Salt Lamps And Cats: Are They Safe For Your Cat?

As cats are connoisseurs of comfort, salt lamps and cats may seem like a natural mix. Cats are sometimes drawn by the light and warmth produced by the salt lamp. The following video shows a kitten hugging a salt lamp while soaking up its warmth:

What is a salt lamp?

A salt lamp is a lamp carved out of pink Himalayan salt that is used for decorative lighting and produces a warm pink glow. The salt used comes from Pakistan’s Khewra Salt Mine and owes its pink color to various minerals.

While many people simply like salt lamps because of their looks, other people believe they have health benefits. Salt lamps are believed to be “natural ionizers,” for example, which means they supposedly alter the circulating air’s electric charge. Ions are compounds with an uneven number of protons and electrons and thus have a charge. Salt lamps are believed to produce ions by attracting and heating water particles. So far, researchers have not yet verified this claim.

Salt lamps are also believed to help health by improving air quality, boosting mood, and helping their owner sleep. So far, researchers have not found any proof for the first two claims. On the other hand, they may help people get to sleep simply by producing a relaxing atmosphere. They also produce a dim light that may promote sleep.

himalayan salt lamp

Are salt lamps safe to use around cats?

Unfortunately, salt lamps and cats actually do not mix happily. Cats sometimes like to lick salt lamps and doing so can cause them to develop salt poisoning, which can kill cats.

In July 2019, a New Zealand cat owner named Maddie Smith learned about the dangers of keeping a salt lamp around a cat the hard way. One day, Smith’s cat, Ruby, began holding her head at a peculiar angle and walking oddly. Several hours later, Ruby’s condition had deteriorated to the point that she couldn’t walk, see, hear, eat, or drink. The last two symptoms were because Ruby had lost the ability to use her tongue correctly.

Smith, horrified, rushed Ruby to the veterinarian. After performing blood tests, the vet noted that Ruby’s blood had normally high levels of sodium and chloride. They thus diagnosed Ruby’s condition as salt poisoning and asked if she had somehow eaten salt. Smith answered that Ruby liked the salt lamp in the lounge. After treating the cat, the vet warned Smith that if she had waited any longer, Ruby would have probably died. The vet added that salt poisoning disrupts the body’s electrolyte levels, which cause the brain to swell. That, in turn, causes the neurological symptoms associated with salt poisoning.

Smith noted that, unfortunately, cats enjoy the texture and taste of salt lamps. She even compared their liking for salt lamps to that of a human’s craving for potato chips. Just as a person usually can’t eat only one chip, a cat licking a salt lamp won’t stop until it has made itself ill.

What are the symptoms of salt poisoning in a cat?

Symptoms of salt poisoning, which is also known as hypernatremia, can include the following:

  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Coma

Salt poisoning can also cause abnormal accumulation of fluids within the body, and it can also cause kidney damage.

Salt lamps aren’t the only things that can cause salt poisoning in a cat. Other potential causes include table salt, salty foods, rock salt, seawater, salt dough, home-made playdough, paintballs, and enema solutions that contain sodium phosphate. Basically, anything that contains salt can cause salt poisoning if a cat ingests enough of it.

How does a vet treat salt poisoning?

The vet will generally start by performing blood tests to determine the type of poison involved and the severity of the cat’s condition. If the cat’s sodium levels are over 160 milligrams per deciliter of blood, the cat has salt poisoning. A deciliter, for the record, is 1/10 of a liter or a little less than ½ of a cup.

During treatment, the vet will monitor the cat’s electrolytes and try to reduce swelling within its brain. They will also treat the cat for dehydration and carefully administer IV fluids to dilute the sodium in the cat’s blood and replace lost water. The vet will also administer potassium supplements to help the cat get rid of the excess sodium.

How should you keep a cat away from a salt lamp?

Keeping something away from a cat can be easier said than done since cats are agile and have a knack for getting into anything. That said, you need to keep the salt lamp out of your cat’s reach when you aren’t using it. Put it on a high shelf or in your closet.

When you are using the salt lamp, don’t leave it unattended. It won’t take long for your cat to ingest a lethal amount of salt if they start licking it.

What else can cause salt poisoning in a cat?

Salt poisoning is caused by excess sodium in a cat’s blood. That, in turn, can be caused by ingesting too much salt or losing too much water. Dehydration, for example, is a common cause of salt poisoning in cats. In some cases, the cat simply doesn’t have access to freshwater; in others, the cat has a faulty thirst mechanism caused by a hormonal imbalance, so it doesn’t drink water even when it needs to.

Some acute and chronic illnesses can also cause a cat to develop salt poisoning. Acute illnesses, like certain bacterial infections affecting the GI tract, can cause the cat to lose an excessive amount of fluids through vomiting or diarrhea. Diabetes and chronic kidney disease can affect a cat’s excretory system, so it urinates either too little or too much and thus alters the fluid – sodium ratio in the blood. Chronic kidney disease can also cause the kidneys to retain abnormally high amounts of sodium, so there is more sodium in the cat’s blood than there should be.

Can cats eat salt at all?

