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My Cat Ate Rat Poison! Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

vet approved graphicIt’s not uncommon for our furry friends to find themselves in trouble after eating something they shouldn’t have. If your cat ate rat poison, he will need to be seen by a veterinarian. Why? Because rat poison is intended to do just that—poison (and kill). Sadly, it not only targets rodents but can also kill other animals, including our precious pets. Your veterinarian can help save your kitty, but you’ll need to call them as soon as possible after they’ve eaten rat poison.

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How do cats act when they are poisoned with rat poison?

At first (especially if you just saw them eat it), you won’t see anything odd, and your cat can act completely normal. Don’t be fooled—rat bait can take some time before it poisons animals.

Many rat poisons will have different active ingredients. The impact on your cat will depend on what type of poison they ate. Anticoagulants (e.g., warfarin, brodifacoum) can take several days to take effect. While others, like bromethalin or strychnine, can make your cat ill within hours. It doesn’t matter what poison they ate—as soon as you know, you should call the veterinarian. This will increase your kitty’s chance of survival.

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What are the symptoms of rat poisoning in cats?

Cat vomiting_Nils Jacobi_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock
Anticoagulants Bromethalin Cholecalciferol Zinc Phosphide Strychnine
•   Weakness •   Weakness •   Thirst and peeing more (kidney failure) •   Vomiting (possibly with blood) •   Anxiety
•   Rapid breathing (breathing through their mouth) or cough •   Tremors •   Vomiting (possibly with blood) •   Restlessness •   Stiffness
•   Pale gums •   Seizures •   Diarrhea or constipation •   Weakness •   Seizures
•   Red spots on gums •   Wobbliness •   Heart problems •   Breathing problems •   Restlessness
•   Bruising on skin •   Paralysis •   Lethargy •   Seizures •   Increased reaction to noise, light, or touch
•   Tummy pain •   Vomiting •   Weakness
•   Tremors •   Coma
•   Cold to touch
•   Black or dark poop
•   Nose bleeds
•   Blood in their pee
•   Seizures

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My cat ate rat poison — what do I do?

cat sitting by the door_Lauren Hudgins, Pixabay
Image Credit: Lauren Hudgins, Pixabay
Knowing or suspecting your feline friend has eaten poison is scary, so what should you do?
  • Don’t try to make your cat vomit. If weak from the effects of the poison, they might inhale some of the vomit; this can be fatal.
  • Remove any remaining bait to stop your cat (or other pets) from eating any more.
  • Find out what type of poison it is and roughly how much is missing (don’t worry if you don’t know, your cat can still be treated).
  • Call your local veterinary clinic to tell them what has happened; if they are closed, call the clinic covering their out-of-hours.
  • If your cat is weak, they may have internal bleeding; you will need to keep them warm—wrap them in a blanket and place them in their carrier for secure transport to the clinic.

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What happens if a cat eats a poisoned rat/rat poison?

Cats are natural predators, so a weak or poisoned rodent is an easy catch for your furry friend. Unfortunately, our cats can get just as poorly and die from eating a poisoned rat as they can from eating poison straight off the ground; it’s called secondary poisoning. No matter how your kitty has been poisoned they need to see the vet.

Assessment

cat and vet. _Maria Sbytova_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Maria Sbytova, Shutterstock

Once at the clinic, your cat will get assessed for symptoms of poisoning (listed above). Your veterinarian will choose the best treatment based on three main questions:

  • When did your cat eat the poison?
  • What poison did they eat?
  • Does your cat have symptoms of poisoning?

If your cat is lucky, you caught them eating the bait and got them to the clinic asap, so they won’t yet have symptoms.

Treatment for cats without symptoms

Cats without symptoms of poisoning can be treated more easily by:
  • Making your cat vomit to bring up the poison.
  • Giving activated charcoal (binds the poison to stop it from absorbing into your cat’s blood).
  • Blood tests to check for side effects of poison.

Most cats who get this treatment will recover well, and often you can take them away the same day for TLC at home.

Treatment for cats with symptoms

Vet looking for swelling in cat paws_Motortion Films, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Motortion Films, Shutterstock

It can be more complex to treat cats that are showing symptoms of rat bait poisoning. The treatment your cat receives will depend on the type of poison they have eaten and what signs they have. They may need to stay at the clinic overnight for their treatment.

You can expect your cat to be on a fluid drip. A blood transfusion might be necessary for anemic cats who have eaten an anticoagulant bait—vitamin K is given as an antidote for these types of poison. Cats that are fitting will need special medication to control the seizures. It may take at least several days for your veterinarian to stabilize your cat if they have signs of poisoning.

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Will my cat be OK if he ate rat poison?

woman hand petting a cat_zavtrak92, Pixabay
Image Credit: zavtrak92, Pixabay

The cats that do best after eating rat poison are those that are seen soonest, have no symptoms, and have eaten baits (anticoagulants) that can be treated with antidotes (vitamin K). With these kitties, there’s a high chance of survival.

Sadly, we can’t say for sure that your precious pet will be OK after eating rat bait, and some cats may die. Once cats have symptoms, treatment is more challenging. Products that don’t have a specific antidote (i.e., those that are not anticoagulant-based) are more dangerous if eaten. They often take effect more rapidly, meaning your cat has less time to get to the veterinary clinic—cats with symptoms have a poorer prognosis.

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Will rat poison kill my cats?

Rat poison can kill cats, especially if not treated early. Don’t hesitate to get your cat seen by a veterinarian if you think there is a chance he has eaten rat poison, even if he seems fine.

What rat poison is safe for cats?

cat hiding_PollyDot, Pixabay
Image Credit: PollyDot, Pixabay

There isn’t any “safe” rat poison. Poison is intended to harm and can kill all animals. Some poisons can give your cat a better chance of survival if eaten, like warfarin and other anticoagulant baits with an antidote. For treatment to be successful, your cat still needs to be seen quickly by a veterinarian.

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How do I stop my cat from eating rat poison?

This can sometimes be an impossible task, but here are a few tips to reduce the risks:
  • Don’t use rat poison anywhere where there are pets (humane trapping is another option).
  • Find a professional to help if you have a rodent problem; tell them you have pets.
  • Lock bait away to prevent accidental ingestion.
  • Follow professional advice or packet instructions carefully.
  • Check your garden or yard regularly for stray bait or dead rodents; dispose of dead rodents safely to prevent secondary poisoning.
  • Use bait blocks (secured), not seed—seed can be moved and spread by rodents, making the poison more accessible to your pet.
  • Don’t lay poison down if you don’t have a rodent problem!

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Conclusion

Cats that eat rat poison need to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your cat can seem fine initially—some poisons can take several days before they take effect. Your kitty will have the best chance of surviving if you can get them to the veterinary clinic before they show signs of being poisoned.

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Featured Image Credit: DenKara, Shutterstock