Can I Give My Cat Ibuprofen?

Dangers of Giving Cats Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is highly toxic to cats, even in small doses, and can lead to severe kidney damage. This is because cats lack certain liver enzymes that help metabolize and eliminate ibuprofen from the body. Cats are extremely sensitive – a single 200 mg ibuprofen tablet can be lethal for a cat.

Ibuprofen toxicity occurs because the drug inhibits an enzyme called COX (cyclooxygenase), which produces prostaglandins that protect the kidneys. Without this enzyme, the kidneys are prone to acute failure. Even one large dose of ibuprofen in cats has been shown to cause irreversible kidney damage.

Unlike humans who can tolerate ibuprofen in small doses for short periods, according to veterinarians there is no safe dose of ibuprofen for cats. Any amount, even less than a tablet, can be toxic. Ibuprofen should never be given to cats under any circumstances.

Why Ibuprofen is Harmful to Cats

Ibuprofen can be extremely dangerous and even fatal for cats, even in small doses. There are two main reasons for this:

First, cats lack certain liver enzymes that help break down medications like ibuprofen. According to the Veterinary Centers of America, cats “are not able to efficiently metabolize ibuprofen” like humans and some other animals can (1). This means the drug builds up quickly in a cat’s system to toxic levels.

Second, ibuprofen prevents proper blood flow to a cat’s kidneys. As explained by Veterinary Partner, “ibuprofen decreases the blood supply to the kidneys by reducing the widening effect of prostaglandins on blood vessels” (2). This constriction of blood vessels can lead to acute kidney failure and damage.

Due to these issues with metabolizing and excreting ibuprofen, cats are much more vulnerable to ibuprofen poisoning. Even small doses considered safe for humans and dogs can be extremely harmful and rapidly fatal to cats.


Symptoms of Ibuprofen Poisoning

Ibuprofen can be extremely toxic to cats, even in small doses. Cats are unable to metabolize ibuprofen properly, and it can quickly overwhelm their system. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, signs of ibuprofen poisoning in cats typically begin within 4 to 12 hours of ingestion.

Some of the most common symptoms of ibuprofen poisoning in cats include:

  • Vomiting – One of the early signs of ibuprofen toxicity is vomiting, which may contain blood or have a coffee-ground appearance.
  • Diarrhea – Cats may develop bloody, black, or tarry diarrhea after ingesting ibuprofen.
  • Lack of appetite – Affected cats often lose interest in food and stop eating.
  • Lethargy – Cats may become extremely tired and weak as ibuprofen overwhelms their system.

Other possible symptoms according to PetMD include drooling, incoordination, increased thirst and urination, jaundice, and abdomen pain. In severe cases, cats may develop kidney or liver failure and potentially deadly electrolyte imbalances.

If a cat displays any concerning symptoms after potentially ingesting ibuprofen, seek veterinary care immediately.

What to Do if Your Cat Ingests Ibuprofen

If you suspect your cat has ingested ibuprofen, you should contact your veterinarian immediately, even if your cat is not yet showing any symptoms. Ibuprofen poisoning can cause severe, potentially fatal damage to a cat’s kidneys and stomach lining, so prompt veterinary care is crucial.

If ingestion occurred very recently (within the last 2 hours), you may be advised to induce vomiting at home prior to going to the vet. This can help eliminate some of the ibuprofen before it is absorbed into the bloodstream. To induce vomiting, administer 3% hydrogen peroxide orally at a dosage of 1 teaspoon (5 ml) per 5 lbs (2.27 kg) of body weight, up to 3 teaspoons (15 ml) maximum. Consult with your vet before inducing vomiting.

Bring the medication container with you to the vet appointment so they can determine the exact type and amount ingested. Be prepared to provide information about when and how much ibuprofen was ingested. The vet will likely start decontamination treatment such as inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal to prevent further absorption.

Time is of the essence when a cat has ingested ibuprofen, so contacting your vet right away provides the best chance of minimizing damage and avoiding a life-threatening situation. Do not wait for symptoms to appear before acting.

Safer Pain Relief Options for Cats

When it comes to pain management for cats, there are safer alternatives to ibuprofen that can provide relief without the risks. Two of the main options cat owners should consider are:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) – In proper veterinarian-recommended doses, acetaminophen can be used for mild pain relief in cats. It’s important to follow dosing guidelines carefully, as too much can also be toxic for cats. Always consult your vet first.1

Pet-safe NSAIDs – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like meloxicam or robenacoxib, when prescribed by a vet, can provide anti-inflammatory pain relief for cats with arthritis. Only use NSAIDs formulated for pets, and follow label directions closely.1

While human medications may seem like an easy solution, they often require very specific dosing for cats. Work with your veterinarian to determine the safest options to manage your cat’s pain.

