Are Lizards Toxic to Cats?

Broad-headed skinks make a toxic meal for cats.
i Jupiterimages/ Images

Your cat's a much bigger threat to lizards than they are to her, because kitties often dine on the little critters. But a few lizards are toxic or pose other dangers. If you know what they look like and where they live, you can help keep your kitty safe.

Lizards with Venom

If you live in southern Arizona or California, your kitty could encounter Gila monsters or Mexican-beaded lizards. Both have venom that’s toxic enough to kill her. They aren’t usually aggressive, but if your kitty gets curious and tries to play, they might bite to defend themselves. Fortunately, she probably won’t want to snack on them because of their size -- Gila monsters can grow to 2 feet and Mexican beaded lizards a few inches longer. If one of them bites her, you might see swelling and bleeding around the site, along with teary eyes, drooling and a lot of visits to the litter box. She might also lose her voice and act like she's in pain. Take her to the vet right away. (Always consult a qualified veterinarian about the health and welfare of your pets.)

Lizards with Poison

No matter where you live, you could have blue-tailed lizards and skinks in the neighborhood. They’re poisonous to predators, and if your kitty bites or eats one, she’ll probably have a reaction to the toxins in their skin. You might notice her vomiting, drooling, staggering around and running a slight fever. She also could act agitated and refuse to eat. Newts and salamanders cause similar symptoms, along with diarrhea and even paralysis. Thoroughly rinse your kitty’s mouth with water to make sure all the toxins are gone and take her to the vet immediately.

Nile Monitors

Another lizard that can be deadly to your cat is the Nile monitor, although it’s non-venomous. These lizards -- which can grow up to 7 feet long -- are sold as exotic pets, but it’s not uncommon for them to escape or be released outdoors. If you live in South Florida, it’s especially important to keep an eye out for Nile monitors because they’ve started to breed there. When they roam free, they prey on small animals, and unfortunately cats are sometimes on the menu.

Cats with Teeth

If your kitty spends time outside, she could encounter toxic or dangerous lizards. What’s more likely, though, is that she’ll find harmless ones that seem like appealing appetizers or fun toys. Sadly, cats are among lizards’ worst predators, and several studies have connected outdoor pets to rapid declines in lizard populations. Keeping your kitty inside won’t just protect her -- it might also save the life of the cute critter sunning itself on your porch.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

the nest