Antifreeze poisoning in cats: signs and symptoms to look for in your cat, how harmful is it, RSPCA advice

Symptoms of a cat ingesting antifreeze can start to materialise 30 minutes after it’s been consumed

Cat owners in the Wirral have been told to keep their pets indoors after poisoning left three dead in one week.

The cats, who lived in Heswall and Gayton all died from antifreeze poisoning.

Speaking to the Wirral Globe, one of the bereaved owners explained “By the time we took action, it was too late for the vet to help.”

So, what are the signs and symptoms of antifreeze poisoning in cats and what do you do if you suspect your feline has ingested it? Here’s everything you need to know.

Cats ingest antifreeze as they find the ingredient Ethylene glycol tasty (Pic: Getty Images)

What are the signs and symptoms?


Signs and symptoms of a cat ingesting antifreeze can start to materialise 30 minutes after it’s been consumed.

If you suspect your pet has come into contact with antifreeze or your cat experiences any of these symptoms it’s important that you get them to a vet immediately.

According to the RSPCA Symptoms to look out include:

  • Vomiting
  • Seeming depressed/sleepy
  • Appearing drunk and uncoordinated
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Difficulty breathing

The quicker your cat receives veterinary care, the better its chances of survival.

If left untreated, your cat will experience pain, suffering and ultimately death due to kidney failure.


Speaking to the Wirral Globe, a bereaved owner explained: “Our cat only had the symptoms of eating something wrong – lethargic, loss of appetite – but rather than recovering from these symptoms, became less and less responsive.

“By the time we took action, it was too late for the vet to help.”

Warning: “If your cat is in this area and starts displaying these symptoms, it might be worthwhile to get them checked by a vet.

“We don’t at this stage know if it is accidental - a spillage - or anything more sinister, but three cats in a few days is a bit much.”

How harmful is antifreeze poisoning in cats?

Antifreeze poisoning can be deadly to cats if it is not immediately recognised and treated.


Signs and symptoms can mirror that of other conditions, but it’s important to get your pet to the vet, just to be on the safe side.

Even ingesting the smallest amount of antifreeze is lethal without treatment and will lead to kidney failure and death.

What have the RSPCA said?

The RSPCA have issued guidance on how to protect your pet from ingesting antifreeze.

They recommend that pet owners:


  • Keep antifreeze in clearly labelled, robust, sealed containers, away from pets and their environment
  • Clean up spills immediately, no matter how small
  • Ensure your pets can’t access a spill area until it’s clean and safe
  • Always dispose of antifreeze and water coolant safely and responsibly

They also advise pet owners to regularly check their car for leaking water coolant, and to carefully store, use and dispose of the toxic substances.

Why do cats ingest antifreeze?

Ethylene glycol, the chemical ingredient in antifreeze, is tasty but deadly to cats.

In 1972 Switzerland banned its use in shops for the public due to the dangers, instead adding the less lethal chemical Propylene Glycol.

In the UK there have been growing petitions to add a bittering agent to antifreeze that makes it taste bad, as well as adding warnings on the packaging.