No, It Probably Wouldn't Result in a Relaxed Kitty
February 26, 2008 9:41 AM   Subscribe

A medication pill has dropped on the floor and seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. I'm concerned for my cat.

(Honestly, I'm not so sure this has a rational answer; I may just be looking for reassurance.)

I know Mefi has doctors; I'm hoping we have vets. While filling a container with medications for the week, I dropped a single 150 mg Wellbutrin XL tablet onto the floor.

Every time in the past that I have dropped a pill onto the floor, I've been able to find it relatively quickly. Not so here. Despite making myself late for work, spending 45 minutes of searching a relatively small studio, including thorough sweeping, lying on the floor with a flashlight and scanning around, and moving furniture, I could not find the pill anywhere. It's not that I'm unwilling to look further, but I've checked everywhere — wherever the pill went, it's hid itself very thoroughly, and I think I've pretty much given up on finding it now.

I do not have a carpet, but hardwood floors, so it wouldn't have got lost in the shag. Similarly, I have a relatively small studio, so there weren't really other rooms into which it could have skittered.

I'm not concerned my cat already ingested it. I'm concerned that I can't find it despite a thorough search of a relatively small area, and thus I cannot remove the possibility of him ingesting it.

The pill is quite small (perhaps 50-75% of the size of an Advil), and white. Unfortunately, my cat uses litter crystals, which are also white and roughly the same size (but not the same shape). I've swept the floor rather thoroughly, and I did examine the sweepings before tossing them, but nonetheless it's possible I tossed it without seeing it because it blended in with the crystals.

If I've swept the floors thoroughly, moved furniture, looked under the radiator, moved the mattress, moved the desk I was sitting at when the drop occurred, checked my clothes, checked the seat cushions, put my face next to the floor and looked at floor level, and so on, I think I've searching most of the places my cat might stumble across it by accident.

Additionally, I'm remembering my cat's behavior with the litter crystals. He didn't appear to ever try to eat them; he just batted them around, playing floor hockey. I would presume that the pill shares those same characteristics: small, giving off no food scent, and hard and able to skitter across the floor.

I think that although the possibility exists that my cat might still stumble across the pill and swallow it, the possibility is low. Can any vets and/or other Mefites chime in?

Also, just to note: I called a veterinary emergency room and asked them. The woman who answered the phone didn't know the effects it might have, but gave me a toll-free number to call, which turned out to be the ASPCA Poison Control line. However, while on hold, the hold message advised me it was a $60 consultation fee. That's not something I have free at the moment. And Google results for Wellbutrin are so spammed up that I can't turn up anything useful at all there about pet ingestion. My understanding is that it would be poisonous to him, but perhaps someone who's professionally a vet might be able to give me more information than the brief comment the woman answering the phone made. Are there symptoms I should look for if he did ingest it, or is it fatal relatively quickly? Is it indeed poisonous to cats? Etc.

Sorry if I appear a little nervous. He's been a really good little guy these past couple years. Him hopping up on my lap and bumping me with his forehead has helped take the edge off many a harsh day — I'd really hate to think of harm coming to him.
posted by WCityMike to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Aliens took it.

No, I think you swept it up and tossed it, but didn't see it. I don't know about your cat, but even though my cat is pretty easy to pill, he would never ever eat a pill voluntarily or experimentally.

I think your fuzzball will be fine.
posted by rtha at 9:50 AM on February 26, 2008

Well, the first thing I would do is get the cat on my lap and peer down his throat (he's not going to like this, obviously). I'd watch for choking behavior, and I'd take a look at his most recent stool. The way I'd distinguish it from litter crystals is to pour water on the litter (assuming it's the clumping kind). The litter will clump; the pill will not.

