What are the biggest hazards for cats over spring time?

Springtime normally brings an increased number of cases to our out of hours clinics.  Bright sunny days mean that people and their pets are out and about enjoying the weather.  We tend to see more cat fights, dog bites, allergic reactions and occasionally cases of heat stroke.

We’ve drawn up a list of some of the main hazards to look out for.

If you’re worried your cat is sick or injured as a result of any of these, please contact your vet as soon as possible, or find your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or Vets Now 24/7 hospital.

1. Plants & flowers

Cats love spending time in the garden.  Make sure that your garden is safe for your cat and be careful if you need to use any pellets, pesticides or other chemicals.  Avoid using cocoa shell mulch, it is toxic to pets (it contains the same ingredient as chocolate).

Watch out for poisonous plants. Species common at this time of year include lilies (including daffodils), spring bulbs and azaleas.  If you notice any signs of poisoning such as excessive salivation/dribbling, vomiting, diarrhoea, appearing ‘drunk’ or even collapsing, contact your vet immediately.

2. Permethrin (insecticides)

Permethrin is an insecticide commonly found in many over the counter ‘spot-on’ flea treatments for dogs. It is very toxic to cats and unfortunately at Vets Now we see numerous cases of poisoning every month. Cats are most commonly poisoned after their owners mistakenly use a dog product on the cat, but they can also show mild signs after close contact with a recently treated dog. The effects are usually rapid in onset.  Signs of insecticide poisoning include drooling, tremors, twitching and seizures. It’s very important to contact your vet immediately if you think your cat has been poisoned by insecticides. Cats that receive immediate treatment and survive usually suffer no long-term effects. Read more about common poisons in cats.

3. Slug and snail pellets (Metaldehyde)

This is a common poison we see in dogs, and occasionally in cats. The toxic compound is metaldehyde (not all slug pellets contain metaldehyde) and only small amounts of pellets can cause significant poisoning.  Signs will be seen within an hour of ingestion and include incoordination, muscle spasms, twitching, tremors and seizures.  Your cat will need urgent veterinary treatment if they have been poisoned with slug pellets. Read more about common poisons in cats.

Image of a cat outdoors in spring time

4. Parties

Remember that party food is not for pets – make sure you keep food and drink out of reach. Be aware of which “human foods” are dangerous to cats, and make sure your guests know the rules too. If you are having a barbeque, make sure your cat is kept at a safe distance away. Kebab skewers, alcohol and bones are particularly dangerous BBQ hazards.

Make sure your cat has either a collar and ID tag or preferably a microchip, so that he can be identified and you can be contacted if he runs away or has an accident.

5. Insect stings

Cats often like to chase and play with wasps and bees and can be stung.  Most cases of wasp or bee stings are not emergencies.  With a bee sting, check and remove the sting if it is still in place, then bathe the area in bicarbonate of soda (one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to 300ml warm water). With wasp stings bathe the area with malt vinegar or lemon juice.

If your cat is stung in or near the mouth or neck then you may need to seek veterinary help. Cats, like humans, can be allergic or become allergic to stings. Signs include swellings, distress and breathing difficulties.

Make sure your cat is up to date with his vaccinations, flea and tick medications as this is the time of year fleas and ticks start to increase in number.

6. Allergies

Just like people, cats and dogs can develop allergies to plants, pollens, grasses, and many other substances in springtime. Allergies in pets normally appear as itchy skin and ear problems, accompanied by hair loss or inflamed skin. Some pets will even change their behaviour due to irritation.  Some will suffer respiratory signs or runny eyes.

7. Grooming

Don’t forget to groom your cat regularly.  This helps to prevent skin irritation, prevent hair mats forming, allows you to spot fleas, ticks and any cuts/scrapes and keep an eye on his nails which may need trimming (especially in older cats).

8. Neutering

Springtime is when female un-neutered cats will start coming into season, so it’s essential to get them speyed now if you do not want 3-4 litters of kittens this year.

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Ingestion of batteries is common at this time of year.  If the battery is chewed and pierced it can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning.  And if swallowed whole it can lead to an obstruction.

All batteries are potentially toxic so if you suspect your cat has chewed or swallowed one speak to your vet or, out of hours, contact your nearest Vets Now emergency clinic.

Christmas trees and festive houseplants

Most Christmas tree species are low toxicity but may cause a mild stomach upset.

The poinsettia’s brightly coloured leaves contain an irritant sap. The plant is poisonous if ingested in large quantities but,  because of the taste and irritation from the sap, it’s unlikely your cat would ingest enough to be seriously ill. To be on the safe side, keep poinsettias out of your cat’s reach.

All parts of the lily plant are poisonous and can cause kidney failure.  Contact your vet — or out of hours, your nearest Vets Now clinic or 24/7 hospital — straight away if your cat has chewed on or eaten a lily.

Read our guide on what to do if you’re worried your pet has eaten something poisonous.

Hot spots

Cats love curling up in warm places for a nap. Prevent potential burns, and indeed fires, by protecting your cat from open fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters.

Warm engines are also a favourite place for outdoor cats, so peep your horn or bang on the bonnet before starting your car on cold winter’s mornings.

It’s amazing how many times motorists have discovered a cat hiding in their engine when they’ve arrived at their work. It’s worth making sure your cat’s wearing an identification disc and is microchipped, with up-to-date contact details, to increase the chance of him being found should he go missing.