Cats are curious creatures that like to get into all sorts of things around the house. If you’re a cat owner, you may have wondered: can cats get drunk from alcohol? This is an interesting question that deserves a thorough answer.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, cats can get drunk from alcohol, but they should never be intentionally given alcohol. Cats lack an enzyme that helps metabolize alcohol, causing it to build up to toxic levels in their system much faster than in humans.

In this approximately 3000 word guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about cats and alcohol. We’ll discuss how cats metabolize alcohol, the signs of alcohol toxicity, whether certain alcohols are safer, and how to keep your cat safe and sober.

How Cats Metabolize Alcohol

Lack of Dehydrogenase Enzyme

Cats lack an important enzyme called dehydrogenase that is present in humans and helps break down ethanol in alcoholic beverages. This enzyme converts alcohol into harmless byproducts that can then be eliminated from the body.

Without dehydrogenase, cats are unable to efficiently metabolize and eliminate alcohol from their system. As a result, alcohol and its toxic effects can linger in a cat’s body and brain much longer compared to humans.

Specifically, cats are missing the liver enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). These enzymes help break apart alcohol in the liver and convert the ethanol into less harmful molecules called acetaldehyde and acetate.

These can then be further broken down and eliminated from the body. With very low levels of ADH and ALDH, cats cannot properly clear alcohol from their system.

One study found that cats have only about 5-10% of the ADH enzyme compared to humans. This makes it extremely difficult for felines to metabolize and remove alcohol molecules once ingested or absorbed into the bloodstream.

Without this key enzyme, alcohol can stay circulating in a cat’s system and brain for significantly longer, leading to more harmful effects.

Slower Metabolism Overall

In addition to deficient alcohol dehydrogenase levels, cats also have an overall slower metabolism compared to humans and dogs. Their bodies are not as efficient at digesting and breaking down toxins and molecules.

Feline livers can only metabolize drugs and other substances at about half to a third of the rate of human livers.

Part of this slower metabolic rate has to do with the fact that cats are obligate carnivores. Their bodies are designed to digest and process proteins and fats from animal tissues, not plant materials.

Without the need to process carbohydrates and fiber, cats have a lower capacity to metabolize and eliminate many compounds that are foreign to their bodies, like alcohol.

Combined with deficient levels of enzymes like ADH, this generally sluggish metabolic system means that alcohol lingers in a cat’s body for much longer than in humans. The slower it is metabolized, the more prolonged the toxic effects can be on organs like the brain, liver, and kidneys.

Species Alcohol Metabolism Rate
Humans 100%
Dogs 83%
Cats 10-15%

This table illustrates the vast difference in alcohol metabolism rates between humans, dogs, and cats. Cats are only able to metabolize alcohol at about 10-15% of the efficiency of humans. This allows alcohol to stay in their systems much longer, increasing its toxic effects.

Signs of Alcohol Toxicity in Cats

Behavioral Changes

Cats exposed to alcohol can exhibit concerning behavioral changes. Common symptoms include loss of coordination, stumbling or swaying while walking, disorientation, restlessness, and anxiety. Extreme intoxication may also lead to seizures, tremors, or even loss of consciousness.

If a cat suddenly seems confused, unsteady on their feet, or generally not acting like their normal self after potentially ingesting alcohol, it warrants an immediate vet visit to assess toxicity.

Physical Symptoms

In addition to behavioral changes, there are several physical symptoms that can indicate alcohol poisoning in cats. Vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, and vocalizing or moaning in distress are some common signs.

Cats may also have dilated pupils, low body temperature, fast or slow heart rate, and low blood pressure. Dangerously high blood alcohol levels can also lead to respiratory depression. Overall, any atypical physical symptoms arising after a cat’s potential alcohol exposure should raise red flags.

Emergency Warning Signs

Some symptoms require emergency veterinary treatment to prevent fatal alcohol poisoning in cats. Seizures lasting more than a few minutes, extreme lethargy or loss of consciousness, severe vomiting or diarrhea leading to dehydration, or difficult, slow, or troubled breathing all indicate alcohol toxicity at life-threatening levels.

Immediately contact an emergency vet if a cat displays any of these critical warning signs after possible alcohol ingestion. Timely treatment with IV fluids, oxygen therapy, and medication can be lifesaving.

Are Some Types of Alcohol Safer for Cats?

Beer and Wine Are Still Hazardous

Although often perceived as more innocuous, beer and wine can still pose significant dangers to cats if ingested. The ethanol alcohol present in these beverages can cause intoxication, coordination issues, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma, and even death in cats.So while beer and wine may have lower alcohol content by volume compared to liquor, there is no “safe” alcoholic drink for feline consumption.

One study found that just 2-3 ounces of wine can cause toxic effects in an average-sized cat. And even smaller amounts can be dangerous in petite cats or kittens. Some beers now also contain extra hops for flavoring, which is toxic to cats as well.

No Alcohol Is Truly Safe

Simply put, no alcoholic beverage is considered safe for a cat to ingest. While some types of alcohol like beer or wine may take larger doses to cause poisoning, they can still be toxic and should always be kept far away from cats’ access. Any amount of alcohol can potentially cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pH, and body temperature in cats.

