When and how to make your cat vomit to treat poisoning

Cat poisons
Cat poisons

I think that every cat owner should know when and how to make their cats vomit. It sounds a bit intimidating but making your cat vomit is an emergency cure or treatment for poisoning when a cat ingests something which is poisonous. It should be done quickly. To achieve this the owner needs to have existing knowledge.

Caveat: A vet on YouTube, Dr. Justine Lee, DACVECC, DABT, provides contradictory information on making cats vomit as per the instructions below. That information is provided four veterinarians. I have included her video at the base of the page for completeness. Make up your own mind. I think in a dire emergency you’ll do all you can to save your cat including inducing vomiting if it might help.

Antifreeze poster
Antifreeze poster

Of course, it will happen very rarely if ever but it is an emergency treatment that should be part of the armoury of the cat caregiver.

You may have difficulty deciding whether your cat has ingested something poisonous or toxic. You might consider calling the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center if you live in America. Perhaps they also answer questions from anybody in the world. I suspect that they will. You can look them up on the Internet. They are staffed 24-hour today by board-certified toxicologists and or licensed veterinarians. There will be a fee for the consultation.

I think most informed cat caregivers will instinctively know whether their cat has been poisoned or at least they might suspect it. Of course, the most important consideration is to get your cat to a vet as a matter of urgency. A veterinarian will see you quickly if you explain the situation.

If a cat has ingested a poisonous substance recently, residual poison is often left inside the stomach and therefore an important step is to rid the cat’s stomach of the remaining poison.

A veterinarian would suggest that in many cases it is preferable to induce vomiting there and then at the scene of the poisoning rather than fiddling around for a while getting your cat to a veterinary clinic. You might, for example, see your cat swallow the poisonous substance.

Do not induce vomiting under the circumstances if the cat:

  • has already vomited
  • is in a stupor, breathing with difficulty or shows signs of neurological problems
  • is unconscious or convulsing
  • has swallowed an acid, cleaning solution, alkaline substance, household chemical or petroleum product
  • has swallowed a sharp object that is lodged in the oesophagus or the stomach and
  • [if the label on the product says do not induce vomiting!]

How to induce vomiting and prevent poison absorption

My excellent reference book on this topic says the following:

Induce vomiting by giving the cat hydrogen peroxide. A 3% solution is most effective. Give 1 teaspoon (5 mL) hydrogen peroxide per 10 pounds (4.53 kg) bodyweight of the cat, with a limit of 3 teaspoons. If the cat doesn’t vomit after the first dose you may repeat every 10 minutes up to 3 times, until the cat vomits. If possible, get your cat to walk around or shaking gently in your arms after giving the hydrogen peroxide. This often helps stimulate vomiting.

I have provided that verbatim and I hope that the veterinarians don’t mind because I want to be absolutely precise.

If you are successful and after your cat is vomited you can give him/her activated charcoal to bind any remaining poison and prevent further absorption.

Clearly, you will need to have to hand in your feline first-aid box hydrogen peroxide and some activated charcoal. In lieu of activated charcoal you can coat your cat’s intestines with milk and egg whites using 1/4 cup (60 mL) egg whites and 1/4 cup of milk. Mix this and give the cat about 2 teaspoons by mouth. You can administer it into the cat’s cheek using a plastic syringe.

That’s another item that you can have in your first-aid box: a syringe. It’s a useful item generally.

Itemised poisons and whether you should induce vomiting

Here are some poisonous substances which I can itemise to which I can add some detail about whether you need to induce vomiting or not and other tips. This comes from The Encyclopaedia of Cat Health written by The American Animal Hospital Association.

  • Battery acid: administer a 5% sodium bicarbonate solution or milk of magnesia, 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of bodyweight.
  • Antifreeze: this is a very common cat poison because cats are attracted to the sweet taste. The signs are lethargy, staggering, paralysis and vomiting. You should INDUCE VOMITING as described.
  • Motor oil: the symptoms are as for antifreeze. DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING. Give your cat 1 ounce of mineral oil, vegetable oil, or olive oil. In 30 minutes give 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight of milk of magnesia.
  • Fertilisers: give 1 ounce of mineral oil, olive oil or vegetable oil by mouth.
  • Weedkiller: induce vomiting, observe foreshock get betony help.
  • Household cleaners: do not induce vomiting. These are corrosive substances and vomiting will cause further damage. Give as much milk or water as your cat will drink. Observe for shock.
  • Furniture polish: do not induce vomiting.
  • Laundry or dishwashing detergents: induce vomiting
  • Insecticides: induce vomiting if insecticide has been ingested. Observe for shock. As usual seek prompt veterinary attention.
  • Pyrophosphates (compounds usually used in flea and tick dips): wash your cat’s coat with mild soap and lukewarm water.
  • Medicines such as antibiotics, and better means, antihistamines, barbiturates and tranquilizers: induce vomiting only if the animal is conscious otherwise she may choke on her own vomit. Give 1 teaspoon of milk of magnesia per 5 pounds of bodyweight.
  • Aspirin: if your cat has gotten into a bottle of aspirin induce vomiting.
  • Arsenic (pesticide): if your cat is conscious induce vomiting.
  • Strychnine (pesticide): if your cat is not vomiting then induced vomiting.
  • Warfarin: handle your cat gently because rough treatment will increase bleeding. Don’t induce vomiting.
  • Toxic plants: I would suggest induce vomiting but my reference book does not state this.
  • Paint thinner and turpentine: induce vomiting.
  • Lead and oil poisoning: induce vomiting.
  • Glues and pastes: induce vomiting.
  • Kitchen matches: induce vomiting
  • Nail polish: induce vomiting
  • Shampoo: induce vomiting
  • Shoe polish: do not induce vomiting.
  • Sidewalk salt: give plenty of milk or water. Thoroughly wash pads but don’t induce vomiting.
  • Skin creams and other cosmetics: induce vomiting
  • Talcum powder: induce vomiting.

Warning from a vet on making your cat vomit:

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