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50 Cats Killed Every Month by Antifreeze - MPs Debate for Safer Controls

03 December 2014

ANALYSIS - Startling figures show that 50 cats are dying every month as a result of drinking antifreeze, writes Gemma Hyland.

The shocking figures led to MPs debating in the House of Commons yesterday (2 December) for safer controls on antifreeze.

Sadly, it's not always an accident, with 22 cats deliberately poisoned in a Nottinghamshire village this summer. 

Anti-freeze contains a product called ethylene glycol. It tastes quite sweet to small animals, and to mammals in particular, but it is extremely toxic when consumed even in small doses.

antifreezeIt forms small crystals in the kidneys, leading rapidly to kidney failure, then death.

The moments between consumption and death are very traumatic for the animal, and owners of pets - cats or dogs - see unpleasant symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhoea and extreme stomach cramps. 

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, environment minister, George Eustice said: "It is important to recognise that deliberate poisoning is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and is punishable by a fine of up to £20,000 and/or six months’ imprisonment.

"I do not know why anyone would want to poison cats deliberately by using anti-freeze, but there have been such instances in the recent past and they have been dealt with using the full force of the law.

"For example, in July a man was convicted of using anti-freeze to poison five cats and was fined £1,600. In April, another man received a 12-week suspended prison sentence for poisoning a cat with anti-freeze.

Anti-freeze and windscreen de-icer are a necessary part of our everyday lives, particularly at this time of year, but people must take great care when handling and disposing of them.

catPoisonous liquids that have spilt on the ground may seem innocuous, but animals, whether domestic or wild, may find them attractive, or at least be curious to try them.

Mr Eustice continued: "I would encourage manufacturers to consider the case for adding bittering agents on a voluntary basis. I am aware that at least one high-street retailer - Halfords - already includes Bitrex in all its branded products.

"However, I understand that adding ingredients could cause problems related to, for example, the effectiveness of the product and it may have some impacts on the vehicle. The debate is not straightforward, but I would nevertheless encourage manufacturers to consider this."

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning may include:

- Up to 12 hours after ingestion: Cat is vomiting, appearing ‘drunk’, wobbly, may be more ‘vocal’.

- 12-24 Hours after ingestion: Cat is exhibiting further depression, increased heart rate, usually at this point the kidneys begin to struggle to cope.

- After 24 hours: You may notice your cat drinking more, lethargy, vomiting and a painful abdomen. Acute renal failure is likely and unfortunately the prognosis at this point is very poor.

If you think your cat may have antifreeze poisoning, seek help from your veterinarian right away.

Gemma Hyland, Editor

Gemma Hyland, Editor

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