Lysol Can Be Toxic to Cats: 7 Safety Tips

  • Authors:

  • 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.

    If you are concerned about using Lysol in your home because of your cat, we would like to invite you to view our list of disinfectants that are safe for cats and cat-friendly cleaning products.

    What is Lysol?

    Lysol is a popular disinfectant (chemical agents designed to inactivate or destroy microorganisms on inert surfaces). Lysol can be poisonous to cats as some of its products may contain phenol, cresol, or ethanol. The active ingredient in many Lysol products is also benzalkonium chloride (BAC), a wide-spectrum cationic detergent and a quaternary ammonium compound (QAC). Benzalkonium is present in many household products including cleaners, mold removers and disinfectants.

    Toxicity class – how dangerous is it for my cat?

    Lysol comes in many different forms, so the toxicity depends on which product is being used and how it was consumed. Swallowing the liquid form would obviously be much more dangerous than rubbing against a wipe.

    Phenol does not evaporate as quickly as water does, and it can remain in water and air for extended periods of time. Cats are unable to metabolize phenol.

    If benzalkonium chloride ends up on your cat’s feet or fur, it could be ingested while your cat is grooming itself. A high enough concentration could damage your cat’s tongue and mouth. If a cat walks on a surface that has been recently treated with Lysol, there is a possibility their paws could be exposed, since phenol does not evaporate as quickly as water does. If a cat should then lick their paws, the phenol could be ingested.

    Symptoms 

    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:

    It is more likely, however, that a cat would exhibit symptoms similar to an allergic reaction after inhaling particles remaining in the air from a spray, or picking up residue from a recently treated surface. Symptoms of an allergic reaction could include:

    • Eyes watering
    • Sneezing
    • Throat irritation
    • Skin redness or bumps
    • Excessive scratching
    • Pulling out fur

    If your cat is showing any signs of poisoning (Lysol or otherwise) you need to see the vet right away. Your vet will examine your cat and may run bloodwork to check your cat’s internal organs. It’s important that you relate any and all information that you have about your cat and the ingested material. If you’re not sure about the product, bring it with you.

    If your cat ingests Lysol, your first instinct should be to call your vet with all the facts that you have. Your vet may ask you to bring the cat in. Any type of poisoning should be treated as soon as possible to avoid severe complications.

    For a cat that has walked over a treated surface, you can clean their paws with plain water. A washcloth with warm water can also be used to clean your cat’s face.

    Would my cat actually ingest Lysol if I used it at home?

    Most cats would not intentionally ingest Lysol. They can, however, pick it up on their paws or inhale the residue left in the air after the product has been sprayed.
    If a cat is attracted to anything in the Lysol, it would be the bleach. Bleach smells like chlorine, which can smell vaguely like another cat’s urine to your feline.

    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.

    7 safety tips

    • Always read labeling to ensure that the active ingredient in household cleaners or disinfectants do not contain chemicals toxic to cats. View our list of disinfectants that are safe for cats and cat-friendly cleaning products.
    • 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 disinfectants 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.

    The bottom line: should I keep Lysol around if it’s poisonous? Is there really a risk?

    If there is any chance of your cat getting into your Lysol, it is not worth the risk. Although your cat will most likely recover from the toxin, the accompanying illness and the veterinary costs will be stressful for both of you.

    Make sure all containers are closed tightly and are kept out of your cat’s reach, and look into products that do not contain compounds that are toxic to pets.

    Related content: Cat-friendly cleaning products

    Authors

    • 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

    • Sue Murray owes her love of cats to two little domestic shorthairs named Scooter and Buttons who showed her that curtains are for climbing, litter is to scatter, nights are for running wildly through the house, and dogs are to hiss at. Sue has rescued or fostered more than 50 felines and enjoys writing about her experiences.