Alcohol metabolism also varies drastically between species.

  • Humans can break down the ethanol in alcoholic drinks at a rate of about 0.015 g/100 mL blood per hour.
  • Cats, however, metabolize alcohol at less than half that rate (around 0.007 g/100 mL per hour).
  • This slower rate of processing means alcohol remains at toxic levels inside a cat’s body for much longer compared to humans after ingesting a similar dose per body weight. Given these physiological differences and risks, owners should never let their cats access alcohol.

    Type Ethanol Content Severity of Danger to Cats
    Liquor, spirits 30-50% ABV* Extremely high danger
    Wine 9-15% ABV* High danger
    Beer 4-6% ABV* Moderate but still significant danger

    *ABV = Alcohol by volume

    While alcohol content plays a role, experts warn that simply adjusting serving sizes is not an appropriate way to minimize risks. Instead, all alcohol should always be kept away from cats.

    Keeping Your Cat Safe from Alcohol

    Keep Drinks Out of Reach

    Cats can get intoxicated by alcohol, so it’s important to keep alcoholic drinks out of their reach. Cats are naturally curious and may try to investigate drinks left unattended. Be sure to place alcoholic beverages up high or behind closed doors where your cat can’t access them.

    An accidental sip could make your cat very sick.

    If you’re hosting a party, be extra vigilant about monitoring open containers. Guests may accidentally leave drinks within a cat’s grasp. During gatherings, designate a room or area that is off-limits to pets to further prevent access.

    It’s also wise to confine cats to a quiet space, like a bedroom, while people are mingling with alcohol present.

    Secure the Trash

    Cats who manage to get into trash containing discarded alcohol can become intoxicated by licking alcohol residue from cans, bottles or glasses. Make sure trash bins have tight, secure lids to prevent your cat from rummaging through them.

    You may also want to store trash inside a closet or pantry until collection day.

    After a party, be sure to promptly remove trash containing alcohol products before your curious cat investigates. Thoroughly rinse any recyclables before placing them in the recycling bin. Remember, even a small amount of alcohol can affect a cat!

    Use Caution with Medications

    Some liquid medications for humans contain alcohol bases. Be very careful to store any alcohol-containing medicines safely out of a cat’s reach. If you administer liquid medications to your cat, make sure they do not contain any alcohol ingredients.

    Discuss medication options with your veterinarian and ask about alcohol-free varieties or pills. Ideally, keep all medications, whether for humans or pets, in locked cabinets to prevent accidental ingestion.

    By taking a few simple precautions, we can prevent cats from accessing alcohol. With some care and planning, we can keep our curious kitties safe and healthy.

    What to Do if Your Cat Gets Drunk

    Keep Them Calm and Hydrated

    If your cat accidentally ingests alcohol, the first thing you’ll want to do is try to keep them relaxed and hydrated. A intoxicated cat may become agitated or fearful, so creating a calm environment is key. Dim the lights, speak in a soothing voice and refrain from overly stimulating them.

    Offer fresh water frequently and you can even try offering unflavored Pedialyte to help replenish their electrolytes.

    It’s also important to limit their movement for the time being. Gently confine them to a small room or crate with soft bedding so they can snooze it off. Supervise them during this time to ensure they don’t get into any other trouble.

    Call Your Vet or Pet Poison Helpline

    Depending on how much alcohol your cat consumed, it may be wise to contact your veterinarian or pet poison control hotline. They can provide tailored advice based on the type and amount of alcohol ingested.

    For example, they may recommend inducing vomiting, giving activated charcoal or providing IV fluids to help flush out the toxins.

    In severe cases, alcohol poisoning in cats can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Your vet can perform tests to monitor your cat’s vital signs and provide life-saving treatment if needed. Calling them promptly gives your cat the best chance of recovery.

    Monitor Closely for 12-24 Hours

    It’s important to closely monitor your cat for at least 12-24 hours after alcohol ingestion. The effects tend to peak within 30-90 minutes but can last several hours as the alcohol fully leaves their system.

    Expect symptoms like loss of coordination, dizziness, vomiting, lethargy, abnormal heart rate, seizures, coma or even respiratory failure in severe intoxications.

    Keep a watchful eye on their breathing rate and alertness level. Be prepared to rush them to the veterinary ER if their condition deteriorates. With close monitoring and prompt treatment if needed, most cats fully recover from alcohol exposure within 24 hours with no lasting effects.

    Conclusion

    While the idea of a tipsy cat may seem amusing at first, alcohol toxicity is extremely dangerous for cats. Their small size makes them far more vulnerable than humans to the effects of ethanol. So be sure to keep all alcoholic beverages, foods, and medications safely out of your cat’s reach.

    If your cat accidentally ingests alcohol, stay calm but act quickly. Contact your veterinarian or pet poison control right away for treatment advice. With prompt supportive care, most cats can fully recover from an alcoholic mishap. But prevention is always better where intoxicants are concerned.

    A sober kitty is a happy, healthy kitty!

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