Grape and raisin poisoning in cats

Grape and raisin poisoning in cats is not well understood and is very rare. If your cat ingests any amount of grapes or raisins, or products containing them, speak to a vet immediately for further advice.

Cats are unlikely to eat grapes or raisins in significant amounts but may be tempted by products containing them. Dogs can develop severe tummy problems or sudden kidney failure after eating grapes or products made from them, such as raisins, sultanas, or Zante currants. This risk appears to exist in cats as well. The reason for this is still being investigated, but severe problems have been reported with small amounts. Treatment works best if started as soon as possible. Speak to a vet straight away for specific advice.



Are grapes and raisins toxic to cats?

Research is being done to find out why grapes can be poisonous to cats.

A recent theory is that the damage is done by tartaric acid, which is also present in tamarinds and is used for baking as cream of tartar. Foods containing these should be avoided as well.

Cream of tartar is a powder that can easily be caught in your cat’s coat and be ingested while grooming.

Cats can develop intense vomiting within 24 hours of ingesting grapes or raisins, followed by kidney problems in the next 24-48 hours. Severe cases can be fatal.

Grape juice does not appear to cause any problems.



Symptoms of grape or raisin poisoning in cats

Symptoms usually start with vomiting within 6 to 24 hours after ingestion. Signs of kidney failure may take 2-3 days to develop and may cause long-term problems. Other common symptoms are:

  • Diarrhoea
  • No appetite
  • No energy
  • Tummy pain
  • Bad breath with an ammonia-type smell
  • Excessive thirst
  • Dehydration
  • Production of urine may increase initially and then reduce or even stop completely
  • Some cases may show weakness, trembling and seizures.



Cats at higher risk for grape or raisin poisoning

Some animals seem to be more sensitive to poisoning from grape products than others, but we don’t know why or if this has to do with the grape and not the animal. For now all cats are considered to be at risk of poisoning.



Diagnosis of grape or raisin poisoning in cats

Diagnosis of grape or raisin poisoning is usually based on finding out about ingestion and the symptoms.

After about 24-48 hours, when kidney damage develops, this can be detected on common blood tests.


Vet treatment

Veterinary treatment of grape or raisin poisoning in cats

  • The first and most important step in treating intoxications is to stop the poison from getting into the blood and organs. If possible the stomach should be emptied within the first 1-2 hours after having eaten the grapes or raisins. This can be done with an injection or by pumping the stomach under anaesthesia.
  • Activated charcoal may reduce the absorption of toxins from the gut
  • If a large amount was ingested or the cat is having symptoms, they will need to be hospitalised and put on a drip. This helps to protect the kidneys and eliminate the toxins from the body.
  • If urine production starts to decrease, strong diuretics will be administered to stimulate it
  • Vomiting will often need treatment with anti-sickness medication


Home treatment

Home treatment of grape or raisin poisoning in cats

Until more is known about this problem, most vets consider any ingestion of grapes or raisins potentially life-threatening. Emergency treatment may be needed. Please speak with a vet straight away. Inducing vomiting at home should be avoided. This is difficult to do and can waste precious time, and there is a significant risk of serious complications like aspiration pneumonia.

Cats that recover from grape or raisin poisoning may be left with permanent kidney damage and require precautions and supportive treatment for the rest of their life.



Prevention of grape or raisin poisoning

  • Make sure everyone in the family knows grapes and raisins can be dangerous to cats.
  • Check labels of baked goods for grapes, raisins, sultanas, Zante currants, tamarinds, cream of tartar, tartaric acid, or potassium bitartrate. Keep any products containing these in a secure, out of reach location and consider putting a cat-danger warning on them.

Living with grape or raisin poisoning in cats

The kidneys do not recover well from injury and most damage will be permanent. In many cases the essential functions will be maintained by uninjured areas working extra hard. This may leave some cats more prone to kidney problems in the future or even with chronic kidney disease. If this is the case, diet changes and supportive treatments can be a big help. Please see more information here.

When to worry

When to worry about grape and raisin poisoning

Seek emergency help from a vet in practice if your cat:

  • Has eaten even a small amount of grapes, raisins or any products containing cream of tartar
  • Is vomiting after having eaten grapes or raisins
  • Is drinking and/or urinating excessively or not passing urine at all
  • Showing weakness, stumbling, tremors or seizures

Joii can help if:

  • You are not sure if your cat has eaten grapes or raisins
  • Your cat is unwell or lethargic
  • You need help managing chronic kidney disease
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