Emergency Procedures For Toxin Exposure In Cats

We take a look at some emergency procedures for toxin exposure the cat’s carer can utilise, before continuing to the veterinarian.

A cat who has had exposure to a toxin must see a veterinarian even if no symptoms are present. Some toxins can take hours to take effect; others can slowly accumulate in the system over time. If toxin ingestion was recent, the veterinarian has more tools up his or her sleeve to prevent further absorption.

Types of toxicity

  • Oral ingestion (eating or drinking) – This kind of poisoning can be primary or secondary. Primary occurs when the cat ingests a toxin, or a pet-owner feeds a medication that is toxic to cats. Secondary poisoning occurs when a cat eats an animal that has itself ingested a poison such as a rat who has consumed the bait.
  • Inhalation – Smoke, fumes from household chemicals such as bleach or ammonia
  • Dermal (skin) – Chemicals that come into contact with the skin such as on garage floors, or a cat who sleeps with a dog recently treated with a topical flea product. The danger with dermal exposure is twofold, the direct absorption through the skin as well as ingestion when the cat grooms.
  • Ocular (eye) – Substances or chemicals which accidentally splash into the eye.

Be prepared

Always have the phone number of your veterinarian as well as an emergency phone number in an easy to access place.

Store cat carriers in an easy to reach location so that you can act quickly in an emergency.

Call the veterinarian or a poison control centre

Call the veterinarian, or an emergency veterinarian to inform them the cat has been exposed to a toxin. They will be able to offer emergency medical advice over the phone, always follow their instructions.

Below are some general tips which can help while somebody else contacts the veterinarian.


  • Wipe the inside of the lips and gums with a damp cloth to remove any remaining toxins in the mouth.
  • Rinse the cloth with warm water between wipes.
  • Wear gloves and take care.

If there is any risk that the cat will bite you, skip this step and take the cat immediately to a veterinarian.

Do NOT attempt to induce vomiting unless a veterinarian instructs you to do so. While hydrogen peroxide is safe to use in dogs, it is dangerous to use with cats. It can cause severe hemorrhagic gastritis as well as esophageal, stomach ulcers and aspiration pneumonia. Inducing vomiting in cats must be carried out in a clinical setting, with appropriate medication and under the supervision of a veterinarian.


  • Move the cat to a well-ventilated area, outside if necessary. If there is a risk of the cat escaping, confine in a cat carrier.


  • Bathe in a mild dishwashing liquid and rinse with warm water, repeat. Ensure all traces of detergent are removed from the coat.
  • Wear protective gloves to prevent exposure.


  • Irrigate the eye with tepid water or distilled water for 20-30 minutes. Rinse from the inside of the eye closest to the nose (medial) to the side to avoid contaminating the other eye.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio

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