Benzalkonium chloride is in many household products and it is poisonous to domestic cats
“Check your household products for ingredients and make a note if one or more contains benzalkonium chloride as it could save your cat from poisoning.”
Benzalkonium chloride is another ingredient in household products of many kinds which is poisonous to domestic cats. It once again confirms that the innocous and well kept home can be a hazardous place for domestic cats. You wouldn’t think it was. Cleaning products are one of the main hazards because they contain strong chemicals which although effective for the purposes to which they are intended are also often toxic to our pets and us.
This chemical’s toxicity is well recognised with regard to domestic cats when cats are in direct contact with surfaces cleaned by products containing it (Handbook of Poisoning in Dogs and Cats by Campbell and Chapman-2008).
As an anti-microbial agent benzalkonium chloride is an active ingredient in products such as:
- Pharmaceutical products such as eye, ear, nasal drops and sprays
- Hand sanitizers, wet wipes and shampoos, deodorants and cosmetics, skin antiseptics, throat lozenges and mouthwashes
- Spermicidal creams
- Burn and ulcer treatments
- Spray disinfectants for hard surface sanitization
- Cleaners for floor and hard services as a disinfectant (Lysol)
- For cleaning algae, moss and lichens from tiles, roof tiles and masonry et cetera
My guess is that cat and dog owners are almost totally unaware of the dangers of this chemical. That said, people charged with the protection of the public are aware of it and in September 2016, in America, the FDA deferred a ban on benzalkonium chloride to allow further study to be completed. That tells us that the toxicity of this ingredient is work in progress as far as the authorities are concerned.
It isn’t just pets who are in danger. Concentrated solutions are toxic to humans. It can kill people if taken internally in sufficient quantities.Twenty people were killed in Japan by a nurse injecting the chemical into, I presume, patients.
My attention has been brought to this product by story coming from New Zealand. The owner of a Siamese cat has issued a warning online after her cat was poisoned by coming into contact with a small amount of Canesten Laundry liquid which she sprayed onto a cat scratching post. Her cat scratch the post. The product came into contact with her cat’s paws and her cat licked her paws.
She woke up the next day to find her cat salivating. She realised that the product is harmful to cats and that she had made a big mistake. It can cause hypersalivation, ulcers in the mouth, hypothermia, loss of appetite and lethargy in domestic cats. I believe it is also toxic to dogs.
In high doses cats can suffer tissue damage. If treated quickly cats can recover within several days. Salivation is the first signs of poisoning by this chemical.
The obvious action to take if a cat owner is worried about it is to stop their cat grooming himself and then bathing their cat to remove traces of the chemical from their paws and coat. Obviously they should take their cat to a veterinarian.
On this website there are countless pages on products which are toxic to cats and dangers to cat health. Below is a small of example of some poisons. Please click on this link to see pages regarding toxity to cats.