Your cat is naturally curious and mischievous, especially when it comes to exploring their home territory. They are also skilled at getting into seemingly hard to reach locations, such as a medicine cabinet, the top of the refrigerator, or other places where you keep medications that can be dangerous for them. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), in 2019, more than 40% of the calls they received were about medication poisoning. Our Just Cats Clinic team wants to ensure your cat stays clear of toxic medications by giving you information about some of the most common medications that are dangerous to them. This list is not exhaustive, so the best advice is to never give your cat any human or animal medication unless directed by your veterinarian.

#1: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and cats

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are an over-the-counter (OTC) category of medications present in many homes and are used to decrease fever, pain, and inflammation. However, your cat is not able to metabolize NSAIDs the same way you do, and ingestion can lead to serious health problems and possibly death. Toxic effects for different NSAIDS include: 

  • Acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol) — Ingestion can cause anemia, liver toxicity, and kidney disease. One regular strength pill can cause toxicity within three hours of ingestion, and two pills can be deadly. 
  • Ibuprofen (i.e., Advil, Motrin) — Toxicity signs will depend on the amount ingested, but may include dark stools. Ingestion could put your cat at risk for renal failure. One standard dose pill can be toxic to most cats.
  • Aspirin — Aspirin blocks the enzymes needed to control normal gastrointestinal (GI) function, kidney function, and blood clotting. Cats who ingest aspirin are at risk for seizures, bleeding disorders, and GI problems. 
  • Naproxen (i.e., Aleve)  — Naproxen’s toxic effects are similar to ibuprofen and other NSAIDs, but naproxen is a longer-acting medication.  

 Other signs of NSAID toxicity include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Excess salivation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dark, tarry stools
  • Dark or pale gums
  • Lethargy
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Seizures

Bring your cat for immediate veterinary care if you inadvertently give them an NSAID, or if they accidentally ingest one. 

#2: Antidepressants and cats

Just as antidepressants can be prescribed for people, they can also be prescribed for cats, particularly to help with anxiety or behavior problems. Never share your antidepressant medication with your cat because the dose and type of drug could be toxic to your pet.  Signs of antidepressant toxicity include: :

  • Fever
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Lack of coordination
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Sedation
  • Coma

#3: Anti-anxiety and sleep aid medication and cats

Commonly prescribed anti-anxiety and sleep medications, such as Xanax and Ambien, are toxic when ingested by cats. Signs of toxicity may include:

  • Aggression
  • Agitation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lack of coordination
  • Severe sedation
  • Heart arrhythmias  

In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-anxiety drug like Valium for your cat to control seizures, or aid in muscle relaxation. However, these drugs are administered under close veterinary observation, and with cat-specific dosages.  

#4: Dog medications and cats

Cats have a different physiology than dogs, which makes them unable to process certain medications that dogs can take. For example, common dog flea medications should never be shared with your cat, because it can lead to an overdose, or death in some cases. Additionally, many veterinary NSAIDs that are safe for dogs can be deadly to cats.

Toxic medication prevention for your cat

It can be tempting to give your cat a pain reliever when they are injured, or anxiety medication when it’s storming outside, but your veterinarian should determine what’s appropriate for your pet. You should ensure that all medications in your house are safely stored and out of your cat’s reach. Other measures you can take  include:

  • Never leave loose pills in a plastic or easy-to-chew bag that your cat may be able to reach.
  • Never store pet medications near human medications. 
  • Keep your purse or bag zipped and out of your cat’s reach.
  • Place childproof locks on cabinets or drawers where medications are stored.
  • Keep the  ASPCA APCC, Just Cats Clinic, and closest animal emergency clinic numbers in a visible location, in case your cat accidentally ingests one of these medications..

Call our Just Cats Clinic office if you have any questions, or bring them for a veterinary examination if you are worried they have ingested something toxic.