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Key takeaways

Alcohol poisoning occurs when a cat ingests, inhales, or absorbs a sufficient quantity of alcohol.

  • Symptoms include sleepiness, incoordination, vomiting, disorientation, and increased urination
  • Sources of alcohol include alcoholic beverages, household products, health and beauty products, automotive products, uncooked yeast bread dough, and pet grooming products
  • Due to their small body weight, even small amounts of alcohol are dangerous or even fatal to cats
  • Cats who have been observed ingesting alcohol, or have symptoms of alcohol poisoning, require emergency veterinary attention
  • Diagnostic tools include physical examination, blood work, urinalysis, and diagnostic imaging
  • There is no antidote for alcohol poisoning; reatment involves supportive care
  • Prognosis is good unless complications arise
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A closer look: Alcohol Poisoning in Cats

The three main types of alcohol found in commercial products which have the potential to poison cats are ethanol, menthol, and isopropanol. Ethanol, the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, is less potent than methanol and isopropanol. Cats who ingest methanol and isopropanol usually have more severe symptoms and are at greater risk of death.

Cats are particularly susceptible to the ill effects of alcohol poisoning because of their low body weight. A cat who has been observed ingesting, inhaling, or absorbing alcohol, or shows symptoms of alcohol poisoning requires emergency veterinary attention, particularly if they are having difficulty walking or staying awake.

Risk factors

Alcohol poisoning is rare in cats. The severity of alcohol poisoning depends on the type of alcohol, the amount of alcohol in the system, and the size of the cat. In small amounts, alcohol changes the behavior of a cat and makes it feel ill. In large quantities, alcohol is lethal.

Cats who roam outside are at greater risk of all toxicoses, including alcohol poisoning.

Cats in homes where products containing alcohol are accessible are at greater risk.

Kittens and small cats are particularly at risk because of their small body weight.

Alcohol poisoning from ingesting uncooked yeast bread dough is complicated because the dough continues to rise in the warm environment of the stomach. This can result in gastric distention, volvulus (where the stomach twists), and respiratory difficulty.

Symptoms of a twist in the stomach are a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate medical attention.

Possible causes

Alcohol poisoning is caused by ingestion, inhalation, or absorption of ethanol, isopropanol, or methanol. Isopropanol and methanol are more potent than ethanol, making them particularly dangerous to cats.

Products that contain ethanol include:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Fermented fruits
  • Sourdough starter
  • Uncooked yeast bread dough
  • Mouthwash
  • Liquid medications
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Natural stress relief pet products

Products that contain methanol include:

  • Windshield wiper fluid
  • Paint removers
  • Canned fuels

Products that contain isopropanol include:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Perfume
  • Parasite control sprays
  • Pet grooming products
  • Glass cleaner
  • Antifreeze
  • Detergents

Consumption of alcohol inhibits the function of the central nervous system, leading to the characteristic symptoms of drunkenness. Cats are especially sensitive to alcohol poisoning because of their small bodies, which means that even a small amount of alcohol can affect a cat’s behavior.

Main symptoms

The main symptoms of alcohol poisoning in cats are similar to the symptoms of drunkenness in humans.

Testing and diagnosis

If alcohol exposure was observed directly, diagnostic tests are primarily used to identify any potential organ damage or underlying conditions. Cats with an unknown history of exposure undergo diagnostics which may include:

  • Physical examination
  • Bloodwork
  • Urinalysis
  • Diagnostic imaging such as ultrasound
  • Blood alcohol tests where available

Steps to Recovery

There is no antidote to alcohol poisoning. Due to the rapid absorption of alcohol into the body, inducing vomiting or decontamination of the stomach are often ineffective. Treatment is primarily supportive while the body metabolizes the alcohol itself. Supportive measures include:

  • IV fluids
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Anti-nausea medication
  • Anti-seizure medication
  • IV dextrose, in the case of low blood sugar
  • Hospitalization to monitor heart function and neurological conditions

In the case of ingestion of uncooked yeast bread dough, additional treatments may include:

  • Introducing cold water into the stomach
  • Induction of vomiting
  • In extreme cases, surgery to remove the dough Note: induction of vomiting should only be performed by a veterinarian. There is no safe way to induce vomiting at home.

The prognosis with treatment is good. Recovery usually takes 8 to 12 hours. In cases of severe intoxication or with exposure to isopropanol, recovery takes longer. Full return to health is expected within 24 hours. In cases where severe side effects occur, or in cases left untreated, the prognosis is more guarded.


Prevention requires that all products that contain alcohol be stored out of reach of cats. Cats should not be fed alcohol nor raw bread dough. Pet medications containing alcohol should be used as instructed on the packaging. Careful disposal of products containing alcohol is recommended.

Is Alcohol Poisoning in Cats common?

Alcohol poisoning is rare in cats.

Typical Treatment

Supportive care while the alcohol is metabolized

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