Is Acrylic Paint Toxic to Cats?


Is Acrylic Paint Toxic to Cats

Painting and cats go together like peanut butter and jelly!

What better subject could you choose for your next painting than your beautiful feline friend who spends 16 hours a day sleeping and posing for you?

While painting your cat might be the perfect hobby, what happens if your curious cat gets into your art supplies? More specifically, your acrylic paints.

Are acrylic paints toxic to cats? In most cases, acrylic paints aren’t toxic to cats. However, if you’re airbrushing or sanding you’ll need to be very careful as a large amount of paint can be easily ingested by you and your cat. Additionally, some colors of acrylic paint contain toxic compounds so always be sure to check the label. 

While that should answer the question for most folks, let’s dive a little deeper into the world of acrylic paints and cats with everything you need to know.

What To Look For In Acrylic Paints That Are Safe For Cats

While most acrylic paints don’t pose a problem for cats, there certain things you need to look for before you let your cat hang out in the same room as your latest painting project.

Read the Label

It’s simple but effective and reading the label can give you a heads up on whether or not your paint (acrylic or otherwise) is toxic to cats. While the label isn’t likely to specifically mention cats it should clearly let you know whether or not the paint contains any toxic substances. In the US, these labels are

If you’re working with paint that’s very old, you’ll need to be extra cautious since the labeling may not be as thorough as modern paints. If you’ve got curious cats it’s probably best to work with modern acrylics and these days you can get a great set on Amazon for a very budget-friendly price. This one’s my favorite but of course, your preferred set will depend on the type of artist you are.

Watch Out For Certain Colors

While it should still be clearly stated on the label, certain colors are more likely to have compounds that are toxic for cats. The most common colors and compounds you need to look out for are “cadmium, cobalt, manganese, chromium, and lead.”

This is a little confusing because while these are all actually compounds, some of them can also be used to describe colors like “cobalt blue”, “cadmium yellow” or “lead white”. Again, labels for these colors should clearly state that these compounds are present but it’s also important to do your own due diligence.

Over the last several years, more and more eco-conscious paint manufacturers are introducing these traditional colors in cadmium-free versions. My favorite is Liquitex and you can see their cadmium-free yellow on Amazon.

When Is Acrylic Paints Not Safe For Cats?

Even if acrylic paint is listed as non-toxic, there are limitations to this that you should be aware of and too much of just about anything can be bad for your cat!

Airbrushing

When most people think of acrylic paints they usually imagine creating a beautiful piece of art like the one at the top of this page. But even though there are many paints that are specifically made for airbrushing, you can still create airbrushed works of art with acrylic paint.

However, airbrushing can rapidly release paint particles into the air that can be inhaled by both you and your cat. If you’re airbrushing (with any kind of paint) you want to make sure your cat is not in the area. You should also take the proper safety precautions for yourself by wearing goggles and a mask since inhaling these paint particles can cause respiratory damage.

Sanding

You can actually sand your acrylic artwork to remove paint from your canvas. This can save you from having to paint over your mistakes or even start completely over. Some folks even use it to get a specific effect in their piece.

But like airbrushing, sanding can release particles into the air that can cause respiration problems for you and your cat. This is similar to the problems that come with burning incense around your cat– even though the actual compounds aren’t toxic the inhalation of particles isn’t healthy for you or your cat.

You might think that a little sanding here and there isn’t a big deal but don’t forget just how small your little cat’s lungs are compared to yours! If you’re sanding your acrylic paints, it’s best to make sure your cat isn’t around.

The Other Big Benefit Of Acrylic Paints For Cat Households

Not only is acrylic paint non-toxic but it also has another big advantage when compared to other paints: the cleanup process. Because acrylics are water-based, they can easily be cleaned up with a little soap and water.

In other words, there’s no need to add introduce more chemicals required for cleaning to your painting process. You can also dilute acrylics simply by adding water so that also means no paint thinner is required.

