Will Stray Cats Drink Antifreeze? Scary Info Here!

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In many countries, winters are coupled with challenges and inconveniences because of freezing temperatures. People commonly use antifreeze products to combat these circumstances. But, this is incredibly toxic to humans and animals. So, will stray cats drink antifreeze?

Stray cats may drink antifreeze as they find it alluring. Even without intentional ingestion, stray cats may become poisoned by tracking antifreeze on their fur and licking themselves. Thus, it is essential to use, store, and dispose of antifreeze properly.

Although using antifreeze is a standard aspect of living for many, it needs to be used cautiously. Everyone who uses antifreeze needs to be aware of the potential harm it can do, regardless of whether or not pets are owned. Stick around to find out why cats drink antifreeze and how to prevent such hazards from harming them.

Stray Cat

Are Cats Attracted to Antifreeze?

Yes, cats are attracted to antifreeze. The sweet smell and taste are attractive for animals, even though it is poisonous. Even if they do not intend to ingest it, they may be curious about the substance and may sniff at it or lick it, which is still harmful.

What is Antifreeze made of?

Antifreeze is the commonly used term for the substance that many people apply to various vehicles and home appliances to prevent freezing. This includes cars, radiators, de-icers, screen washers, and even garden features. Antifreeze is made of ethylene glycol, which is extremely poisonous.

Will Stray Cats Drink Antifreeze?

Yes, stray cats will drink antifreeze if they feel inclined to do so. Stray cats are particularly vulnerable since they will be more likely to consume the substance if they are thirsty or hungry, as they may simply ingest it out of desperation.

How Do Cats Get Antifreeze Poisoning?

While it’s commonly believed that cats need to actively drink the substance for harm to be done to them, this simply is not the case. Although many cases are a result of cats being attracted to it, some cases are accidental. Many scenarios could result in cats ingesting antifreeze, whether or not they are aware of it.

Spilled Antifreeze

In many cases, people do not effectively clean the area where they have worked with the substance. It’s not uncommon for spills and accidents to occur, especially when doing something as trivial as treating home items for winter. But, caution needs to be taken as cats may drink from puddles or lick surfaces such as driveways and pathways.

Storage of Antifreeze

How the user stores antifreeze is also essential. It should be stored in containers that cannot be accessed and should be kept out of reach. In some cases, antifreeze may be outside the container after use. Examples of this would be having antifreeze around the rims of bottles or via drips from the container. Cats may lick this excess off of the container.

Accidental Ingestion of Antifreeze

In many cases, cats may be completely unaware that they have ingested antifreeze. Cats are particularly vulnerable to the accidental ingestion of antifreeze because they lick themselves frequently for cleaning and grooming.

Strays are even more vulnerable since they are exposed to far more than domestic cats. Thus they are more likely to step in antifreeze while living on the streets. They will likely lick their paws or fur shortly after, risking being poisoned in this way.

Items with Antifreeze on Them

Many surfaces and objects that people use antifreeze for are found outdoors and are mostly left exposed for strays to encounter. Objects such as cars left outside or lawn equipment may be accessible for strays. This poses the threat of them licking these objects while they have antifreeze on them and getting poisoned.

What Happens to a Cat When it Drinks Antifreeze?

Although antifreeze poisoning causes a series of concerning symptoms after they have ingested it, this is not the primary concern. The significant damage occurs once the compound enters the body and finds its way to the cat’s organs, after which it will be incredibly hard – maybe impossible – to treat the damage.

Since antifreeze is made of ethylene glycol, the main factor is how this substance behaves inside the body. Ethylene glycol gets broken down in the liver but will create additional chemicals that will drastically harm the kidneys. This is the primary reason why cats become poisoned, as the body will not be able to handle such strain. In most cases, this causes kidney failure and is so severe that cats will not survive it.

Stray Cat

How Long Will a Cat Live After Ingesting Antifreeze?

Sadly, fatality will likely occur in only a few days after ingestion. This is the approximate time that it takes for ethylene glycol to break down and cause kidney failure. The length of time cats will live after ingesting antifreeze will also depend on how much of the substance has been consumed.

How Much Antifreeze is Poisonous to Cats?

Only a teaspoon of antifreeze is fatal for cats, which means that a small lick out of curiosity may still be enough to severely harm or kill the cat. This may seem like a minimal amount, but this needs to be compared to the size of a cat’s body and organs, in addition to the fact that a cat’s metabolisms are more susceptible to damage from this substance.

What Are the Signs of Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats?

While some cats may not exhibit symptoms immediately, there are quite a few telling indicators to watch out for. It’s essential to watch out for these symptoms, as there is still a chance to save the cat shortly after it has ingested antifreeze. At first, cats may not show signs of antifreeze poisoning. The first symptoms can begin earlier, mainly if they have drunk a large amount of the substance and the toxicity is severe.

The First Few Hours

Within the first few hours after ingesting antifreeze, the cat will begin to exhibit certain behavior. This includes being disorientated and off-balance resembling ‘drunken’ behavior, which is hugely concerning for a cat. They may also suffer from depression, extreme exhaustion, and fatigue may vomit and may have a fast heartbeat. At this point, there may still be a chance of survival with appropriate steps and treatment. 

Once Kidney Damage Sets In

After the poisoning has begun to disrupt kidney function, the cat’s urination will start to be affected, which will be indicated by frequent drinking and urination. Earlier symptoms and behavior will worsen, and the cat’s ‘drunk’ behavior may develop into full seizures or incidences of the cat collapsing entirely. At this stage, there is little to no chance of survival.

False Healing

In some cases, the cat may appear to be doing better since they may urinate less after about a day or two. But, this is a false indication, as symptoms usually get far worse after this point as their kidneys begin failing.

How is Antifreeze Poisoning Determined?

It’s crucial to immediately bring the cat to the vet after ingestion or as soon as early symptoms begin. Chances of survival depending on when the antifreeze was ingested and how much antifreeze has been ingested.

What Tests Are Done?

The vet will take blood and urine tests, as these may show signs of ethylene glycol poisoning, such as kidney damage and particular crystals in the urine. However, it should be noted that some tests may come out negative even when there has been antifreeze poisoning.

What Treatment is There?

If the cat is brought to the animal hospital within the first few hours, vets may remove the substance from the stomach and replace it with charcoal to bind antifreeze in the intestines. There are also medications prescribed for preventing the liver from breaking down the antifreeze, which enables the antifreeze to pass through the urine.

However, these treatments are not useful for kidney damage, as they prevent the toxicity from reaching the kidneys. Drastic measures for kidney damage include dialysis, which removes waste products. Unfortunately, the damage is still irreversible, and this may not be effective at this stage of organ damage.

Preventing Antifreeze Poisoning

The most conscientious ways to prevent antifreeze poisoning are by cleaning up spills, guarding objects where antifreeze has been used, and including additives such as Bitrex, which will make it smell and taste bitter. Such measures may help prevent animals from being attracted to the substance or encountering the substance incidentally. 

Prevention is better than cure, always make sure that you take the appropriate precautions when working with antifreeze, keep it far away from any living organism, and additional safety measures are still welcome. If you suspect antifreeze poisoning, seek medical assistance immediately.


Video: Antifreeze Poisoning In Cats

Stray cats can encounter antifreeze in many ways.  When stray cats ingest antifreeze, it is quite harmful.  If you think a cat has ingested antifreeze, you should take it to the animal hospital to get checked out. 

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Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

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