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What Are the Dangers of Using Rock Salt Around Cats?

| Updated September 26, 2017

During the snowy, freezing winter months you have to be careful about navigating your sidewalk. Rock salt is great at keeping ice at bay and minimizing your risk of falling. But what about Julius? A nasty slip isn't his biggest winter risk, but rock salt could cause him problems.

Irritating Rock Salt

Though his pads are built for walking through all sorts of terrain, Julius' paws aren't well-equipped for rock salt. Not only can little bits of salt get stuck between his toes, but it will irritate and sting his paws. If he has any cuts or abrasions on his pads that come in contact with the salt, it could be a very painful experience.

Ingesting Salt

Like all cats, Julius is a clean fellow and at some point after his outside adventures, he'll follow up with a good grooming session. When he cleans himself up, he'll lick and ingest the salt, which can cause gastrointestinal problems. Salt toxicity, which is ingesting too much salt, can make Julius unsteady on his feet and lethargic. Other symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite, excessive thirst and urination and abnormal build up of fluid in his body. He'll need to visit the vet for IV fluids and other supportive care, depending on how much salt he ingested. Salt poisoning can be quite serious because it can injure the kidneys and cause tremors, seizures and even death.

Salt in the Kitchen

Rock salt is a little different from the table salt we enjoy as a flavor enhancer. Rock salt crystals are larger and carry additives or minerals for use as a deicing agent. If you have it in your kitchen, it's probably to help making homemade ice cream or using as a bed for baking oysters. Julius probably won't be interested in your cooking rock salt -- or table salt for that matter -- but if he is, the potential problems from salt toxicity still remain. The best course of action is to keep salt out of his reach, inside and outside.

Wash Those Feet

It's unlikely that Julius will ever learn to properly wipe his feet when he returns from his outside work, so it's up to you. You should thoroughly, yet gently, wash and dry his paws for him. Check his coat too, as he may have picked up salt elsewhere on his coat. If you see signs that he has, it may be time for a bath because everything that's on his fur will end up in his mouth when he begins his grooming ritual. And remember; though you may not use rock salt, it's likely that someone in your neighborhood does. There are safe deicing agents on the market, but it's hard to know what your neighbors use. The safest choice is to keep Julius in the house, out of trouble.