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How Do I Get Poison Ivy Off My Cat Safely? (5 Vet Recommendations)

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	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Poison ivy can cause serious problems for both you and your feline. Not only can you spread the oils that cause the rash to each other, but potential complications can pop up in both humans and felines. Luckily, poison ivy is typically nothing more than a nuisance. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t treat it. If left untreated, signs can stick around for weeks and potentially cause a series of problems.

Luckily, getting poison ivy off of your cat isn’t terribly difficult, but it will likely require several different treatments (and re-treatments). Here are some steps you should consider taking if you think your pet has come into contact with poison ivy.

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The 5 Tips to Spot and Safely Remove Poison Ivy From Your Cat

Poison Ivy
Image Credit: leoleobobeo, Pixabay

Preferably, you should know how to spot poison ivy and remove it from your property. If you haven’t already, now is the time to head outside and see if you notice any poison ivy that your cat can get into. Of course, if your cat has free reign of the outdoors, this may be challenging.

Still, if you don’t remove the plant, then your cat may simply keep coming into contact with it. Clearing up this poison ivy rash may not be your biggest problem if your cat just keeps rolling in it. Therefore, spotting and removing the poison ivy plant is vital.

You can often spot poison ivy because its leaves arrange themselves in threes. It is one of the few vines that do this, allowing you to help tell the difference between poison ivy and similar, harmless vines.

Removing poison ivy can be challenging (and could be a whole article on its own). However, remember to never burn poison ivy, no matter how you remove it. The oil can travel through the air when burned, affecting your throat and lungs. It may be best to get professional help with the removal.

1. Notice the Problem

Cats are less likely than people to experience poison ivy symptoms, as their fur protects their skin from contact. However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be affected at all, especially if the oils make their way to your pet’s skin.

Furthermore, it’s important to remember that you can get a poison ivy rash from petting your feline if they have the oils on their fur.

Cats are most likely to develop a rash in places that have less fur. For instance, their belly, chin, and paws come to mind. However, all cats are different, with varying amounts of fur. As you might imagine, a hairless cat will get the rash just about everywhere, just like a person.

Symptoms are very similar to those in people. For instance, a red, bumpy rash will likely occur. This rash is usually itchy, causing your pet to bite or scratch the rash. In some cases, blisters may occur. If the cat scratches too much, it may break the skin. Many serious cases may lead to secondary infections for this reason.

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2. Speak to a Vet

We highly recommend speaking to your vet about your pet’s rash. Not only can the vet prescribe medications to treat the rash, but they can also help watch for secondary infections. While poison ivy itself isn’t usually dangerous, the infections that take root in the rash can be. Therefore, it works best to speak to your vet.

Speaking to your vet is especially important if the rash is in a sensitive area. Your cat’s face is particularly sensitive, for instance, especially around the eye area. Poison ivy can be particularly troublesome around the eyes, as it can cause potential eye issues.

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3. Use an Oatmeal Shampoo

Often, it is recommended to bathe your cat as quickly as possible after noticing symptoms. The oils of the plant will continue to cause a rash (and even spread) until they are removed. The best way to do this is via a bath, though bathing a cat can be an ordeal. An oatmeal shampoo designed for sensitive skin is recommended, even if you don’t normally use one.

Be sure to wear gloves while bathing your pet. After all, you don’t want to get any of the oil on your skin. You should use gloves to handle your cat before bathing, but be sure to remove the gloves right after. You don’t want the gloves to re-contaminate your cat.

If you don’t have a suitable shampoo laying around, you can use plain Dawn dish soap instead. It’s very gentle and made to remove oils, so it often works quite well in this situation.

cleaning cat by shampoo on water bath
Image Credit: angnokever, Shutterstock
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4. Clean Anything Your Cat Touched

Now comes the tricky part—removing the oil from your home. Urushiol, the oil produced by poison ivy, can remain on items for a while. If these items are touched by you or your pet, a rash can occur. Therefore, it’s important to clean your home thoroughly to prevent any potential irritation.

Fabrics, such as your cat’s bed, should be washed. Often, you’ll want to use extra detergent to ensure that the oils are washed away. Sometimes, a second wash may be necessary. Be sure to use gloves when handling the bed and other fabrics.

You can use a detergent or rubbing alcohol to clean non-porous items. Be sure to clean pet toys and bowls if your cat has touched them since being exposed. You can clean most pieces of furniture just like you normally would. However, remember that you are cleaning oil, so use cleaning products designed to remove grease and similar substances.

Many cat owners treat their cats effectively but forget to clean items around their homes. In some cases, the cat may be re-affected, which may make it seem like the rash wasn’t effectively treated.

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5. Watch for Complications

Complications are extremely rare, but they can occur. The most common complications occur when the oils get into the eye, causing irritation. However, the oils can also get onto other sensitive parts of the body, causing irritation. The genitals, nose, and mouth can potentially have very adverse reactions, especially if swelling occurs.

Keep an eye out for any respiratory stress, as well. Usually, this occurs when the plant is burned. However, theoretically, it can also occur if the oils are consumed—because cats clean themselves with their tongue, there is a chance of them ingesting the oils.

Cat scratching
Image credit: Comanche, Pixabay

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Cats are sensitive to poison ivy just like humans, although their fur often protects their skin from the oils, preventing irritation. Areas with little fur can be easily irritated, including around the cat’s face.

Bathing your cat is the most effective treatment, as this helps remove the oils. However, you’ll also need to clean any other instance of the oil in your home. If your cat has touched anything, it will need to be cleaned to remove the oil. Otherwise, your cat may be re-exposed and the irritation may continue.

Be sure to use gloves and take care not to touch the oil yourself.

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Featured Image Credit: Mark van Dam, Shutterstock