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Dear Christopher Cat

Our kitten, Ferdinand, likes to play with the foil sleeve we remove from the neck of the wine bottle when we open it. I’ve heard it’s made of lead, and I’m nervous about toxicity, even though he doesn’t actually eat it. Is his play safe?

Christopher Responds

Yes, as long as he doesn’t actually ingest the foil sleeve, which could get stuck in his stomach or intestines.

Wine bottle sleeves have been made of plastic or aluminum foil since 1996, when the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of lead foil to protect corks.

If you open a bottle of older, imported wine, be sure to wipe the neck of the bottle before you pour -– and dispose of the foil without letting Ferdinand play with it.

While wine bottle sleeves no longer pose a lead hazard, the chemical still poisons us pets. In 85 percent of cases, the source is lead paint, usually from a home renovation.

Lead-based paint is no longer available in the United States, but it can fleck off old houses and barns and contaminate the soil. We’re exposed when we walk on the ground.

In addition, people who sand painted surfaces during building renovation scatter dust that’s potentially contaminated with lead.

In both situations, we cats ingest the lead when we groom ourselves.

Clinical signs include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and, particularly in young cats, seizures.

As long as Ferdinand isn’t exposed to lead paint, you probably don’t have to worry about lead toxicity. But make sure he doesn’t swallow the wine bottle sleeves.


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