As part of the International Cat Care campaign to keep cats safe, this month we discuss why you should take care with detergenst, even the mildest ones.
Detergents are found in all our homes, and are present in a wide variety of household products such as fabric cleaning capsules, washing up liquid, shampoo, some toilet cleaners and toilet blocks, bathroom and kitchen cleaners, disinfectant liquid, wipes and sprays and many more.
Why are detergents toxic to cats?
Detergents, depending on the type, can be highly irritant, damaging any body surface they come into contact with. If swallowed, detergents can damage the mouth, tongue and gastrointestinal tract and, if inhaled, can be very toxic to the respiratory tract. There has been publicity on the danger of some concentrated detergents to children who are especially interested in capsules or in tablets such as are used in dishwashers. So keeping them out of the way of children AND animals is very important.
How are cats exposed to detergents?
Walking through a detergent spill, or on a treated surface, then licking the product off feet and hair may expose cats to these chemicals. Less commonly a cat may bite into a detergent capsule or ‘pod’. This is especially dangerous as the capsule may ‘explode’ releasing the liquid into the cat’s mouth. The cat may also inhale the detergent, damaging its lungs.
What are the signs of detergent poisoning?
Affected cats may be sick rapidly after ingesting detergent, or show distress due to irritation in the mouth and throat. Further signs may be reluctance to eat or diarrhoea. If the liquid is inhaled, the cat may suffer from breathing difficulties. sometimes these signs may not be seen for several hours or several days. Contact with the skin may cause irritation. If the detergent comes into contact with the cat’s eyes they may be red and painful and severe eye damage has been reported.
How are affected cats treated?
Any area which has been exposed to detergents should be well rinsed. The cat should not be induced to be sick even if you think detergent has been swallowed. Contact your vet if you think this is the case of if the skin or mouth have been damaged. Your vet may give drugs prevent sickness as well as other treatments including anti-foaming agents and supportive care including pain relief and fluid therapy. If the cat is unable to eat because of injuries to the mouth and throat, the vet may give food via a tube. Cats which have inhaled detergents into the lungs may need to be hospitalised at the veterinary clinic for more intensive treatment.
Preventing detergent poisoning in cats
Detergents should be kept out of reach of cats (and remember they are also dangerous to children and other pets), spills rapidly mopped up, and treated surfaces rinsed and allowed to dry before allowing cats to walk on them. Laundry capsules can be particularly dangerous and should be kept in their own sealed container. If a cat is exposed to a detergent, veterinary advice should be sought.
For more information contact International Cat Care at https://icatcare.org