Cats and dogs do not suffer the allergic reaction to skin contact with urushiol that we humans do. What about ingestion?

Imagine the following hypothetical1 near-worst-case2 scenario: A human has walked through a patch of poison ivy, creating direct contact between the leaves of the plant and his shoes. Further, this human steps in a small pile of rabbit pellets. A few minutes later, he enters his home and kicks off the shoes. Thereupon a cat, lured by parfume du bunné, licks the shoes.

What health risks are there for said cat?


1: If you read the edit history of this question, you will note that it is motivated by a real situation involving a very low but non-negligible probability of ingestion. However, I realized overnight my actual question is about the hypothetical, not the real.

2: Of course, the full-on worst-case is a cat actually eating a poison ivy leaf. If an answer wishes to address this, go for it, but I think second-hand ingestion as described is more likely.


1 Answer 1


As trond hansen already posted in his link: Cats generally do not have allergic reactions to poison ivy.

But hairless cats or cats with very hort hair, as well as cats with areas of exposed skin can suffer allergic reactions to poison ivy.

But even then the worst case then is a red itch, which you should wash or wipe gently.

The bigger problem could be the cat getting in contact with the poison ivy and then coming in contact with you or your clothes, the bed or something similar.

So if your cat came in contact with the poison ivy, definitely wash it.

But what about ingestion?

But what if your pet is an equal-opportunity omnivore, and one day decides that poison ivy is delicious? Not to worry: a pet who ingests poison ivy, oak, or sumac will only face minor consequences, if any. “As a toxicologist and a specialist, I would not induce vomiting in that situation [if pets ingest these plants],” Lee says. “Thankfully, it probably just results in some mild irritation to the intestinal tract,” which can cause a bit of vomiting or diarrhea.

As this article of PetMD explains, there is no big danger even if your cat ingested the urushiol.

PetMD - Poisonous plants

Cat Wisdom - Poison Ivy

Vetstreet - What pet owners should know about poison ivy


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