plant. When you bring new pets or a new plant into a home, however, know what might cause a problem and avoid it by placing the plant out of your cat’s way. If that’s impossible, consider a plant exchange with a friend who doesn’t have a cat.

For cats, the best way to discourage them from nibbling on a plant is to provide a preferred (and safer) alternative, such as cat grass. You can find many cat grass kits (the idea is to grow your own) online, and at dog and cat stores. One of my personal favorites is made by SmartCat.

If you’re concerned that your cat has swallowed a part of a plant, and is now feeling the effects, immediately see the veterinarian, and bring whatever is left of the plant with you (to ensure identification of the type of plant it is).

* Human Foods: When it comes to foods, it’s true that some cats won’t eat what might be harmful, such as chocolate. But then some cats, like our Devon Rex, will eat anything.

Did you know that onion and garlic can cause serious problems for cats? While your cat is unlikely to scarf down a plate of grilled onions or lap up garlic soup, you still have to watch for these ingredients inside other foods. For example, sometimes veterinarians will advise baby food for cats who have lost their appetites. A good idea, as long as no onion, chives or garlic is in the food.

* Medications: My doctor recently suggested I take a baby aspirin daily for heart health. This isn’t a good idea for cats.

Dutifully following my doctor’s orders, I went to open the aspirin. The struggle between me and the child-proof top began, and as I finally turned the aspirin cover just right to open, aspirin flew all over the bathroom floor. Knowing my dogs and cats might ingest these, I carefully picked them up.

As I opened the bathroom door and walked out into the hall, I witnessed a hockey game, as our cat Roxy pawed at aspirin that had slid under the door and out into the hall. Eventually our cat might have eaten the aspirin. Would four baby aspirin have caused a problem? I didn’t want to find out.

* Rodenticide: Cats rarely make a meal of poison, but they do catch rodents or might eat vermin that had recently succumbed to the rodent poison. If you believe this has happened, contact your veterinarian, an emergency veterinary clinic or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

* Flea Products: A flea preventative meant for use on dogs only, and accidentally applied to a cat might cause a life-threatening emergency. This is one reason why veterinary input is so important before purchasing the right flea preventative. Also, a cat can become vey ill chewing on a flea collar.

If you think that your pet has ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call your veterinarian, nearly veterinary emergency clinic or the ASPA Animal Poison Control Center, (888) 426-4435 (A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card).

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