What Are the Dangers of Using Rock Salt Around Cats?

by Naomi Millburn, Demand Media
    A carpet of snow's not the problem. Snow-melting salt is.

    A carpet of snow's not the problem. Snow-melting salt is.

    When it comes to keeping your cat safe and secure, knowledge is your friend. A lot of seemingly innocuous things you may take for granted can put your cutie in peril. The deicing salts that cover streets and sidewalks during frigid wintertime are among them.

    Rock Salt

    Salt in bulk form, usually rock salt, has served to encourage snow and ice to melt on driveways, roads, sidewalks and porches for ages. A market for less caustic ice melting products has flourished, and most still use sodium chloride, or salt. In pure bulk form or in modified packaged form, the deicing agent is a common and relatively inexpensive means of improving outdoor safety. It's helpful for drivers, pedestrians and even loiterers, but it is toxic to cats and other pets.

    Irritation

    The Humane Society of the United States reports that rock salts can bring upon major irritation to a cat's paws, burning them chemically and causing uncomfortable redness, sores and occasionally bacterial infection. In some cases, rock salts can attach themselves to your pet's hair and paws due to the freezing temperatures -- ouch.

    Ingesting Rock Salt

    It's not uncommon for a cat to spend time frolicking outdoors only to return inside minutes later and lick at her paws during grooming. Certain times of year, this behavior would be relatively risk-free. However, after the first snow of the season, grooming after a jaunt outdoors could be extremely dangerous. If she licks on the salts that gather on her paws, it could even trigger poisonous results.

    Dangers of Ingestion

    When a cat consumes rock salts, the consequences often show up in the form of sodium toxicosis. Gastrointestinal distress frequently is indicative of the condition. If your kitty suddenly starts salivating, quivering, vomiting or rushing to the litter box because of diarrhea, think back on your day and whether she may have encountered rock salt. When a cat eats or licks especially copious amounts of the salts, the effects can be scarier. Insatiable thirst, bodily weakness, disorientation and seizures are symptoms. Fatalities and falling into comas are possibilities. Emergency medical attention is vital after a cat ingests rock salts, so don't wait around.
    The bottom line is, the chemicals in rock salt and most commercial deicers are toxic to felines. If you use deicing agents while your cat is around, she may be at risk for potentially very severe reaction. If you do choose to use rock salt, make sure that your cat stays indoors, particularly in the winter, and that you frequently sweep to rid your floors of deicer grit.

    Prevention

    It's not the end of the world if your cat accidentally goes outside and steps in some rock salt, so don't panic. The Humane Society of the United States advises exhaustively washing your cat's paws when she returns inside. Dip your cat's paws into a basin filled with warm water, scrubbing each paw gently but thoroughly with one hand while you hold her with the other. After washing, wipe the paws dry with a clean towel. Also, look into buying deicing agents labeled specifically as safe for pets.

    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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