My Cat Ate Xylitol: What Now? (Solved & Explained!)

Sugar is bad for cats, but artificial sweeteners can be even worse. After all, they are designed for human physiologies, not feline ones. So, what would happen if your cat ate Xylitol?

While Xylitol is less toxic for cats than it is for dogs, this is definitely not a sweetener that you can feed them safely. At the very least, your cat will experience gastrointestinal distress, but at high enough doses liver failure, coma, and even death may occur. As such, you need to look for this sweetener in foods before sharing.

In today’s article we’ll explore this artificial sweetener so that you can get the real scoop on why any foods that contain it should be taken off of the menu. Yes, it is safe for humans, but definitely not for kitties – Read on and we’ll tell you all about it!

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a sugar substitute that has a low glycemic index, which makes it popular for diabetics and for people who are watching their weight. It’s essentially a crystalline alcohol, derived from Xylose, which occurs in some plants and because of this, we tend to think of it as a safe substitute for sugar.

It is, but only for humans. With artificial sweeteners and other ingredients that are specific to human foods, the thing that you need to remember is that of the testing that is done with these might start off with animals, but it is geared for human physiology specifically. Simply put, what’s safe for us isn’t necessarily safe for our pets.

Xylitol happens to be one such ingredient and it has been found to be deadly-dangerous for dogs and mildly dangerous for kitties as well. While this seems like an easy pitfall to avoid, now that you know this, it will actually require reading the ingredients on a lot of foods that you might have already at home.

Before we move on to the next section, let’s take a look at some foods that often contain Xylitol, just to give you a little idea of how widespread the use of this sweetener really is:

  • Sugar-free pudding and Gelatin snacks
  • Cereals
  • Some peanut butters
  • Fruity drinks
  • Sugar free candies and gums
  • Mouthwashes and toothpastes
  • Assorted baked goods

As you can see, it’s much more common than one might think, and this is not a complete list by a long shot. You’ll definitely want to start checking labels before sharing because you never know where you might find this sweetener!

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How much xylitol is toxic for cats?

The good news in regards to Xylitol is that cats are much less susceptible to toxicity than dogs. This doesn’t mean that you should let them snack on products which have it, however, as it could still cause health issues for your cat if they happen to be a bit on the sneaky side and ingests more than you intended.

Th problem with Xylitol is that it creates an insulin spike which can cause Hypoglycemia, and this is what can cause liver failure from the resulting low-sugar state that your cat’s body can enter. The dosage, thankfully, is fairly high, according to one clinical trial.   

In this trial, cats were given dissolved Xylitol in amounts measured out to be 500, 1000, and 1500 milligrams for every kilo (2.2 pounds) of body weight. The 1000mg per 2.2 pound dosage was found to have the most significant effects, seeming to indicate that it takes a good amount of Xylitol to do a lot of damage.

This is only ONE study, and if you do a bit of research on your own, there are numerous accounts that say Xylitol is much more dangerous than this, so we recommend that you check a little on your own and try to avoid this sweetener altogether – it’s better safe than sorry when it comes to your cat’s health.

What are the symptoms of Xylitol poisoning?

Xylitol symptoms might start off with vomiting, diarrhea, or difficulty in walking properly. This is a result of the change in blood sugar and it can get much worse from there, with fainting and even seizures occurring in cases where a cat has had quite a lot of Xylitol.

Even if you notice your cat moving around as if lethargic or ‘in a haze’, then you’ll want to get your kitty to the vet right away and let them know that your cat has had some of this sweetener. If you can’t get them to the vet immediately, then contact the ASPCA Poison control line at 888-426-4435.

They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you can even reach them on holidays. Put the number on your refrigerator or store in your phone just in case of emergency. It’s handy to have and in a panic, it could save your kitty’s life!

How long does it take for xylitol poisoning symptoms to show?

If your cat has ingested Xylitol, the symptoms may not show right away, and can take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to manifest. This is because the artificial sweetener takes awhile for your cat’s digestive system to make ‘heads or tails’ of it and also because the adjustment of insulin levels is not always an immediate thing.

As such, you’ll want to monitor your cat closely for the next 12 hours or even better, you can skip that step and bring them in to the vet right away. Blood sugar levels are nothing to trifle with, after all, so it’s best to err on the safe side.

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Some closing words on Xylitol toxicity

As you can see, while Xylitol is not as dangerous for kitties as it is for dogs, it’s still not recommended that you let them have Xylitol.

Any product that you can find with this sweetener may also be found with alternative sweeteners or actual sugar, so that you can research them and find something that you feel comfortable having at home.

Once you do, just remember that sharing those snacks still comes with rules – snacks should only make up 10% of your cat’s daily caloric intake – but you can rest much easier knowing that your cat won’t accidentally ingest Xylitol on your watch!