I can't say with absolute certainty that he hasn't or won't swallow it, just like I can't say with absolute certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow; but my cats have never shown any interest in eating pills. (Batting around, yes. In fact, if you haven't already thrown it away, it's extremely likely that he just batted it somewhere out of your sight.)
posted by desjardins at 9:53 AM on February 26, 2008

Most cats of my acquaintance require a team of armed men to get them to swallow a pill. There is really nothing about a pill that seems food-like to a cat. IANAV,BIHGVLOM (I am not a vet, but I have given vets lots of money).
posted by Lame_username at 9:54 AM on February 26, 2008

Actually, pouring water might be a really bad idea if it causes the pill to dissolve. Strike that.
posted by desjardins at 9:54 AM on February 26, 2008

For peace of mind, I would try running a vacuum cleaner in about 10 feet in every direction from where you were when you dropped it. Unless you somehow unwittingly kicked it away somewhere or crushed it or something, I would think a reasonably powerful vacuum would grab anything your cat is likely to get. The advantage over sweeping is that the vacuuming may reach hidden places in the floor, around furniture, etc. that sweeping can't reach.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:06 AM on February 26, 2008

Borrow a vacuum from someone, the kind that has a nozzle tube. Put a sheer cloth over the opening (like a pair of pantyhose) and then you can inspect what you pick up. I'm kind of guessing that you don't have a pair of pantyhose so...try a cheesecloth or something similar. It could also be stuck in the bristles of your broom. Give it a good whack outside and see if anything falls out.
posted by hooray at 10:08 AM on February 26, 2008

Similar thing happened to us with a cat and a Tylenol. I can't speak to the toxicity of Wellbutrin and cats, and you're right, Googling is useless. Tylenol is extraordinarily toxic to cats. I found a gummy Tylenol, initially thought the dog had been there, called that ASPCA toll line, induced vomiting in the dog and thought we were okay. We woke the next morning to find the cat near death, with what we later learned was basically blood poisoning. Gumming it alone, because of the high toxicity and trace material on the outside of the pill from manufacturing, was enough to get him really sick. We surmised later that he either thought it was dry kibble or he was batting it around and somehow got a lick in.

For reference, some of the toxicity signs we saw in our cat were listlessness, loss of color in the pads of his feet (normally pink skin will look grey), loss of color in his gums/tongue (easier to spot if your cat has black paw pads), he was also drooling, falling down and howling a lot. We rushed him to the emergency vet that same morning, worried sick out of our minds. 4 days of me crying and him being treated, and $1400 later, he was back at home hogging all the dry food and slapping the dog around.

Hopefully everything will be okay. Until you can go over the room again, is it possible to quarantine the cat to a different part of the house? I know how you feel in regards to being paranoid about the pills being on the floor. I am still paranoid about it.

Wishing you and the kitty the best.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:15 AM on February 26, 2008

A quick googling reveals that bupropion (generic Wellbutrin) is sold as veterinary medicine. For what species, I can't tell you but most general practice vets (vs. emergency vets) have their own dispensary and thus should be able to tell you what you need.

In the meantime, is there a way to isolate your cat in a room where you know for sure the pill is not?
posted by jamaro at 10:26 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

oops, sorry about the bad link (like you need more stress). correct clickie.
posted by jamaro at 10:28 AM on February 26, 2008

3 things come to mind here -

1 - have you checked the soles of your shoes to see if perhaps the treads might have picked it up and it could very well be still embedded there?

2 - prayer works. If you need some guidance on this from a non-religious standpoint, please feel free to email me.

3 - stay positive. This will allow you to deal with the situation in a much more effective way and will also allow you to think more clearly. Stress achieves the opposite results. It will be ok. I have a hunch everything will turn out well.
posted by watercarrier at 10:29 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your pants. It's in the right cuff.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:33 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

Might it have dropped down a heat grate?
posted by Marky at 10:52 AM on February 26, 2008

Just to concatenate a few replies into one comment:

(1) Those pointing out that cats really detest taking pills make a very good point. I don't think my cat's had to take a pill since he was a kitten, if then. And I imagine a gummi substance gives off a far different food vibe than a hard pill does.

(2) As for the vacuum cleaner, I unfortuantely don't think that's feasible for me, as every apartment in the complex is hardwood floors, and I also don't know a single soul in the building. I may nonetheless start cold-knocking on people's doors, but I'm not so sure I'll be able to get ahold of one; as bizarre as it may sound to homeowners, it's a tall order.

