Alcohol is toxic to cats as you might expect. The main component of alcohol is ethanol. It’s toxic to people as well so it is logical to conclude that it is toxic to domestic cats. My research on Google Scholar didn’t bring up anything of real interest except there was one study which indicated that cats might become addicted to alcohol like humans.
However, an open question which I don’t think has been answered comprehensively is whether cats are put off by the taste of alcohol. Can domestic cats taste it? I ask the question because there is a video on Instagram of a Ghanaian man punishing his cat for stealing fish.
He devised a novel way of punishing his cat. He cut up raw chunks of fish and dunked them into a bowl in which he had poured an alcoholic spirit. He then gave his cat the chunks of fish. The cat must have been hungry because she completely ignored the alcohol that was on the surface of the fish. She gobbled it up.
He made a video of the whole episode and stated that his cat slept for two days afterwards. He was proud of his efforts. My response was to tell him that he is a complete fool and ignorant. He didn’t know what would happen. He probably had no knowledge of the fact that ethanol is toxic to domestic cats. In sufficient quantities it can cause severe illness. But nonetheless he recklessly carried on with his form of ‘punishment’ (abuse) in which he was no doubt proud at the time until he received lots of comments such as mine.
The video is below but it might be removed in due course so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work.
The respected Pet Poison Helpline in America state that alcohol poisoning in pets is more common than we think. A veterinary website says the opposite! They say that it is rare for them to treat cats with alcohol poisoning because cats don’t like the taste. The video on this page does not support that statement. Perhaps it depends upon the type of alcoholic beverage ingested.
The Pet Poison Helpline state that in sufficient quantities the symptoms of ethanol poisoning cats include: depression or lethargy, ataxia (lack of coordination), drooling, vomiting or retching, weakness, collapse, decreased respiratory rate, hypoglycaemia hypotension and hypothermia. The reference to decreased respiratory rate is supported by a study: Selective depression by ethanol of upper airway respiratory motor activity in cats. In that study they state that “alcohol induces a selective reduction in upper airway respiratory motor activity.”
And according to the punishment that this man meted out to his cat, they sleep for a long time. It seems to me that this cat could have been killed although unlikely because the quantity ingested was probably too small.
It goes without saying but I will say it nonetheless. Punishing your cat is completely wrong. It is immoral. Cats won’t understand why they’re being harmed by their owner. It might weaken the human-cat bond. Punishment is unsuited to companion animals as it is dependent upon a knowledge of why their behavior is bad. The fish-eating example is instructive. It is entirely normal for a cat to eat fish. Why punish a cat for normal behaviour?
The cat did not behave badly. The man behaved badly by allowing his cat access to his fish. But, as mentioned, he’s ignorant and therefore doesn’t understand this. He needs educating on how to care for his cat properly.
I believe the video was made in Ghana and therefore although this is an example of cat abuse with ample evidence because the video was uploaded online, he will not be punished because I doubt whether Ghana has any decent, enforced animal welfare laws.
Below are some more articles poisoning.