Remember when you were young, and your parents would tell you not to swallow your gum because it would stay inside you forever? It turns out there’s not much truth to this myth; still, gum can be dangerous when your cat swallows it.
One of the most significant issues with a cat eating gum is that they can ingest xylitol, a toxic sweetener for cats (and other pets). If you suspect your feline has swallowed a piece of gum containing this substance, you’ll need to contact your vet or emergency animal care provider for the best course of action.
Continue reading to discover why gum is so harmful to cats, how you can reduce their chances of swallowing it, and what to do if your cat eats a piece of this chewy foodstuff.
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Why Can’t Cats Eat Gum?
Several risks are associated with your cat eating gum, not least because it likely contains the toxic substance xylitol, which can poison your cat and lead to severe health issues.
In general, there are three main reasons why your cat should not swallow gum:
- Intestinal blockages
- Hypoglycemia can lead to liver damage
If anyone swallows gum – you included – there’s always a risk that choking could occur. Cats are more susceptible to this than we are because they have smaller mouths and throats, which are easy to obstruct or block.
One of the biggest problems with your cat eating gum is that they can’t digest it. If they manage to squeeze it down their throat and into the digestive tract, it can lead to some severe problems.
These include dehydration, constipation, vomiting, and weight loss. If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, you’ll need to contact your vet immediately.
Younger cats are at greater risk of gastrointestinal obstructions because they are less discriminating regarding the food they ingest. In addition, their digestive system is more delicate than a fully grown cat, so they may be more likely to suffer the ill consequences of a blockage.
Hypoglycemia Can Lead To Liver Damage.
Gum can be toxic to your cat because many products (not all) contain the artificial sweetener xylitol. You will most commonly find it in sugar-free gum, mints, and oral-care products). Where you can, opt for gums and other products that do not contain xylitol to reduce the risk to your feline.
If your cat consumes xylitol, it can quickly affect the pancreas by stimulating insulin release. This can create a significant impact on your cat’s blood sugar levels.
In as little as 30 minutes, a cat who has consumed as little as 0.1g of xylitol for every kilo of bodyweight can suffer from hypoglycemia.
What Should I Do If My Cat Ate Gum?
If you know or suspect that your cat has eaten gum, there are several steps you’ll need to take.
The first is to retrieve the package or look up the brand to determine whether the gum contains xylitol. If it does, you’ll need to immediately contact your emergency vet or a pet poison helpline (1-800-222-1222). Even small amounts of xylitol can threaten your cat, so you’ll need to act quickly.
If the gum does not contain xylitol, you may get lucky, and the gum could pass through your feline. In this case, keep a close eye on them for any signs of intestinal blockage such as vomiting or loss of appetite. And book a visit with your vet, who can give your feline a thorough checkup and ensure that everything is okay.
Some websites will instruct you to induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide, but you should never do this unless a professional tells you to.
The difference is that a professional can administer tests to know your pet’s condition and monitor their response to induced vomiting. You cannot and may do more harm than good if you try.
How Much Gum Is Too Much?
Any amount of gum is too much for a cat as it’s not a suitable foodstuff for them to be eating. Still, if the product is xylitol free, they may get away with accidentally swallowing one piece.
However, the real cause for concern is with gums that contain xylitol. Generally, just 1/10g per kilo of body weight can lead to hypoglycemia. The majority of gums have around ⅓ – ½g of xylitol per piece.
This means that even one piece of xylitol-containing gum can induce significant health issues for your cat.
What Are The Symptoms Of Xylitol Poisoning?
The symptoms of xylitol poisoning can appear in as little as 30 minutes after consumption. These include:
- Difficulty moving
- Lack of coordination
- Weakness or lethargy
If your cat displays any of these symptoms, you need to contact your vet immediately; with proper treatments – such as induced vomiting and IV fluids – your cat can recover fully. But if you ignore the symptoms, hypoglycemia can quickly lead to irreparable liver damage.
How Can I Prevent My Cat From Eating Gum?
You can’t necessarily stop your cat from doing anything. Still, there are several ways to rescue the risk of them accessing this foodstuff and prevent them from succumbing to xylitol poisoning.
Firstly, remember that not all gum contains xylitol. When you choose products to take home, look at the labels first. Where possible, choose those that don’t have any xylitol. If this isn’t possible, ensure you store these products in a safe place inaccessible to your cat – avoid keeping gum in easy-to-reach areas such as on nightstands or in car doors.
If your cat is fascinated with your gum, try replacing it with something else like a toy, treat, or catnip.
Cats can enjoy some human foods as an occasional treat, but gum is not one of them. Many gums contain xylitol which is toxic to your cat even in small quantities and could lead to irreparable liver damage. Even if the product is xylitol free, it still poses a choking hazard and the risk of intestinal blockage.
For these reasons, keep gum out of reach of your feline. If they do eat a piece, determine the contents. If they eat a piece of xylitol gum, contact the pet poisons helpline immediately. If they eat a piece of non-xylitol gum, monitor them for symptoms and book an appointment to see your vet at a convenient time.