(3) As for quarantining him in a different part of the house until I can look again, I had to go to work; I was late already, and circumstances at work at the moment didn't permit me to take the day off. So at this very moment I'm unable to do anything. I briefly considered locking him in the bathroom, but he is miserable when he's put into the bathroom. Yes, I know, better miserable than dying, but given that I had canvassed everywhere I could possibly see, and didn't see the pill anywhere ...

(4) I called my normal veterinary place, and my vet's professional partner was asked; they said I definitely should call the poison control line. Why doctors don't have basic poisoning information, and instead bounce everything to a toll line, I really don't know; that seems quite wrong to me. I simply don't have the money, and all I know is that it was dropped, not that he was poisoned. I imagine I'll need to look for signs of poisoning when I get home, and, if I don't find the pill, keep an eye out for them.

(5) I wasn't wearing shoes at the time I dropped it, and only put on shoes shortly before leaving, and put those on rather close to the door, so I didn't think it'd be wedged in there. Nonetheless, I just now checked, and it wasn't.

(6) My apartment is radiator heat, so there's no grate; I did check underneath the radiator, though.
posted by WCityMike at 11:02 AM on February 26, 2008

Do you actually know that the pill dropped to the floor? Did you see it roll away? Could it actually have fallen into an open drawer or someplace other than actually hitting the floor on its way down?
posted by watercarrier at 11:19 AM on February 26, 2008

watercarrier: That's something to consider. I didn't ransack the desktop. Thinking back, I do seem to remember the sound of it hitting a hard surface, but I'm not so sure I remember further sounds — which, if it dropped from my desk, should have sounded, as the pill would have most likely bounced. When I get home, I will have to look at the desk surface as well as the stuff that I had on the desk at the time, and see if perhaps it never left the desk surface at all. Perhaps the sound of it hitting a hard surface I mistook for it hitting the floor, but perhaps instead it hit the desk. (I counted the pills as I put them back in the container — there were 29, and there should have been 30, so there's that. But that doesn't rule out the missing pill being on the desk somewhere, I suppose.)
posted by WCityMike at 11:24 AM on February 26, 2008

Good idea. Please let us know the outcome and ::::pat to kitty:::: All best wishes to you.
posted by watercarrier at 11:36 AM on February 26, 2008

Once I was sitting at the coffee table taking my pills and my dog walked up and randomly swallowed an antidepressant. She showed absolutely no effects at all. (I don't know what it's worth since my dog is a lot bigger than a cat, but I thought it might give you a little comfort.)
posted by happyturtle at 12:24 PM on February 26, 2008

In addition to drawers, check pockets, cuffs, shoes (inside the shoes, too!) and nearby garbage cans.

Also, you could try using a handheld vacuum, like a dust buster or something similar.
posted by Asymptote at 12:50 PM on February 26, 2008

I would do an experiment. Get a pill the size of your pill but clearly harmless (vitamin? throat lozenge? ask the vet for a sample?) and drop it exactly like you dropped the fist one...listen and watch. It may lead you to where the first one went. And please let us know how it all went; I won't be able to sleep tonight.
posted by lmY2K at 1:17 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm with the school that says don't worry about the cat, since getting a cat to take a pill typically takes a trained team in kevlar underwear, and anyway a bit of Googling gives me no reason to think such a small quantity of bupropion would be toxic to cats.

I'm more concerned about your anxiety level. Honestly, your response seems kind of obsessive and over-the-top to me. Are you by any chance being treated for OCD? Do you know any techniques (breathing, meditation, exercise, etc.) for handling anxiety?

I am a cat person myself and can totally relate to the fear of losing my dear furry companion. You might try delving a little deeper into those feelings with a compassionate friend or therapist to see whether it helps shift the focus off the missing pill and lower your anxiety level.

Wishing you well.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:24 PM on February 26, 2008

ottereroticist: If you could guide me to the Google results that demonstrate same, I'd appreciate it. Not because I'm challenging your veracity, but just because I'd like to read that material too, and my own Google results are yielding nothing but page after page of spam blogs. Very annoying.

