No, you cannot give your cat paracetamol
Paracetamol is a pain medication used to treat mild fever and pain in humans.
While it is generally safe for humans, medications that contain paracetamol (commonly marketed as Panado, Compral and Calpol) are highly toxic and potentially lethal for cats, and no safe dosage range for the drug is recorded.
Why is Paracetamol Dangerous For Cats?
Cats do not have the necessary enzymes to metabolise (“break down”) paracetamol effectively, resulting in a toxic build-up in the body.
This causes red blood cells to become less effective at carrying oxygen throughout the body, to become damaged and ultimately, destroyed. This may have disastrous consequences for the body. Paracetamol further causes direct damage to liver cells, and can cause severe liver disease.
Well-meaning owners may try to help their ill or injured cat with paracetamol, since it is generally readily available – but this can be fatal.
Just recently, a feline patient was admitted to the Cape of Good Hope SPCA Animal Hospital with severe signs of toxicity poisoning because of this. With prolonged and intensive treatment we were able to ensure that this patient was able to go home to her owner again, but this is sadly not always possible, especially if not addressed timeously.
Signs of paracetamol poisoning may occur from as soon as one hour after dosing, and symptoms may develop up to seven days after ingestion and should be closely monitored.
Due to the lack of oxygen in the system because of the toxic compounds, cats who have been poisoned by paracetamol struggle for oxygen. Their gums and tongue may turn blue to brown, and their heart will beat faster. Swelling of the face and paws can be seen, as well as vomiting, dark urine and difficulty breathing. As the poisoning develops cats may start to have a yellow tinge to their skin – this is jaundice, and is due to liver failure. Sadly, cats who are untreated will die from the poisoning. Source: Vets4Pets
These symptoms may be non-specific and mild initially, but should not be taken lightly!
What Should I Do if My Cat is in Pain?
The most important thing to remember is that you should never administer any kind of human drugs to your cat. Take your feline friend to the nearest vet or bring him to our hospital, where he’ll be given the necessary treatment.
Only give your cats medication that is prescribed by your vet.
It is important to remember that human drugs are formulated and dosed for humans. Animals (even dogs vs cats) respond very differently to such drugs and the safe amount varies tremendously between species, with some drugs being outright toxic in animals, as seen in this case. As such, if your pet appears in pain or unwell, it is always better to take them to the nearest vet for targeted and appropriate treatment.
These may often only be symptoms of an underlying condition that requires treatment. No medication should be given to your pets unless specifically prescribed by your veterinarian, or checked with one.
Reference: Campbell, A & Chapman, M. 2000. Handbook of Poisoning in Dogs and Cats, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken