Fact checked by Dr. Antoinette Martin, DVM
There is a good chance that you own and use Lysol products, as these household cleaners and disinfectants are considered staple products for most families. But have you ever wondered if they could be toxic for your pets?
Lysol products are some of the most popular cleaning agents on the planet. They are known for their ability to quickly clean and disinfect household surfaces and rid homes of dangerous germs.
Lysol has become even more popular and widely used throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic. While commercial disinfectants can be useful, relatively few people consider the fact they can be quite toxic and dangerous for animals if they are consumed in large enough quantities.
Although there are plenty of household cleaning products that are far more toxic than Lysol, this popular cleaning agent does contain an active ingredient that can be fairly harmful to cats. To help you keep your cat safe while maintaining a clean home, we are going to go over everything you need to know about Lysol and cats.
What is in Lysol That is Harmful to Cats?
One of the main active ingredients in some Lysol products is called phenol. This is the compound that helps disinfect surfaces and kill germs. Phenol is also one of the Lysol brand’s signature ingredients, as it is also responsible for the unique, chemical smell we immediately associate with its products. For most people, this scent is tied to cleanliness.
Unfortunately, felines are unable to properly metabolize phenol. If a cat ingests a significant amount of this compound, organ damage (to kidneys or liver) is possible. However, Lysol products are much more likely to be a respiratory irritant if inhaled and a GI irritant if ingested, it is very uncommon for a cat to ingest high enough level to cause organ injury.
How Does Lysol Exposure Occur?
While this sounds very concerning, there is some good news. For starters, the quantity of Lysol most cats ingest is rarely large enough to lead to serious adverse effects.
Most cases of Lysol exposure in cats occur when they walk across surfaces that have recently been sprayed or wiped with Lysol products. After the cat has made contact with the Lysol by walking across a wet surface, they then lick their paws.
When compounds that contain phenol are consumed in large enough quantities, like when a cat has drunk directly from a bottle containing liquid Lysol, this can be extremely dangerous, and a veterinarian should be contacted immediately. A qualified veterinarian can determine what the risk of phenol toxicity is and what the next step should be.
Lysol is only one of many types of household cleaners that can potentially harm a cat. Any cleaning products that contain bleach, synthetic detergents, solvents, and other toxic ingredients can all potentially harm your feline friend. This is why it is so important to store cleaners in a safe place and make sure all caps and lids are securely closed at all times.
What are Signs of Household Cleaner Toxicity in Cats?
Felines can show a variety of different clinical signs after ingesting household cleaners. Signs of toxicity can include, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and abnormal gait, or a funny walk.
Other clinical signs include excessive thirst and unusually frequent urination. If your cat is showing any of the above-mentioned clinical signs and you suspect they may have had access to a household cleaner, we advise you to schedule a virtual vet appointment immediately. A Hello Ralphie online veterinarian can assess the situation and tell you what the next steps should be.
How Can I Keep My Cat Safe from Household Cleaners?
Always be sure to safely store all of your household cleaners in a location that your cat does not have access to.
Cupboards and closets that your cat cannot open on its own are always a good option. In cases where your cat has figured out how to open cupboards, consider locking any cabinets that contain household cleaners.
It is also important to make sure that all of the lids and caps on the bottles of your household cleaners are tightly secured at all times, even when you are in the process of cleaning your home. If these bottles are left open, or the lids are loose, your cat might be able to access them, and it is possible that the cat could ingest the potentially toxic substance.
Always make sure you store the bottles in an upright position, rather than sideways. This decreases the chances of spills and leaks, which a curious cat might lick.
When Using Cleaning Products Around Cats
When using household cleaners that contain compounds that are toxic to cats, take the time to make sure the cleaning solution is not sprayed directly on the cat or splashed around the animal. While this may sound obvious, we all know cats are curious creatures that have a knack for getting in the way when we are at our busiest.
It is also recommended that you stick around while the surfaces you have cleaned dry completely. Surfaces that are left wet with cleaning product residue can be lapped up, which would mean your cat could ingest toxic substances directly off of recently cleaned surfaces.
In instances where you must bleach surfaces or heavily disinfect your home, you should consider locking your cat in a safe room while you clean. While the cat might not like it, it would be for their own safety.
Follow the Appropriate Directions
Always follow the safety directions listed on the label of the cleaning product you are using. It is important to properly dilute any cleaning products that indicate you should do so.
Using solutions that are overly concentrated increases the chances you could harm your cat, as excess fumes and surfaces that take longer to dry can remain dangerous for much longer. It is also worth noting that you should not “over clean” your home if you have pets. Only clean when it is necessary, as over cleaning increases the risk that your cat could become exposed to a potentially toxic substance.
What Do I Do If I know My Cat Has Consumed a Household Cleaner?
If you are fairly certain your cat has consumed any quantity of household cleaner, one of our Hello Ralphie online veterinarians can help right away. A virtual vet consult will give you the opportunity to speak remotely with a veterinarian.
Always have the exact cleaning product you suspect your cat has consumed on hand, as this will allow the online vet to know exactly what chemicals and ingredients have been consumed.
For more information about potential pet toxins, read our list of the Top 10 Lesser-known Pet Toxins.