As for your concern about my anxiety level, I do understand the underlying emotional mechanics of why it's got me this alarmed. I don't prefer to get into most of it, but suffice it to say that I've had some things happen over the past two years — some discussed on AM, some not — that perhaps may lend themselves to separation issues. Separately, these past few months have also had some significant emotional change to them, and my physical and emotional resources are a bit shot, leading me to perhaps be less stalwart than I might normally be.
posted by WCityMike at 1:45 PM on February 26, 2008

Did you look in the seat cushions of your chair or sofa or whatever? My partner takes over a dozen pills morning and night, and he claims there's a couple in the cushions of his chair.

Having not just a cat but also two dogs, I always freak out when I drop meds on the floor. Good luck, and let us know how it turns out.
posted by Robert Angelo at 1:48 PM on February 26, 2008

I have a vague memory of bupropion being one of many drugs that our vet had mentioned as a possible treatment for a parrot's feather-plucking habits. A search found this:

Which doesn't have a TON of direct info, but talks about SSRIs and other drugs as possible treatment for separation anxiety in pets. Wellbutrin is mentioned there, though not specifically wrt cats.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 2:04 PM on February 26, 2008

I had a elderly cat whose senility manifested in nonstop yowling all night long. My vet suggested trying her on antidepressants (Prozac, IIRC) to see if it would help, but she went into liver failure before we ever did it. My point is that they do give cats human antidepressant drugs, although I don't know if Wellbutrin is one of them. Couldn't you just call another vet and ask them what would happen if kitty ate it? What about the closest veterinary school?

(It's amazing how things can disappear in a tiny studio, isn't it?)
posted by Enroute at 3:39 PM on February 26, 2008

National Toll-free Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222. I had this on my cabinet when my boys were young.*

I can only give you anecdotal evidence, but I take Welbutrin and have dropped a pill without realizing it, and my cat ignored it completely. I honestly don't know how long it was on the floor, though. Welbutrin is a tablet, of course, rather than a capsule or a coated pill, so right there you can relax a bit, because to the cat it will not be nearly as appealing, being a tiny boring white thing rather than a cute, brightly-colored capsule.

*Thankfully, I only had to call it once, but I was so glad I had it! Tore it out of a magazine, and it also had the proper way to perform CPR for babies on the back.
posted by misha at 3:53 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

And YES, they will answer poison questions having to do with pets and animals, and you don't have to pay the toll.
posted by misha at 3:59 PM on February 26, 2008

Mike, my conclusion is drawn from the absence of any information on bupropion toxicity in cats, despite its common use.

If you're still worried, a call to a vet seems the fastest and most conclusive way to settle the matter.

I hope your dear kitty continues to enjoy robust good health, and your mind is set at ease about this soon.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:10 PM on February 26, 2008

I had something similar happen to me once, and called the animal poison control and paid the fee. They had me try to make the cat vomit by feeding her hydrogen peroxide with a baby dropper. They said that might not work (it didn't) and so I had to watch her, and I was to take her to the vet at the first sign of a change of behavior. She must not've eaten the pill, because she was fine. Thank goodness.
So, for future reference... personally, I would fork over the $60 again for poison control in a freakin second, for the peace of mind.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:05 PM on February 26, 2008

Cat is okay. Pill is found.

So I get home. Cat greets me with a friendly meow and is not behaving any different. Walk over to desk — no pill. Shoot. Decide to start sifting through garbage can, as I know I'll drive myself nuts otherwise.

Answer comes quickly. Reason I was refilling my pillbox was I had picked up prescription refills from Walgreens the night before. The bag had been on the desk when I was filling up the box. And the pill was in the bag.

It presumably fell into the bag (rapping the desk in the process), and because it was a small white pill on a white plastic bag, became invisible.

Thank you all. The little guy means a lot to me; he's a really good cat who's cheered me up on quite a few crappy days. And, to be honest, life's been a little shitty lately, and so that had me a bit strung out as well (and sleep-deprived to boot) even before this happened, which contributed to the whole high-strung thing going on in the OP.

Again, thanks, guys. Owe you all one.
posted by WCityMike at 5:25 PM on February 26, 2008

Yay! Thanks for letting us know, Mike.

Cats are wicked good cheerer-uppers. Give yours a skritch for me.
posted by rtha at 6:20 PM on February 26, 2008

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