My Cat Ate An Iron Oxygen Absorber: Problem? (Solved & Explained!)

Desiccant packs are something that we’ve gotten used ignoring. They help to keep our food dry and for the most part, are considered non-toxic, although there is one variety you should look out for. What should you do if the cat ate iron oxygen absorber?

Iron Oxygen absorber desiccant packs contain granules of elemental iron, which can act as a corrosive if your cat ingests them. Even in small amounts, vomiting (possibly with blood) may occur, and you should consider it as a severe-level poison where your cat is concerned. Get them to the veterinarian for testing now to be on the safe side.

Iron granule absorbers are only one type of desiccant, but definitely the worst of the bunch, and today we’ll give you the facts that you need where your cat and theses desiccant packets are concerned. While other desiccant packs are relatively non-toxic, iron is definitely an exception, and we’ll tell you why that is!

What are iron oxygen absorbers?

Iron oxygen absorbers sound exotic, but you see them all of the time, usually in human food and even dog treat packages. They are the little white square packets that have the ‘do not eat’ warnings all over them and if you tear one open, they usually have a reddish-brown powder inside.

That powder is iron and running a magnet over it will confirm this quickly. Aside from the iron, there are assorted extra chemicals added (depending on the vendor) that help to absorb oxygen to keep the contents fresh.

Some are even non-toxic, such as the patented ‘ageless oxygen absorber’, but this is the exception – not the rule.

Why are iron oxygen absorbers dangerous?

Iron oxygen absorbers can impair you cat’s gastrointestinal function, with the corrosive effects of the iron and added chemicals, making this particular type of packet a poisoning risk. If the packet is still largely intact, you may be able to see the brand and quickly Google it to confirm.

While there ARE some packs, like the ‘Ageless’ brand, that are non-toxic, most iron oxygen absorber packs should be considered unsafe and an immediate reason to go to the vet’s office for some testing.

While cats will generally leave these alone, the danger comes when they make a toy out of it, and after batting it a few times they will ‘lunge in’ to bite at the product and if it catches on their teeth, they might just gobble it up. If you think that this may have occurred, then go ahead and get your cat a checkup immediately.

If the cat ate the whole packet and you have another identical product, then identify the pack inside the ‘spare’ or simply bring it with you to show to the vet. Left unchecked, conditions such as shock, Hepatic toxicity, or Metabolic acidosis may occur, sometimes up to 5 days after ingestion, so it’s best to get this under control now.  

Other common desiccants you should know about

If you can verify the type of pack then this is very useful information, indeed. The iron packets are the ones that we are worried about, but there are 2 other types that are also very common which are considered to be non-toxic in single-packet amounts.

The first is silica gel oxygen absorbers. These will typically contain small, plastic beads inside of them, often colored red or green to give them better visibility in case the package becomes compromised. Your cat shouldn’t play with these, but if they are ingested then they are fairly safe. At the most your cat may vomit or experience diarrhea.

The second most common are charcoal oxygen absorbers. These will have a black powder inside that won’t respond to a magnet and like the silica gel absorbers, these are also considered non-toxic in the single packet amounts. Again, don’t let your cat play with these – but if ingested your kitty should be fine.

With a bit of luck, if your cat got into an oxygen absorber packet and part of the pack is intact, then you can identify the type and quickly assess if a vet visit is needed. If the entire pack was eaten, however, then bring your cat in or at least call the vet to be on the safe side.

How do I know it was an iron oxygen absorber?

Typically, the easiest way to check is to pour out what is left in the package, provided that your cat didn’t eat all of it. Iron oxygen absorber packs have a reddish-brown powder inside of them, unless they are ‘spent’, in which case the powder will be a stiff mass inside of the packet.

The easiest way to confirm that its iron is to simply grab a magnet from your refrigerator and to run it over the packet or the poured-out powder. If it sticks, then there is definitely iron content, and you’ll want to rush your kitty to the vet so that the iron may be dealt with before it becomes problematical.

Keep in mind that the effects can sometimes take as much as 5 days to show, so even if your cat seems to be fine, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

The corrosive effects are best thought of by comparing it to a ‘slow acid’ and so you want it to be out of your kitty before it can have time to do a lot of damage.

In closing

In today’s article we’ve talked about the desiccant that you should worry about – iron oxygen absorber packs. While silica gel and charcoal packs are non-toxic, iron oxygen absorbers should be considered very dangerous for your cat and if they eat one, then you should get to the vet post-haste.

While the effects may take time to show, it’s not something that you want to gamble on, and quick vet attention will stop this poison in its tracks. After that, just start disposing of those desiccants where your kitty can’t get them and you won’t have to worry about this particular pitfall ever again!