Read about Charlie’s dice with death when he managed to steal food that contained onions. One trip to the emergency vet, an overnight stay and several blood tests led to a bill of over £400!
On an unsuspecting July evening, we made meatballs for dinner. We served up our food, left the rest of the meatballs on the stove in a pan (covered by a lid!) and sat down to eat in the lounge. Upon returning to the kitchen to put the leftovers in a container, I walked up to the stove and stared at the pan. The lid had partially slid to one side and there was only tomato sauce remaining at the bottom.
My initial reaction was annoyance that my boyfriend had eaten the extra meatballs. They were supposed to be for my lunch the next day. I yelled up the stairs to him and asked whether he had eaten them. He came into the kitchen looking very confused. As we both re-examined the pan, two tomatoey paw prints on the stove came to my attention. My eyes traced the path until they lead to two red paw prints on the floor next to Charlie. Charlie was casually licking his paws while maintaining a nonchalant expression on his face. My boyfriend immediately burst into hysterical laughter, but I put my head in my hands. “They have onion and garlic in! I’m sure they’re bad for cats”.
I should explain my concerns as not many people may know this. I had read in the past that eating onion can be fatal for cats. Thirty minutes of frantic googling took place. We found some websites saying he would be fine, other sites saying he wouldn’t. I read about a man sharing his burger with a cat that died 5 days later due to the onion in the mince – good old Google. 11pm came and went and we decided to call the emergency vet.
I explained to the vet what had happened. She told me that the risk was that onions and garlic can cause anemia and break down Charlie’s red blood cells. She asked if I could estimate how much onion he had eaten. I guessed he had eaten 150g of meatballs and about 10g of cooked onion. The vet then offered to call the ‘poisons line’ for more advice. By the way, that’s £20.
After twenty minutes of waiting, the vet rang back. “There’s no known safe amount of onion ingestion” she said. “We advise that you bring him here and we try to make him sick to get the onion out”. Apparently there are no drugs available to do this. The vet gave Charlie a small amount of sedative and said she hoped the dizziness would be enough to bring back the contents of his stomach. If not, she would be forced to feed him some activated charcoal to bind everything in the stomach and prevent his body absorbing the onion. Since they were expecting a long night, they preferred that I didn’t stay at the vets but leave poor Charlie there and come back in the morning as soon as they opened. I cried all the way home, feeling like the worst cat parent ever.
I arrived back at the vets first thing the next morning. I told the Receptionist that I was there to collect Charlie. She solemnly told me the vet would be out to speak to me shortly. Immediately I was filled with dread that something terrible had happened! It was only when I heard the familiar dramatic (and pathetic) howls from down the corridor that I knew Charlie was ok. His face was covered in charcoal. They told me he hadn’t eaten breakfast. He threw me a look that said “the food here is rubbish!”.
My instructions were to return him later in the day for another blood test so they could assess whether the red blood cell count had gone down. I was also told to feed him fresh tuna or chicken with every meal to help his recovery. How nice for him, I thought. Once home, wasn’t quite himself and slept for the whole morning. It was only after one little sniff of tuna that he miraculously recovered from the whole fiasco. He also received some fishy gifts from his Grand-fur-rents to recover from the trauma.
Following two more blood tests, the vet was able to discharge Charlie. The whole experience cost over £400 but luckily our pet insurance covered 75% of it. I’ve had many debates since then with cat owners who would not have taken their cat to the vet in similar circumstances. I feel I did the right thing though as I would never have forgiven myself if Charlie had dropped dead a week later. A useful list of foods that are fatal for cats can be found here.
Did you know onions were so dangerous for cats? What would you have done in this situation?
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