Keeping Cats Safe Campaign - Deadly DIY - How DIY can affect your cat.

This month, as part of iCatCare's Keeping Cats Safe Campaign, we are highlighting the potential risks of certain DIY products for your cats.

Decorating and maintaining our homes involves the use of numerous chemicals and products. Cats can be accidentally exposed to these chemicals by drinking from open containers or spills, or licking treated surfaces. These are some of the products that can cause harm.


Products to fill in cracks and small holes usually contain mineral powders of quartz or calcium carbonate. These products are of low toxicity.

The signs of potential harm can be inhalation of the powder prior to mixing may cause mild respiratory symptoms and ingestion of the powder or paste (wet or dry) may cause stomach upset. Veterinary treatment will be based on the signs the cat is displaying.


Expanding foam and expanding adhesives start as a small volume and expand as they dry. These products contain polyurethane and isocyanates, typically diphenylmethane diisocyanate. Cats may be exposed to the product as it is drying, or they may eat lumps of the dried material. Ingestion of these products if not expanded leads to a risk of obstruction due to expansion of the foam or adhesive in the stomach.

There is limited information about exposure in cats but, in dogs, most develop only mild gastrointestinal symtoms. However, ingestion of even a small volume can cause vomiting – including vomiting of blood – anorexia, diarrhoea, lethargy, depression and abdominal discomfort and extension. Dehydration may occur due to excessive vomiting. On the skin, foam that has not yet hardened will set rapidly and may cause local irritation, redness, itching, swelling and blistering.


White spirit is a solvent and a petroleum distillate (it is derived from the distillation of crude oil). Petroleum distillates have various toxic effects. They are irritating to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes, and severe problems can result from breathing in the fumes of even a small volume of white spirit.

If the cat ingests or grooms the product off this may cause a burning sensation leading to hypersalivation, head shaking, pawing at the mouth, vomiting, diarrhoea, local irritation and ulceration of the mouth. Signs of inhalation of the fumes include choking, coughing, fever, breathlessness, cyanosis (a blueish colouration of the skin due to lack of oxygen in the blood) and fluid in the lungs. Ingestion or inhalation of a large volume can lead to ataxia (loss of full control of the limbs), depression, drowsiness and, in severe cases (rare), coma.


Wallpaper adhesives typically contain starches (eg, potato starch derivatives), polyvinyl acetate (PVA) and some contain fungicides (often captan or a triazine) to inhibit mould growth.

Signs in cats that have ingested wallpaper paste include lethargy, lack of appetite, ulceration of the mouth and dehydration, but are usually mild. Check with your vet if you are worried.


It is important to know what type of paint a cat has been exposed to in order to determine any potential risks of poisoning. The important thing to know is whether the paint is water-based or solvent-based. If the paint is labelled ‘minimal’ or ‘low VOC’ (which stands for volatile organic compound), then it is effectively water-based, whereas if the label states ‘medium’ or ‘high VOC’ it is solvent-based paint.

Water-based paints are of low toxicity and most cats show no signs after exposure, although a small number develop mild stomach upset. No specific treatment is recommended but if there is heavy contamination of fur the cat should be washed with water and a detergent.


While these products all can cause harm the best precaution to take is to make sure your animal is away from where the products are being used actively and to always store them in a locked cabinet where your animal cannot come across them.

This post first appeared on International Cat Care, please read the original post: here

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