This is great for feline-friendly households. After all, what good is cat-friendly paint if it requires you to use pet-toxic products?

What Paints Are Dangerous For Cats?

We’ve talked a lot about acrylic paints but what about other types of paint- are they dangerous for cats? In short, it depends, and besides obviously toxic chemicals like cadmium, the other big issue with paint comes in the form of VOCs or volatile organic compounds.

VOCs get released in the air as paint dries and not only do they cause headaches and respiratory irritation in most people, but “according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some VOCs are suspected carcinogens.

Because of the way they’re made, oil paints have more VOCs than acrylic paints and are therefore more dangerous for cats (and people). So in addition to watching out for specific compounds, you want to pay attention to VOCs.

Luckily, over the last decade, many countries have become much more aware of VOCs and their impact on all life and as a result, more manufacturers are introducing low-VOC paints and related compounds.

What Should You Do If Your Cat Ingests Acrylic Paint?

You should always consult your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your cat ingesting anything toxic or dangerous. When it comes to ingestion of toxic compounds or foreign items, it’s always better to get a jump on the problem and the longer you wait the fewer options you may have.

In most cases, even if your cat does ingest acrylic paint they aren’t going to ingest very much. While I haven’t tested it myself, I can’t imagine acrylic paint is very tasty and it’s doubtful that your cat will eat very much.

In small amounts, there shouldn’t be a problem and according to veterinarian Scott Perry, if your cat consumes less than 1 to 2 teaspoons there’s nothing to worry about.  But general online advice is never a replacement for a veterinary consultation specific to your cat so if you’re ever unsure you should always consult your veterinarian.

But the reality is, you can’t always get to a veterinarian. Whether it’s off-hours or just prohibitively expensive, getting in front of a veterinarian isn’t always that easy. For those situations, it’s worth contacting a poison control hotline that can connect you with an expert for free or for a fraction of the cost. While different countries and regions have different options one of the best is the Poison Control Center Hotline from the ASPCA.

Calling a poison control line doesn’t mean you won’t need to consult your veterinarian but they will at least point you in the right direction for your specific situation.

Should I Worry If My Cat Drinks Acrylic Paint Water?

Cats seem to be intrigued by any kind of water and sometimes seem like they just want to drink anything besides what’s in their water bowl! Royal Canin actually did an entire study on the water preferences of cats and found that many cats preferred drinking from random outdoor sources even if they had a full bowl at home!

So it shouldn’t be too surprising to find out that some cats decide to drink from unattended paint water.

Should you be worried? Because most acrylic paints don’t contain toxic material (always check the label to confirm) drinking a small amount of paint water shouldn’t be a problem. But it’s certainly not something you’d want to make a habit of and if you see your cat showing interest in your paint water, make sure to keep it out of reach.

How To Remove Acrylic Paint From Your Cat

While it’s not likely that your cat will jump at the chance to eat some acrylic paint right off your canvas, the most likely route of ingestion comes from grooming. Kitty paws seem to get just about anywhere and it’s common to see cute cat prints in freshly paved sidewalks or driveways (at least where outdoor cats are prevalent).

So whether it’s your paint palette or your actual canvas it’s possible for cat paws to find your work which naturally leads to cats grooming off the paint. Because acrylic paint is water-based, you can remove it, or at least greatly dilute it with just water. Soap will help but if you expect your cat to get upset with your mini-bath it might be better to skip soap in favor of plain water.

Closing Thoughts

While I’m not exactly a great artist, acrylic paints are a great way to paint the perfect tribute to your feline friend. Not only do they make beautiful pieces but they’re also one of the least toxic types of paints you can use. That’s great not only for your cat and other pets but also for you!

Do you paint your cat using acrylic paints? If so, I’d love to see your work!

Logan M.

Logan has always loved everything about cats! Growing up with a family full of pets and a lifelong passion for animals he pursued work in the veterinary industry. After 10 years, he started BetterWithCats.net to help cat owners learn more about their feline friends.

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