Cats, even indoor cats, have a high prey drive. This is a remnant of the instincts of their big cat ancestors. Any creature running across the floor or walls of your house will catch your kitty’s eyes. That is why as cat owners, we should always keep a close eye on the insects, lizards or any other animals our cats can possibly come into contact with inside and around your house.
One animal every pet owner needs to be wary of is the salamander. They are diminutive and can be quick enough to make your cat want to chase it. They also have no problem being near people or other animals.
So, should you be worried if you find salamanders in your property?
Yes and no.
While some salamanders pose no threat to your fur baby, there are others that may warrant an emergency visit to the vet.
Keep reading to learn more about these amphibians and to know what you should do if your kitty comes into contact with one.
Are salamanders poisonous to cats?
Yes Salamanders can be poisonous to cats. Salamanders’ toxicity levels range from mild to fatal. They excrete these poisons through their skin via special glands. This is their own form of self-defense to deter predators.
If you ever catch your cat biting, licking, or even just picking them up using their mouth, you have to be concerned, especially if you cannot tell salamander species apart. Even merely touching the salamander with their paw can cause the toxins to transfer into your cat’s body.
Just to be perfectly safe, as much as you can, keep salamanders as far away as you can from your cat, or any of your pets, for that matter.
What is a salamander?
Salamanders are actually amphibians, just like frogs and toads. Meaning they live a large portion of their life in water, but also spend a significant portion of their life on dry land.
Salamanders have a long, wide, lizard-like body but with a head similar to a frog’s. They do not have scales, openings for their ears, nor claws. The lack of those three characteristics is what differentiates them from lizards.
There are over 500 different species of salamander all over the world, but North America has the most concentrated salamander population compared to anywhere else. Some places have more than 20 species in their state alone.
The wide variety of salamanders may make it tricky to identify the type of salamander your cat touched or ate. So, if you have the time and resources, do your research regarding the salamander species local to your hometown.
Are salamanders and newts the same?
The term newt and salamander are sometimes used interchangeably, even though newts are actually a subgroup of salamanders. Basically, all newts are salamanders, but not all salamanders are newts.
Newts have webbed feet while most salamanders have individual toes. Newts live a semi-aquatic life way past their nymph stage, all throughout their adult life, hence the webbed feet for swimming. Newts have a paddle-like tail, while terrestrial salamanders have rounded tails.
There are poisonous newts, most notably the rough-skinned newt, which is very poisonous.
Is the Black Salamander poisonous to cats?
The black salamander is quite poisonous to the touch. Not much is known about its effect on cats, specifically. Fortunately, they are quite rare and the only way they can ever have contact with your cat is if you or anyone you know keeps one as a pet.
Is the Marble Salamander poisonous to cats?
They may cause irritation on the cat’s skin because this species of salamander excretes a unique kind of poison on its tail to fend off predators. Marble salamanders are commonly kept as pets, so just keep your cat away from them.
Is the Fire Salamander poisonous to cats?
Yes, fire salamanders are able to shoot and release a toxic spray when it feels like it is in danger. They are commonly found all over the European continent. Keep your cats away from them as their poison causes irritation, sickness, and convulsions.
Are lizards poisonous to cats?
We’ve already established that salamanders are not lizards, nor are they reptiles. Since they resemble salamanders so much, at first glance you might have thought your cat ingested a salamander, only to find out that it was actually a lizard.
Not all lizards are poisonous to cats. Though, with over 4,000 species of lizard, it is inevitable for a handful of them to be poisonous.
Just as with salamanders, do ample research regarding the local lizard species in your part of the country.
Symptoms of salamander poisoning
If despite your helicopter pet-parenting, you still find yourself in a situation where you suspect that your cat has touched, licked, or eaten a salamander, look for these signs and symptoms:
- Foaming at the mouth or drooling excessively
- Vomiting or retching
- Weakness or lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive thirst
- Constantly pawing at their tongue and mouth
- Pale or yellow gums’
- Crossed eyes
- Inability to hold body up or stand
- Erratic body movements
- Seizure, muscle convulsions or even paralysis
- Coma or even rapid deterioration of health, and death
There are a lot of symptoms because of the hundreds of types of salamanders, often one species of salamander can cause half of those symptoms, while a different species may cause a cat to exhibit the more serious symptoms.
Even if your cat does not have these symptoms, but you are positive that he has had contact with a salamander, you should still consider the possibility of your cat contracting liver flukes.
Liver flukes are parasitic worms that use salamanders and newts as intermediate hosts, which mean they are larvae while in the salamander. If eaten by your cat, these larvae will mature into adult liver flukes in your cat’s body, specifically, in the bile ducts, gallbladder, and liver of your cat.
It will take the liver fluke eight to twelve weeks to mature, so you might think your cat is perfectly fine, only to find out that it has been hosting a parasite.
Symptoms of a liver fluke infection include fever, weight loss, distention of the abdomen, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, and jaundice.
What do I do when my cat has played with, licked, or eaten a salamander?
Contact your cat’s veterinarian immediately. They will advise you on the proper steps to take. Observe if your cat exhibits the symptoms listed above. If they have even just one or two of the symptoms, bring your cat to the vet. Never wait until the symptoms worsen.
If possible, take a picture of the salamander your cat came into contact with. Your vet most probably has knowledge of the salamander species indigenous to your town.
As the old adage goes,”prevention is better than cure”, so if you know of an animal handler or expert, ask them to remove and relocate salamanders from your house to a more natural habitat. If this is not possible, then keeping an eye on your cat when you let it out of the house is key.
Many Salamanders all have a level of toxicity when in contact with a cat, which can go from mild to fatal. Always be vigilant of the presence of these creatures around your home. If your cat does touch or eat one, contact your vet immediately. Take a picture of the salamander if you can, for easier identification of the species.
Image: istockphoto.com / JMrocek