How to try and save a cat who has drunk antifreeze

Treating anti-freeze poisoning in cats
Photo by EvelynGiggles
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Here is some information, from an excellent source¹, about doing the near impossible; saving a cat who has lapped up antifreeze. The reason why I am writing this post is because, once again, we have one of those horror stories about a cat hater poisoning cats in a certain area by mixing antifreeze with cat food and putting it down on the street for outdoor cats to eat. Antifreeze does not taste bad to a cat. In fact they lap it up without mixing it with food. Something cat be done but the best thing to do is keep your cat inside until the poisoner has been found but that may be impractical.

In this instance, a person living in or near Dovercourt, England (east coast in Suffolk) is responsible for the killings. Thirteen cats have died, and 35 died last year at the hands of what appears to be the same person. Police were given the names of three possible suspects but none were arrested. This is what I would expect. It is very difficult, in fairness to the police, to obtain hard evidence in this sort of crime. The suspect just denies involvement and that is that.

Ethylene Gylcol

This is the component in antifreeze that kills cats. Note: if you have antifreeze in the garage, please be extremely careful with it. Make sure the container is properly closed and there are no spills. Buy antifreeze with propylene glycol as the primary component, as this is far less toxic to cats. All manufacturers should use this chemical. They don’t, indicating a lack of concern.

Signs of Toxicity

  • The signs occur fast: within 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingesting it. They include:
  • depression, vomiting, drunken walk, seizures, kidney damage and kidney failure days later. Death is the usual outcome.
  • Important: if in doubt about symptoms, go to the vet immediately and don’t treat for anti-freeze poisoning.

Treatment by Cat Owner

This is a case where the cat owner can, sometimes, justifiably do something because of the need for fast action.

Even if you can get your cat to a vet in a reasonable time, try to induce vomiting in your cat. That is the advice. If you can get to your veterinarian within minutes, just take her.

So, for the cat’s owner, the treatment has two possible strands to it:

  • Make your cat vomit, then take your cat to the vet.
  • Administer activated charcoal if there is a delay in getting your cat to the vet.

How to Induce Vomiting in a Cat

Ideally, you’ll have an emergency medical kit. That is, you’ll need some preparatory work. In truth this is unlikely to have happened but if you read this you might prepare a first aid kit that contains hydrogen peroxide.

It is recommended that you give a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide to your cat. 3% is 3 parts per 100. You can buy it at 3% solution. The instructions are to give your cat 1 teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide for every 10 pounds of the cat’s weight. The average cat weighs from 6 to 16 pounds. That makes one teaspoon for the average cat to a max. of 3 teaspoonfuls. The dose can be repeated after 10 mins if necessary to a max of 3x.

I would expect a poisoned cat to be fairly compliant so administering it shouldn’t be a big problem.

If he vomits and the stomach is cleared and it is still difficult to get to a vet quickly, activated charcoal can be given.  The best way to administer it is to give a 5 gram compressed charcoal pill with a pill gun. These pill administrators are very cheap and you can get one from your vet.

The Vet

When going to the vet the advice is to take some vomit if your cat has vomited or the poison. The vet can take it from there.


  1. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook pages 29-31.
Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

9 thoughts on “How to try and save a cat who has drunk antifreeze”

  1. I’m curious. Was there actual cat-food found with antifreeze in it? Or is that area just more prone to small car accidents and it spilled out of cars’ radiators into puddles on the streets. In either case, the people who were truly responsible for poisoning those cats were the people that let them roam free in the first place–no matter how the cats found antifreeze. If a cat gets ran over by a car is it the automobile manufacturer’s fault too? Really, start to take some responsibility for the deaths of your own cats. If your cat dies from being outside that’s 100% your own fault, no others’.

    1. If your cat dies from being outside that’s 100% your own fault, no others’.

      This is obviously incorrect because some people maliciously and criminally poison cats or injure them. These people obviously take all of the responsibility in these cases. If a cat is killed by a car and the person’s house is near a busy road and the person still lets their cat out, I agree that person has to shoulder a lot of the responsibility. But you could also argue that humans make the world more dangerous for animals and ourselves because of a careless and reckless approach to life: population expansion, more cars, more guns, more bombs, more shootings, and so on.

      1. So, let me get this correct:

        It is okay if a cat gets ran over by a car, and that’s the cat-owner’s fault.

        It is okay if a cat drinks antifreeze in a puddle from a car accident, and that’s the cat-owner’s fault.

        It is okay if a cat eats rat poison it finds behind someone’s garbage bins, and that’s the cat-owner’s fault.

        It is okay if a cat drinks antifreeze that someone left out in their open garage after draining the radiator, and that’s the cat-owner’s fault.

        But if a cat eats some food that also happens to have antifreeze dripped into it, then that’s the person’s fault that combined the two substances?

        Interesting how you make those distinctions.

        And you never answered, was there proof that someone did just that? Put out food with antifreeze in it? Or are you just placing blame on someone else when it was really the cat owners’ faults all along? It’s so simple to blame others for the deaths of your own cats, isn’t it. Then you don’t have to look at who really killed your own cats. How conveniently you trick your own minds that way just so you don’t have to be responsible for your own negligence.

        1. You are talking absolute mumbo-jumbo again. I never wrote these things.

          It is okay if a cat drinks antifreeze in a puddle from a car accident, and that’s the cat-owner’s fault.

          It is incorrect to assign fault to someone under these circumstances. It is an accident and an unfortunate circumstance. Somethings that happen cannot be blamed on someone.

          You think in black and white terms which indicates poor thinking.

          1. I know that all the pets I’ve owned in life never died from anything other than old-age while under my care. Because I actually loved them. I took care of them, watched out for them, and protected them from all harm.

            No cat would die from any of those above-mentioned scenarios, ever, if they too were actually loved, cared-for, and were under the owner’s proper supervision.

            If a dog escaped from my supervision and was shot by a neighbor, which is perfectly legal for them to do so, that would have been my fault and I would have acted like an adult and taken full responsibility for the death of my dog. Even apologizing to the person who was forced to shoot my dog for having put them in such a terrible situation and forcing them to make that awful decision. (After I got over the initial shock and intense grieving of course.)

            If a cat escaped from my supervision and died at the hands of others, that too would have been my fault. I would have had nobody but myself to blame and would have acted the same as if it happened to any other animal of mine.

            This section deleted….Admin

            But of course, this is all nonsense to you. Because it is more convenient for you to dismiss this information than comprehend it. Thinking like a responsible adult is just so very foreign to you that it just doesn’t make any sense to you at all. You’ve made that perfectly clear, if nothing else.

            1. Thinking like a responsible adult is just so very foreign to you that it just doesn’t make any sense to you at all. You’ve made that perfectly clear, if nothing else.

              My post makes it clear that I firmly believe in responsible cat caretaking. I suggest you read the post again. You seem to be blinded by your own angry thoughts. I believe I am a very responsible person. You don’t know me. You have no idea how I live or almost anything about my philosophies. Please be more respectful and less angry.

  2. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    Great advice Michael.
    It’s so upsetting that a cheap bitter tasting additive to anti freeze would stop all this poisoning of cats deliberately and accidentally because then cats wouldn’t touch it, yet the government ignore all the pleas and petitions to make this a law.
    As always, cats are way down low in their priorities.

    1. Thanks Ruth. I’d like to save some of these cats. It is a horrible death. One of my mother’s cats was poisoned and she watched her die. It affected her for a long time.

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