Lysol products which contain benzalkonium chloride are toxic to cats. Exposure causes corrosion and irritation to the skin and mucosa.
Poisoning typically occurs when the cat comes into contact with recently disinfected surfaces, the cat ingests the product during grooming or if they lick a surface with disinfectant residue. Exposure to concentrated or incorrectly diluted solutions can induce a more severe clinical response.
What is Lysol?
Lysol is a popular disinfectant (chemical agents designed to inactivate or destroy microorganisms on inert surfaces). The active ingredient in many Lysol products is benzalkonium chloride (BAC), a wide-spectrum cationic detergent and a quaternary ammonium compound (QAC). Benzalkonium is present in many household products including cleaners, mould removers and disinfectants.
Clinical signs may take hours or days to appear after exposure. One study of 245 cats exposed to benzalkonium chloride found 4.9% of cats showed no effects. Symptomatic cat displayed the following clinical signs:
- Hypersalivation (drooling)
- Tongue and oral ulcers
- Loss of appetite
- Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature)
What should you do if your cat has been exposed to benzalkonium chloride?
Remove the cat from the area and rinse the oral cavity with water (a syringe with the needle removed is the best way to do this). If the coat or paws have been contaminated, wash with a mild liquid dishwashing detergent (Dawn, Fairy Liquid, Morning Fresh) and rinse thoroughly. Place the cat in a warm room until the coat is dry.
If the cat is displaying any clinical signs, such as hypersalivation, oral ulceration or loss of appetite, seek veterinary care. Treatment may include antibiotics, analgesics to relieve pain and a soft diet. Cats with severe oral ulceration may require hospitalisation for tube feeding.
- Always read the labelling to ensure that the active ingredient in household cleaners or disinfectants do not contain chemicals toxic to cats.
- Keep household cleaning products locked away from cats and children.
- Remove cats from the area to be disinfected.
- Follow the recommended dilution for household cleaners and disinfectants and always apply as directed. It is important to clean the area as dirt and organic matter can reduce the ability of disinfectant to kill germs.
- Keep cats away from surfaces that have been recently disinfected until they are completely dry.
- Clean up chemical spills immediately.
- Disinfectants, including Lysol, can still be toxic to cats once they have dried. Always rinse the area with warm water after disinfection.
Related content: Cat-friendly cleaning products