Poisoning Due to Ingesting Rat Poison in Cats

PetMD Editorial
Oct 04, 2010
4 min read
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Strychnine Poisoning in Cats

Strychnine is a very strong and dangerous poison that is often added to baits for killing rats, moles, gophers, and other rodents or unwanted predators. Having a very short duration of action, the clinical symptoms of strychnine poisoning typically appear within ten minutes to two hours after ingestion, resulting in sudden death.

Patients often will die due to spasming of the muscles involved in respiration, resulting in strangulation. Cats of all ages are equally susceptible to the adverse effects of strychnine.

Symptoms and Types

The following are some of the symptoms of strychnine poisoning:

  • Limb rigidity
  • Stiff muscles
  • Uncontrolled violent seizures (sometimes in response to bright lights or noise)
  • Severe spasms leading to arching of the head, neck and back in extreme hyperextension (opisthotonus)
  • Elevated heart rate
  • High body temperature
  • Breathing difficulties, inability to breathe
  • Vomiting


  • Accidental exposure to baits (common in cats)
  • Ingestion of poisoned rodents and birds
  • Malicious poisoning by lacing foods with strychnine


Treatment for strychnine poisoning needs to be given immediately. As much as possible, you will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition.

If you know or suspect that your cat was exposed to poison and you can gather a sample of vomit or feces to take to your veterinarian for immediate laboratory analysis, your doctor will be better able to treat your cat quickly and effectively.

Blood samples will be taken for testing, as poison can cause a number of system failures and imbalances, and treatment will be based on the specific conditions, with the most serious being being given primary attention. Routine laboratory tests will include a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. The biochemistry profile may indicate an abnormal rise in the levels of enzymes called creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase, and the urinalysis may show high levels of the protein myglobin (myglobinuria). A blood sample will also be submitted for determination of blood gases, which are often at abnormal levels due to respiratory muscle spasms. Your veterinarian may also take samples of the stomach contents for analysis and/or to determine if any damage has taken place in the stomach lining.

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