Cosmo, a ginger cat who had eaten some poison.

Cosmo lives an active life, enjoying the outdoor world: he’s a keen hunter of rats and mice. He doesn’t have a cat flap, so he comes and goes through windows and the same doors as the humans in the house.

As part of the daily routine, the last person to bed in John’s home always ensures that Cosmo has come back from his evening wanderings. One evening last week, it was 1.30am when John was finishing some desk work. As he prepared for bed, he opened the back door, and called Cosmo.

As the cat came in, John put out a small bowlful of food for him, and at first all seemed well: Cosmo tucked into it hungrily. But when he’d finished eating, and was walking away from the dish, John noticed that there was something amiss. Cosmo staggered unsteadily, instead of walking normally, and he seemed to be looking into the distance, as if he was hallucinating. If he’d been a human, he would have been accused of being drunk. There was something very wrong with him.

John phoned the after-hours veterinary service, and he was advised to bring Cosmo in to the clinic at once. Even though it was the middle of the night, it sounded as if Cosmo could be suffering from some type of poisoning. Urgent treatment could be lifesaving. There was no time to waste: John put Cosmo into his pet carrier and set off in the car on the twenty minute drive to the emergency centre.

Cosmo has never been a good traveller, and it probably didn’t help that he’d managed to scoff a decent sized meal in the immediate period before the journey. The poor cat brought his dinner up during the drive to the emergency clinic.

Funnily enough, this was perhaps the best thing that Cosmo could have done: if an animal has been poisoned the priority is usually to empty the stomach as rapidly as possible. Vets often give an injection to cause an animal to vomit: in Cosmo’s case, this wasn’t necessary, as the job had already been accomplished.

There’s a golden window of opportunity after an animal has eating poison: if they can be made to regurgitate their stomach contents within an hour of taking the poison, there’s a good chance that the bulk of the poison will be removed from the body. If more than an hour passes, it’s likely that the poison will have moved on down from the stomach into the intestines, and it isn’t possible to remove it from this part of the digestive system. In most such cases, nothing more can then be done other than to allow the poison to be metabolised by the body, hoping that the body’s own resources will be able to “ride the storm” of the effects of the poison.

By the time he reached the vet clinic, after emptying his stomach, it was obvious that Cosmo was already feeling better. He was able to walk normally around the vet’s consulting room, with no staggering. He seemed normal apart from being just a little “spacey”. No treatment was needed: John was advised to watch him carefully for the next few hours.

After returning home, Cosmo slept peacefully on the end of John’s bed. By the following morning, the cat was completely normal. With hindsight, it seems likely that he’d eaten some slug bait pellets: if they had been fully absorbed into his system, he could have fallen unconscious and even died. As it was, a little travel sickness turned out to be the only therapy that was needed.


  • If a pet’s suspected to have eaten poison, urgent veterinary attention is essential
  • The rapid induction of vomiting is often necessary when treating poisoning
  • Every case is different: veterinary advice can be life saving

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