Yes. In fact, they need some salt to stay healthy. Salt helps maintain the balance between fluids within and between the cells in the cat’s body. Similarly, it helps maintain a proper balance between acids and alkalis, and it helps transport nutrients. A cat, however, doesn’t need very much salt. It should not ingest any more than 23.7 milligrams of chloride and 16.7 milligrams of sodium per day. A milligram is a tiny amount; a teaspoon contains nearly 5700 milligrams.

Why are salt lamps so dangerous to cats?

Salt, except in very small amounts, is toxic to cats, and cats have several traits that make them susceptible to poisoning in general. First off, cats are small. Even a big Maine Coon won’t weigh much more than 20 or 25 pounds, which means they weigh about 1/8 to 1/6 as much as the average man. It, therefore, takes far less of a toxic substance to poison a cat than it does a human.

Cats are also obligate carnivores, so their livers lack certain enzymes that would enable them to break down various chemicals. Dogs, by contrast, are “omnivore carnivores,” so their livers have those enzymes, and they are thus more likely to recover from being poisoned than are cats. Most dogs also have the advantage of being bigger than cats.

Cats also tend to hide when they are feeling under the weather, so a cat’s owner may not even know that their feline friend has been poisoned until it’s too late.

While dogs are more likely to eat things they shouldn’t, cats have some habits that can increase their chances of getting poisoned. For example, they groom themselves. If a cat’s fur is coated with a toxin, the cat will lick itself and thus ingest the toxin. Cats that roam outdoors often enjoy hunting, and such cats frequently eat their kills. Cats often eat rodents and other animals that people consider pests. Many people will poison such animals, and a cat that eats a mouse that has been poisoned will also end up poisoned.

Finally, cats can absorb toxins through their paws, and they can inhale poisonous gases.

Are there other things besides salt that can poison a cat?

Unfortunately, yes – and the list of potential toxins is quite long. Examples include the following:

Human medications that are dangerous to cats include laxatives, antidepressants, aspirin, and paracetamol. The last is a pain reliever, and some people will give it to their cat in the hopes of easing their pain. Unfortunately, paracetamol is toxic to cats, and even a single tablet can kill. Signs of paracetamol poisoning include vomiting, swollen paws and face, bluish skin, and depression. While there is an antidote, it needs to be administered quickly.

Household cleaners like bleach and laundry pads are poisonous to cats. If a cat walks through a concentrated liquid or powder detergents, they will burn their skin and feet. Hygiene products like deodorants are also poisonous, as are other household products like mothballs, furniture polish, and silver polish.

Cosmetics poisonous to cats include nail polish, suntan lotion, hair dye, and nail polish remover.

Automotive products toxic to cats include gasoline, antifreeze, and brake fluid. Antifreeze is particularly dangerous to cats; even a small amount can cause kidney failure and death. Even worse, cats like the taste of antifreeze.

Many indoor and outdoor plants contain compounds that are poisonous to cats. Examples include tulips, rhododendron, poinsettia, marijuana, lilies, hyacinths, and azaleas.

Flea treatments for dogs often contain a chemical called permethrin that is also often used as an insecticide. Permethrin is toxic to cats. A cat treated with permethrin or that grooms another animal treated with permethrin may develop such symptoms as heightened thirst, excessive drooling, tremors, and convulsions.

Decorative materials include items like paint and varnish. If a cat gets such substances on its fur, it will ingest them through grooming. Substances like a paint can cause blisters to the skin and inflammation in the mouth.

What foods should not be given to a cat?

Many people know that chocolate is poisonous to dogs, but it’s also poisonous to cats. Both chocolate and caffeine contain chemicals called methylxanthines that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, elevated temperature, stomach pain, increased thirst, tremors, and seizures. Dark chocolate has more severe effects than does milk or white chocolate.

Alcohol is also dangerously toxic to cats. Drinks and foods containing alcohol can cause such symptoms as diarrhea, trouble breathing, disorientation, vomiting, tremors, coma, and death.

Onions, garlic, scallions, and shallots can all cause anemia by damaging a cat’s red blood cells. Cats can become poisoned by eating large amounts of these vegetables or eating concentrated forms like garlic powder or onion soup. A poisoned cat will show such symptoms as pale gums, reduced appetite, orange or dark red urine, lethargy, and weakness.

Despite the stereotype of cats liking milk, most adult cats are actually lactose-intolerant. Milk and other dairy products can thus cause them to suffer digestive upsets like diarrhea and vomiting.

Like humans, cats can be infected with E. coli or Salmonella after eating raw meat or eggs. Common symptoms of these bacterial infections include lethargy, diarrhea, and vomiting. Also, raw eggs contain an enzyme that can affect a cat’s fur and skin.


Salt lamps and cats, despite cute videos of kittens hugging salt lamps, are not a safe combination. A cat will sometimes lick the salt lamp and thus quickly ingest more salt than is safe. While cats need a minimal amount of salt, anything that exceeds that amount is dangerous. Salt lamps should, therefore, be considered among the many household products that can be dangerous to cats. A cat that has been poisoned by a salt lamp or anything else needs to be taken to a veterinarian for immediate treatment.

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