Cats are curious and love to play. The trouble is, cat-proofing your house is difficult. Cats are well known for seeking out things they shouldn’t have. Sometimes this leads to serious complications.
It can be a challenge, as pet parents, to work out what is dangerous and what’s not. So, is silica gel dangerous for cats? Will my cat be ill if he’s eaten silica gel?
What is silica gel?
Silica gel is a water-absorbing material used in packaging to keep products dry. It comes in little paper bags or plastic tubes. The contents look like tiny clear beads. The packet will usually say “silica gel” so you know exactly what it is. Often it will also say “DO NOT EAT”.
Silica gel is found in a range of goods, from salami to handbags. Any product that will spoil if it gets moist is likely to be packaged with silica gel.
Cats love empty cardboard boxes, but please be cautious when leaving them around for your cats as there could be small silica gel packets lurking in the bottom.
Why does silica gel say do not eat? Is it toxic to cats?
Silica gel, as a chemical, is not toxic to cats when eaten. It is also safe if it gets on your cat’s skin or fur. The packets say “do not eat” because they are often inside packaged with food, and they are not designed to be eaten.
Rather than the gel being harmful, it’s the packets containing the gel that can cause issues for your cat. You can buy silica gel cat litter. Silica gel is good as litter because it’s absorbent. This is safe to use and even if your cat took a few small nibbles, it would be unlikely to make him ill.
Eating silica gel in packets could cause a tummy upset, so you do need to be cautious. While uncommon, in some cases, the packet could block your cat’s gut (an obstruction). So, the best advice is to keep silica gel packets away from your cat.
If you find your cat with a silica gel packet, don’t give yourself too much of a hard time—cats often find things they shouldn’t! Will my cat be okay if he ate silica gel? Yes, probably… But it’s still wise to read on and decide if you need to call your veterinarian…
What do I do if my cat eats silica gel?
If your cat is behaving normally, the packet is whole, and you are confident that it is the only packet:
Great news—there is no need to worry. Your cat will not get ill from just playing with silica gel, although it is not recommended. Cat-safe toys are a much better choice.
If your cat is behaving normally, the packet is ripped or broken, and some gel or packet might be missing:
Please don’t panic but do monitor your cat. It is unlikely your cat will show any signs of ill health, but the gel or packet might irritate their gut, causing a mild tummy upset. If they are going to be unwell, it will probably happen between a few hours and a couple of days after the gel was eaten. He or she may vomit or have a few runny poos.
If your cat is behaving normally, and you know a whole silica gel packet is missing, maybe more:
Even in large quantities, the gel is not toxic—it might irritate the gut and cause vomiting or diarrhea. The packet or packets combined with the gel may cause a more serious complication, however. A lot of silica gel packets in your cat’s stomach or intestines could cause a blockage (obstruction). A blockage of the gut is an emergency. If you are missing a large or unknown number of silica gel packets, it is best to call your veterinarian for advice, even if your cat seems well.
What do I do if my cat is unwell after eating silica gel?
If your cat shows any of these signs after eating silica gel, then you should call your veterinarian. Your cat could have a tummy upset for a range of reasons—it might not be the silica gel—but they still should be checked. Many tummy upsets get better with little or no treatment, but your vet should rule out a more serious issue. Silica gel packets, when swallowed whole or in large pieces, can cause blockage of the gut in cats, and this can be serious and life-threatening.
Can my cat choke on silica gel?
Choking is when something blocks the windpipe of your cat instead of being swallowed into the food pipe. This is unusual but can happen. If your cat is panicked and unable to breathe, you must get them to a veterinarian as an absolute emergency, straight away. Although rare, this could happen from playing with silica gel, so please be careful.
What not to do if your cat has eaten silica gel
If your cat has eaten silica gel, please don’t try and make him vomit. Some home therapies for making cats vomit are dangerous and risky for your pet. If your veterinarian thinks your cat needs to be made to vomit, they will do this at the clinic.
Sometimes, if an inedible object has been eaten within the previous few hours, making a cat vomit is an appropriate way of getting it out before it causes a blockage, but this should only be done by a professional veterinarian. Some objects can do more damage on the way back up than they will from staying where they are, so this needs to be a decision for the vet only.
My cat is unwell after eating a silica gel packet – what will my veterinarian do?
It is unlikely that your cat will be unwell after eating silica gel. But if he ate a lot of gel, or the packet is large, he could be.
If your cat is vomiting or has diarrhea after eating silica gel, but isstill eating and behaving normally, your vet might simply treat your cat for a tummy upset. However, vomiting and diarrhea can be signs of a more serious condition—blockage of your cat’s gut.
If your cat has only just eaten a large packet and your veterinarian is worried about a blockage happening, then they may choose to make your cat vomit. They will use drugs to do this and monitor your cat carefully. It is only appropriate in certain circumstances so never attempt it yourself.
Your veterinarian will examine your cat and, if they think there is a blockage (obstruction), they will recommend further tests. These might include scans and x-rays to help confirm an obstruction and let the vet know whereabouts it is. If it is confirmed, then your cat will need surgery under a full anesthetic. The risk of the surgery depends on where in the gut the obstruction is, and how long it has been there.
Silica gel is not harmful when swallowed. Usually, silica gel packets are small. Small packets of silica gel are unlikely to cause your cat a problem, even if swallowed. Sometimes cats can get mild tummy upsets but nothing more. However, larger packets or lots of packets of silica gel could get stuck in your cat’s gut and make him seriously ill. It is best to keep silica gel packets away from your cat, just in case.
Featured Image Credit: Andreas Lischka, Pixabay
- What is silica gel?
- Why does silica gel say do not eat? Is it toxic to cats?
- What do I do if my cat eats silica gel?
- If your cat is behaving normally, the packet is whole, and you are confident that it is the only packet:
- If your cat is behaving normally, the packet is ripped or broken, and some gel or packet might be missing:
- If your cat is behaving normally, and you know a whole silica gel packet is missing, maybe more:
- What do I do if my cat is unwell after eating silica gel?
- Can my cat choke on silica gel?
- What not to do if your cat has eaten silica gel
- My cat is unwell after eating a silica gel packet – what will my veterinarian do?
- In Conclusion…