If you’re a psychonaut with a cat, you may have wondered at some point whether psychedelics would affect your furry friend like you. After all, even if your pet’s not capable of pondering outer space (though, really, who knows?), cats do share 90 percent of their DNA with us.
Hopefully, rather than acting on this curiosity, you sought more information—which is why you’re here. Good thinking. Read on to find out what exactly happens if a cat ingests magic mushrooms and how to keep your pet safe.
What Happens If Your Cat Ate Shrooms?
In short, some unpleasant and possibly scary stuff. “ASPCA poison control has reported symptoms that include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and lethargy when animals ingest mushrooms that contain psilocybin,” says Dr. Eve Harrison, integrative veterinarian and founder of Marigold Veterinary. An animal who has ingested psilocybin may also experience agitation, confusion, increased heart rate, dehydration, and hallucinations, says veterinarian Dr. Sara Ochoa. Ochoa is also the co-founder of How To Pets. Both she and Harrison recommend keeping your pet away from magic mushrooms.
“Cats have a different physiology than humans, and their bodies cannot process psilocybin in the same way,” Ochoa explains. “Ingesting psilocybin mushrooms can be extremely dangerous and potentially fatal for animals.”
Psychedelic mushrooms—particularly Amanita muscaria—may even cause an animal to fall into a coma-like sleep, says Dr. Paola Cuevas, a veterinarian and behaviorist with Excited Cats. These animals can recover after up to 72 hours in this state, but not all animals do. A. muscaria mushrooms are especially dangerous because they can lead to liver toxicity, says Alex van der Walt, veterinary assistant and writer for Animals Around the Globe.
Does this mean that every cat who consumes mushrooms will get sick? Not necessarily—but we don’t know enough to say whether it is ever safe. “There are currently no peer-reviewed or formal published research studies of any kind for therapeutic use or appropriate dosing in animals,” says Harrison. And it doesn’t really matter the dose; even very small amounts of psilocybin can be toxic to animals, according to Ochoa. So, don’t risk it.
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Safety First: What to Do If Your Cat Ate Magic Mushrooms
First, try to keep calm, as magic mushrooms are usually not life-threatening for cats, says Harrison. Call your vet, local animal emergency room, or animal poison control center as soon as possible. “If you suspect that your cat has ingested mushrooms, do not wait for symptoms to appear before seeking medical assistance,” Ochoa advises.
Once you can access medical care, knowing what type of mushroom your pet has ingested will be helpful. If you’re not sure, Ochoa recommends taking a photo of it to show the vet.
If your cat ingested mushrooms over the past two hours, a vet will likely give your cat medication to vomit the mushrooms out. Don’t try to induce vomiting in your pet at home unless a professional guides you through the process; if not done carefully, the vomit can get into the animal’s lungs.
“If it has been more than two hours or your cat is already experiencing changes in behavior from the mushrooms, there are other treatments that may be able to be offered by a veterinarian to mitigate any distress your cat may be experiencing,” says Harrison. According to Cuevas, a vet might also do some testing on your cat to assess their organ functioning and/or give them IV fluids.
How to Spot Symptoms of Shroom Poisoning in Your Cat
In addition to the symptoms mentioned above—vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, increased heart rate, agitation, confusion, hallucinations, dehydration—cats who consume magic mushrooms may exhibit a whole host of issues, including ataxia (walking as though drunk), overheating, hyperactivity, drooling, tremors, jaundice, seizures, aggression, euphoria, sensitivity to sound and touch, unusual vocalizations, and other expressions of distress, according to the experts I interviewed.
Viky Tiagué, a cat owner in Ontario, Canada, and founder of FlashCoffee.com, experienced a scare when his own cat Marmalade ate an A. muscaria mushroom he picked while hiking. He remembers him “running around scared and breathing hard.” Luckily, he quickly got him to the vet, who gave him IV fluids, and activated charcoal. Then, the vet monitored him for the rest of the day. He was back to his usual self the next morning.
Van der Walt once saw a three-year-old domestic shorthair named Lily who came in with sluggishness, vomiting, bad diarrhea, confusion, and a wobbly gait after eating wild mushrooms growing in the garden.
“We made sure she got enough fluids to make up for her dehydration and correct her electrolyte levels,” she remembers. “We also gave her medicines to stop the throwing up and limit the absorption of any possible toxins, along with some meds to help protect her liver, in case it had been damaged. Thank goodness Lily’s owners were on the ball and brought her in as soon as they noticed something was wrong. We were able to get her stable.”
Preventing Before Lamenting: Tips for Keeping Your Shrooms from Your Pet
Harrison recommends keeping your shroom stash in a child-proof container in a place where pets can’t reach, such as locked cabinets and high shelves. “Just like you keep other toxins for cats like chocolate, onion, and garlic away from their reach, please be mindful and remember that ‘curiosity killed the cat,’” says Cuevas. “Please do not let your cat be the victim of your misplacements.”
If you have an outdoor cat, Harrison recommends inspecting your yard for mushrooms. “Animals do tend to seek out some of the more toxic wild mushrooms, as these often have more of an earthy, meaty, or fishy taste,” she says. “A dog or a cat could easily mistake a toxic mushroom for food! So, if you find mushrooms anywhere on your property, it is best to remove them completely.”
You can also remove leaf litter and woodpiles, as mushrooms thrive in these environments, and move your houseplants outside, as spores can grow in the soil, says Dr. Emma Fulton, veterinarian and advisor to WhiskerWitty. “And ensure your cat has plenty of enrichment indoors so they’re less inclined to stray outside and nibble on mushrooms and other hazards.”
Tiagué is now extra careful to take these measures and monitor his kitty. “I ensure my mushrooms are stored in a secured, lockable container or a cupboard that’s high off the ground and out of Marmalade’s reach,” he says. “It’s important to remember that cats can be quite agile and capable of reaching unexpected places, so choosing a secure, inaccessible spot is key. I always keep an eye on him when we’re outside. And remember, if your pet eats something bad, take them to the vet right away.”
Are Non-Psychedelic Mushrooms OK for Cats?
The above advice applies mostly to psilocybin mushrooms and similar ones—A. muscaria, Conocybe, and Gymnopilus have psychedelic effects as well. What about other kinds of mushrooms?
Harrison actually sometimes prescribes non-hallucinogenic medicinal mushrooms for cats. “Not all herbs, mushrooms, and plants that are safe (or therapeutic) for humans are safe for animals,” she explains. “That being said, there are many mushrooms that are well-known to be safe and therapeutic for animals.” Mushrooms like turkey tail, lion’s mane, shiitake, maitake, and reishi can have benefits for cats’ blood sugar, immune systems, and cognitive function, for instance.
Still, you should check with your vet before giving your pet any of these. Even non-psychedelic medicinal mushrooms can have negative side effects, such as gastrointestinal distress, says van der Walt. Ochoa recommends exercising caution for any kind of mushroom, as many substances affect cats differently from people, and there isn’t much research on this topic. Unless specifically instructed otherwise by a vet, “it’s best to keep all types of mushrooms, including magic mushrooms, out of reach of your pets,” she says.