Cats are curious little creatures and love to explore their environments. If you share the land with toads, you might be wondering if they could poison your cat. The answer is: it’s possible! Not all toads are poisonous to cats, yet some very toxic!
In this guide, we’ll answer the question, are toads poisonous to cats, in detail. Let’s hop to it!
In North America, many toads are mildly toxic to pets, but we have two main species of toads that could cause severe poisoning in cats and dogs. The Cane/Marine Toad and the Colorado River/Sonoran Desert Toad. Below are the distinguishing features and common locations of these two toads.
|Cane Toads|| |
Pastel yellow underbelly
Large triangular glands located behind the eyes
No ridges along the top of their heads
|Colorado River Toads||Leathery olive green or brown skin|
Smooth, not many bumps
Large golden eyes
Prominent oval glands behind the eyes and on their hind legs
|Average 7.5” long||Southern Arizona
Southern New Mexico
Both of these toads are large, but thankfully, they are only found in these specific locations listed in the table above.
As a method of self-defense, these toads will secret a type of toxin called bufotoxin, like a milky residue through their skin. When cats come into contact with this toxin, it swiftly enters their system and progresses into their bloodstream to target major organs.
Sadly, the cane toad isn’t even a native species. It was introduced in Florida to help rid crop fields of small pests. Since then, it’s established itself across the region. As it is not a native species, there is no law against disposing of it.
However, the Colorado River toad is a native species, and therefore the ability to catch or dispose of this toad is governed under a fishing license.
What’s the difference between frogs and toads?
Frogs typically have skin with a wet sheen and long back legs. Toads have dry bumpy skin and shorty stocky back legs. Frogs typically won’t cause any issues for your cat, as we do not have native poisonous frogs in the United States.
Signs of Poisoning
Unlike the two above, mildly poisonous toads that are found throughout the continent will cause drooling, retching, and vomiting, and nothing more serious. However, when your cat encounters a cane toad or Colorado river toad, the above symptoms will quickly progress into life-threatening shock.
The chain of events in toad poisoning:
- Cat comes into contact with toad and mouths the animal
- Immediate drooling and irritation of mucous membranes
- Head shaking, possible whimpering or whining, pawing at the mouth
- Seizures and neurological signs such as difficulty walking and lack of coordination
- High temperature
- Possible collapse
This progression can take as little time as 30 minutes. If your cat has ingested the toad, death can occur in just 15 minutes. So there is absolutely no time to spare in seeking treatment. Without proper care, exposure to these toad toxins is nearly 100% lethal.
The main method of poisoning in cats is through mouthing a toad, but rarely, it can also occur by toxin absorption through an open wound. Generally, toads and cats just don’t mix.
If you happen to contact the toxin to your skin while aiding your cat, you can experience burning eyes and inflamed skin.
Knowing when the toads are most active can be a guide to keep your cat indoors, especially if you live near their habitats. Toads will be out and about mostly during summer and high humidity, like heavy rain. They are nocturnal creatures, and thus will be most active around sunset, during the night, and sunrise.
Your cat likely wouldn’t enjoy being outside during the rain and it would generally be good practice to ensure they come back inside before sunset.
Some more points of prevention include:
- Do not leave food or water bowls outside
- If you must leave water out, keep it raised and change it often
- If you let your pet outside at night, accompany them and take a flashlight with you
Toads are omnivores and will be attracted to pet food that’s left outside. Even if your cat doesn’t directly mouth a toad, she can still become poisoned through her food or water bowl if a toad was mucking around in it.
The smaller the animal, the more susceptible they are to the effects of this poisoning. Cats are much smaller than dogs and are likely to suffer more symptoms based on their body size.
It’s very wise to have the contact information to your vet programmed into your phone or taped to your fridge. Even if you don’t live in an area with poisonous toads, when your pet needs help, you don’t need to be fumbling around looking for phone numbers.
Also note, not all vets are open 24/7, and not all emergencies take place during business hours. Make sure you obtain the number for an emergency clinic that will have phone service at all times. Knowing the closest animal emergency room is just as important as knowing the closest human one.
If you believe your cat has interacted with a cane toad or Colorado river toad, spare no time in seeking treatment. When able, try to get a clear picture of the toad, but don’t waste time rooting through the bushes to find it.
Follow these steps if you notice signs of toad poisoning in your cat:
- RINSE out your pet’s mouth (if they are conscious) for 5-10minutes in one of the following ways:
- Use a hose or sprayer and aim the nozzle away from the back of the throat to prevent swallowing
- Use a wet washcloth held in the mouth
- Do not let your pet ingest the water and do not attempt to induce vomiting
- CALL your vet immediately and begin traveling towards your vet clinic with your cat
There are no home medications to help with this poisoning, your pet will unquestioningly need medical assistance. At the clinic, all efforts will be taken to minimize the effect of the toxin on the animal.
Affected animals will be issued medication to reduce saliva volume, treatments to reduce cardiac arrhythmia, and benzodiazepines to dull the overstimulation of the nervous system. A cat may also be supplied with supplemental oxygen if difficulty breathing or low oxygen levels are detected.
You can see that the treatment for toad poisoning is very meticulous and you should attempt to treat your cat at home. As mentioned previously, untreated cases of toad poisoning most always have fatal endings.
Toads don’t play well with cats. If you live in an area with these toxic creatures, keep a keen eye on your wandering cat and spare no minute in dealing with a possible poisoning. You should keep the contact information for your vet and pet emergency clinic easily accessible.
Though they seem slow and harmless, toads are not to be trifled with. Be aware of your amphibious neighbors and play nice with them. Better yet, don’t play at all!