Preventing Accidental Ingestion

One of the best ways to prevent accidental ibuprofen ingestion in cats is to keep all medications safely out of their reach. Store human medications in a secure cabinet, drawer or high shelf that your cat cannot access. Never leave medicines out on a counter or bedside table, as curious cats may knock them over and consume them (Properly Store Medications to Keep Your Pet Safe).

When giving medication to a family member, be sure to administer it in an area where pets are not present. Carefully put away any unused pills immediately after use. Do not allow pets in medication storage areas at any time (Top 10 Tips for keeping pets safe around human medications).

Take care when disposing of old or unused medications as well. Do not flush pills down the toilet or throw them in the trash where cats can access them. Bring all expired or unneeded medicines to a pharmacy or hazardous waste disposal event so they can be discarded safely (Preventing Pet Intoxication).

Cats are Not Small Dogs

One of the biggest mistakes cat owners make is assuming that human medications are safe for feline use, simply adjusting the dosage based on a cat’s smaller body size. But cats have very different physiology and metabolisms compared to humans or dogs. Many drugs that are safe for people or canines can be extremely toxic for cats, even in tiny amounts.

Ibuprofen is one medication that should never be given to cats. The doses and safety limits differ greatly between species. What may be an appropriate amount for a human or dog can easily overdose and poison a cat. Cats are extremely sensitive to ibuprofen toxicity. Just a small dose can cause severe, life-threatening symptoms in a cat.

Simply put, cats are not small dogs. Their bodies handle medications very differently. Never give your cat any drug or supplement without first consulting your veterinarian. Many human medicines should be avoided at all costs for cat health and safety.

Consult Your Vet

Before giving your cat any kind of medication, even over-the-counter pain relievers made for people, it is crucial to consult your veterinarian first. Cats have very different physiology from humans and metabolize medications differently. What may be safe for a human can be toxic for a cat.

Your vet will be able to advise you on the appropriate medication and dosage for your cat based on their weight, age, medical history, and overall health status. They can also inform you of any potential side effects or adverse reactions to watch out for.

Trying to self-medicate your cat with human medication like ibuprofen can have devastating consequences, even if you adjust the dose. These drugs were simply not designed with cats in mind. Work with your vet to find a tailored approach to managing your cat’s pain safely and effectively.

Some safer options your vet may recommend include prescription-strength pet-approved NSAIDs, opioids, gabapentin, amantadine, or even alternative treatments like acupuncture. But never give your cat any new medication without the guidance of a veterinary professional.

Your vet knows your cat best and will help ensure you are using appropriate and effective pain management. Partnering with your vet is key to keeping your feline family member happy and healthy.

Causes of Cat Pain

Cats can experience pain for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common causes of pain in cats include:


Arthritis is extremely common in older cats. The cartilage and joint fluid deteriorates over time, causing inflammation, stiffness and joint pain. Arthritis usually affects the elbows, hips and knees. Signs include limping, difficulty jumping up or down, decreased activity and grooming, and personality changes. Arthritis is managed with anti-inflammatory medications, joint supplements and lifestyle changes.

Dental Disease

Dental issues like gingivitis, resorptive lesions and tooth abscesses are very painful. Bad breath, drooling, difficulty eating, facial swelling and behavioral changes can indicate dental pain. Professional dental cleanings, extractions and medications can treat dental diseases. Preventive dental care is extremely important.


Cats can get injured in falls, fights with other animals, or accidents at home. Injuries like bone fractures, sprains, burns, wounds or back injuries often cause obvious limping, swelling, cuts and behavior changes. Imaging tests help diagnose injuries. Treatment depends on the type and location of injury but may include surgery, immobilization and medication.

Caring for an Aging Cat

As cats get older, their needs change. Here are some tips for caring for your aging feline companion:

Take your cat to the vet regularly. Older cats are prone to conditions like kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and arthritis. Annual exams and bloodwork allow early detection and treatment of age-related diseases.

Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity worsens nearly every condition common in senior cats. Work with your vet to determine an optimal weight range and feeding plan.

Kitty-proof your home. Poor vision and mobility make falls and injuries more likely. Install ramps, night lights, cozy beds on each level, and litter boxes in easy-to-access spots.

Encourage activity. Interactive toys and daily playtime promote muscle strength and mental sharpness. Adapt games as needed based on your cat’s abilities.

Consider physical therapy. Stretches, massage, laser therapy, and other treatments can relieve arthritis pain and stiffness. Ask your vet for a referral.

Monitor litter box habits. Increased urination or accidents outside the box can indicate illness. Rule out medical issues before blaming behavior.

Make grooming easier. Invest in deshedding tools and gently brush out mats if your cat struggles with self-grooming.

Try calming remedies. Anxious senior cats may benefit from pheromone diffusers, enriched diets, or anti-anxiety medication.

Adjust interactions. Spend quiet time near (not forcing interaction on) an older cat. Give fewer pets if your cat seems sensitive to touch.

With attentive care and preventative healthcare, your senior cat can enjoy quality years as a treasured family member.

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