Catster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Is Salt Toxic to Cats? Vet-Reviewed Dangers & Limits

Written by: Keri-Beth Clur

Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

wooden spoon and salt

Is Salt Toxic to Cats? Vet-Reviewed Dangers & Limits

VET APPROVED

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)

Veterinarian

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

If you’re a person who loves flavorful food, you probably like to add a bit of salt to every meal. Salt has been used for preserving and seasoning food for thousands of years and is essential for good health. Although cats also require sodium in their diets, you should never give salt to your cat because they get the recommended daily amount from their cat food. Too much salt can be toxic to cats and affect their health.

Salt is found in so many things, from certain food products to seawater and playdough. Fortunately, cats tend to stay away from foods and substances that are harmful to them, and salt toxicity isn’t something that happens often.

cat + line divider

Do Cats Like Salty Food?

Just like humans, cats have taste receptors for saltiness, though they don’t have ones for sweetness. Cats are generally smart enough to avoid foods that are dangerous to them, however, they sometimes eat things they shouldn’t.

A cat isn’t likely to lick up large amounts of table salt that has spilled out from a container, but they may eat a bit of chocolate chip cookie dough without realizing how harmful it is to them. However, the amount of salt in one and a half batches of this type of dough is enough to kill a cat.1

salts
Image Credit: rkit, Pixabay

Is Salt Necessary for Cats?

Salt, in the correct dosage, is important for cats. This is why you will often see sodium listed on your cat’s food. Sodium is a mineral that a cat’s body needs to function properly. It plays a role in nerve function and muscle movement and maintains the balance between water and minerals in the body. Since they can taste salt, it also makes their food taste a little more palatable.

The level of salt needed in a cat’s body changes throughout their life, with younger cats requiring more than adult cats. If you’re feeding your feline good-quality cat food for the life stage appropriate to them, whether it be canned or dry food, they should be getting the right amount of sodium for their bodies. The danger comes in when you feed your cat human food, as the sodium levels are not regulated.

Cats have different nutritional needs to humans and have a much smaller mass, preventing them from being able to safely consume even half of the quantity of salt that your body can handle. When you give them scraps from your plate with a bit of salt on them, it can affect them negatively, especially if done frequently or when those scraps are high in sodium.

If you do like to occasionally give your cat human food in snack form, make sure it doesn’t have any seasoning or sauce on it. A plain snack is a much safer option for your cat.

divider-catclaw1

The Dangers of Too Much Salt

If your healthy cat has food with a little bit of salt on it, it’s not the end of the world, and they should be fine. Just make sure they drink plenty of water right after. However, if your cat drank a whole lot of water from your saltwater aquarium or munched down canned tuna that was packed in salted water, you may have a more serious problem on your hands.

Salt toxicity is a higher risk for cats that are poorly hydrated or don’t have access to water to flush out the extra salt. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, salt has a toxicity level for cats of moderate to severe, so if you think your cat has consumed a food product that is high in salt, make sure to phone your vet and chat with them about it. If they’re concerned about the salt concentration of the product, they’ll ask you to bring your cat in.

Sometimes cats get into salty items without you even realizing it, but you’ll know if they have salt toxicity because their behavior will change, and you’ll see signs of it. Salt poisoning or toxicity in cats is very serious, and it can cause swelling of the brain, but it usually starts with milder signs, such as vomiting.

It can also include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Tremors
  • Dehydration
  • Fast heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures
  • Come
  • Death

If you are aware of your cat having any of these signs, don’t hesitate to get them to the vet. If you didn’t see them eat something out of the norm, there is a risk that they may have been poisoned or are displaying signs of an underlying health condition. Either way, your cat needs prompt treatment and care.

sick cat lying on blanket
Image credit: one photo, Shutterstock

Treatment for Cats With Salt Toxicity

While you prepare your cat to go to the vet or emergency clinic, try to get them to drink water to keep hydrated. If you did see what your cat ate or drank, bring the packaging along with you for your vet. Your vet will also want to know how much was consumed and what time it occurred.

If your cat is showing signs of salt toxicity, your vet will examine them and take blood tests. Depending on how long it takes for you to bring your cat in and for the vet to see them, they may induce vomiting. Your cat will likely need to stay in the hospital for a while and will be placed on an IV fluid drip, which will provide them with the necessary medication and hydration their body needs to recover.

cat + line divider

Conclusion

Cats receive the salt content their bodies need to function properly through their wet or dry cat food. Any additional salt isn’t necessary and can be very dangerous for cats. An excess of salt in a healthy cat’s body can be flushed out by drinking a lot of water, but if the sodium content of a food or liquid that your cat ingested is too high, or the cat has health problems, or they are dehydrated, they can become very sick and must be taken to the vet or emergency clinic straight away.


Featured Image Credit: mkupiec7, Pixabay

PangoVet Image Speak With A Vet Online

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Catster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart

Pangolia

© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.