Are Newts Toxic to Cats?

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A newt is not a safe play toy or menu item for Frisky.
A newt is not a safe play toy or menu item for Frisky. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Frisky's innately a hunter, and she probably enjoys honing her skills when she's outside. If she's chosen a newt as prey, it's not because of the taste but because she's engaged by its quick, darting movements. Though she may enjoy the challenge, the newt often has the advantage over Frisky.

Newts

Newts are salamanders with striped or spotted slender bodies, short legs and long tails. From tip of the nose to end of the tail, these guys start at about 2 inches in length, maxing out around 8 inches. They spend time in water and on land, feeding on insects, worms, spiders and the eggs and larvae of other amphibians. Many newts secrete a toxic substance as a defense against predators.

Eastern Newts

Four types of newts on the East Coast are poisonous; they are the red spotted newt, the peninsula newt, the central newt and the broken striped newt, each built to ward off predators. These little guys, who grow to about 5.5 inches long, all emit secretions that are toxic to predators. If Frisky picks up one of these newts, chances are the nasty taste will prompt her to spit it out.

Western Newts

Some West Coast newts are more toxic than their East Coast counterparts. There are three species of western newts you and Frisky should beware of. The rough-skinned newt, known by his dry, warty skin, is the most poisonous of the three and grows to 8 inches. The California newt also reaches 8 inches and is distinguished by his brownish-orange color. The red-belly newt is a bit smaller than his buddies, coming in at 7 inches long. This fellow is more colorful, sporting a dark top and red belly.

Newt Poisoning

If Frisky gets a newt in her grasp and decides to eat her catch, she'll probably change her mind about the snack choice. The toxins newts secrete are part of the amphibians' defense mechanisms; they taste bad, so their predators will spit them out instead of ingesting them. Frisky may paw at her mouth or slobber after spitting out her prize. If she ingested the nasty guy, she'll probably vomit or have a hard time walking or standing. It's vital to get veterinary attention for a cat who's eaten a newt; in extreme cases, cats can be blinded or paralyzed by, or even die from contact with, newt poison. If you see Frisky eat a newt, rinse her mouth with large amounts of water immediately, with a garden or sink hose or in a tub, and get her to the vet.

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