Dangers of Snowglobes and Cats: Snow Globes Contain Anti-Freeze

Written by Donna (Originally published on June 15, 2012.  Donna writes me EVERY year, reminding me to repost this in Charlie’s honor.)

Charlie hiding behind green leaves
Charlie

This is a difficult story to write, but every year before the holidays, I warn about the unknown dangers of snow globes. You know the beautiful holiday decoration that many of us collect and display. I’m sharing it with you in hopes you will publish it on Floppycats.


This is the story of Charlie. We adopted him in May 2006 during an All Pet Adopt-A-Thon I founded and organized in Jacksonville, Florida. He was about 4 months old and had a beautiful coat, fabulous eyes, and a face you couldn’t resist! I knew he had to be mine.

Charlie sitting on a table
Charlie

As Charlie adjusted to his new forever home, it became apparent that he was a very smart kitty, always ready to play. But always ready to love and be loved.

He shared his home with his brothers and sisters and had a great time. He was growing and developing into a magnificent animal.

His fur grew longer, his eyes turned a beautiful blue-gray, and his tail was the envy of all the kitties. Thick, bushy, and fabulous! Charlie had the personality and looks you can only imagine. He was my boy.

Charlie and Franklie lying on the windowsill together
Charlie and Frankie

On Christmas Eve day 2006, my beautiful Ragdoll wannabe Charlie was being himself, into everything.

The door to the guest bedroom was open because one of my other kitties was sleeping on the bed. Usually, the door is kept locked.

However, we have a couple of kitties that have acquired door-opening skills. I didn’t want to disturb my kittie, so I walked by and headed for work.

Later in the day, I received a call from my husband saying I would not be too happy because Charlie had jumped on the chest of drawers, knocked over a snow globe, and it had broken.

Although I was upset (it had been my mom’s before she passed away in 2004), you have to expect things to happen when you have cats.

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Jim, my husband, had cleaned up the mess and dried Charlie off. I work retail, so I got home after 6:00 p.m. that evening and noticed Charlie behaving strangely. His big fluffy tail was down, and he seemed not to be feeling well.

Two kittens lying on a bed looking attentive


I asked Jim how he had been throughout the day. Jim said Charlie had joined him for a nap earlier. He was very affectionate, rubbing all over him, and wouldn’t leave him alone.

I decided to do some research into what could be in the liquid contents of the snow globe. I called poison control and was told it likely could have been salmonella, and Charlie had a slightly upset stomach.

I am never satisfied with an assumption and hit the computer to further my research. To my horror, I discovered snowglobes contain ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) to prevent freezing during shipping. Most are imported from China.

Charlie had anti-freeze poisoning!  Just a tiny amount left on his fur was enough to do the damage even after my husband had dried him off. The poison was destroying his kidneys.

Panic-stricken, I called a friend from a rescue group to see if she had any info on how to treat Charlie. Then, without experience treating anti-freeze poisoning, I rushed Charlie to our local emergency vet hospital.

snowglobes on a wooden shelf at Christmas

By this time, 7 hours had passed since the accident, and Charlie’s time was running out. After what seemed to be an eternity, Charlie was tested for anti-freeze poison. The results were positive; unfortunately, too much time had passed, and his kidneys had started crystallizing. I was devastated and asked them to treat him with the possibility he could be saved.

In nine hours, the damage is irreversible. I left Charlie for treatment overnight and picked him up on Christmas day. He was still hanging on but was getting worse by the hour. The next day, I took Charlie to another emergency vet hospital. Again, he was treated, but his chances for survival were slim.

My regular vet was open the following day, and I brought Charlie in. Dr. Sleeper arranged for Charlie to be seen at the teaching hospital in Gainesville, Florida. They confirmed our worst fears. There was no hope of saving Charlie.

My husband looked into a transplant, but it was too late. Charlie was too weak and too far gone for the operation.

On December 27, 2006, at 3:20 p.m., just three days after the accident, our precious baby passed away…He was only 10 months old.

We later learned that overly affectionate behavior was all part of the anti-freeze poisoning. It gives the pet a feeling of being drunk, and the small amount of anti-freeze left on Charlie’s coat, even after being dried off, was enough to poison him. I can’t begin to describe the helplessness and guilt my husband and I felt.

Santa Snow Globe Decoration
George standing on a rug
George

Me for leaving the door open and Jim for not washing him off. I promised it would not be in vain on that day of his death. I started calling and emailing every news media in my area. Someone had to listen. I finally got a call from Allie Gorman, health reported. She agreed to hear my story.

I told her of the events leading up to Charlie’s passing and the lack of knowledge and dangers of snow globes. Finally, she agreed to air Charlie’s story. It was heartbreaking to relive the events leading up to his death, but I knew if even one pet could be saved from Charlie’s story, it would be worth it.

I had contacted poison control, the Humane Society of United States, ASPCA, and anyone else I could think of to inform them of the anti-freeze used in snowglobes. It was surprising to discover how many people (vets and other humane societies) had no idea about the anti-freeze added to the contents of snow globes.

Our local newspaper also ran a full page on snow globes. Each year, I relive the nightmare; Christmas has never been the same. Still, I make sure Charlie’s story is shared with hopes it can prevent another tragedy from happening.

Georgie laying down
Georgie

It’s hard to put into detail. I’m crying as I type.  Please print what you can.  I hope Charlie’s story will make a difference in someone’s life.

Regards,

Donna Smith

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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46 Comments

  1. I was very lucky with my last cat than. We have had snow globes but they were put on a shelf where my Siamese, Russian blue Mix could not get to them from jumping or climbing. I was not sure were most of them were from but my mom recently brought up collecting snow globes and while we dont have any cats right now we will be picky were we get snowglobes and make sure they are not imports.

  2. Samis mum says:

    Thank you for telling us your story. I have seen a human dying of antifreeze poisoning and that was horrific. I expect that you have saved both feline and human lives by sharing your knowledge.

    My sympathies on your loss.

  3. I am so sorry to read this story, and will vouch that is is true. I am a snow globe artisan in the United States, and know that imported globes (specifically from Hong Kong and Asia) often contain antifreeze, which is toxic.

    The remaining U.S. manufacturer of snow globes, Snowglobecentral in Denver, Colorado, uses a food-grade liquid which is not toxic to animals or humans. There is still wisdom in being careful, since glass can break, but the liquid itself will not harm anyone. Check for the label, and know where the snowglobe is coming from.

    It is very kind of you to share this story to help other people protect their cats.

  4. I was looking for a kitten snowglobes for my daughter when I came across your story. We have three cats that are so special to us. We have decided to be a snow gloveless family. Sorry for your loss. Your story touched us

  5. Cindy Loohoo says:

    Donna, Thank you so much for this warning. Your story is horrifying. I can honestly feel your pain and I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I like to think that you have saved some other kitty’s life in the name of George. All my best, Cindy

  6. Alison Cavozzi says:

    My heart is breaking for you all. My Ziggy is 11 months old and the thought of losing him that way is unbearable. You are very brave to share your story and although you had him for such a short time, I an sure he was loved and adorded.
    We lost our sweet Ozzie a chinchilla Puss on the 1st Sept 2011 very suddenly after it was found his lungs were full of tumours and one ruptured that was why he was running around and pestering me for the lick of my yogurt spoon at 5.30pm and had passed by 7.30pm. We were and are still devastated as he was only 5 years old. This is how we came to get Ziggy who has truly helped ease the pain we like to think Ozzie sent him to us as he is so affectionate to us both.

  7. Terrence C. Kent says:

    Thank you so much for that riveting experience. I’m sorry you went through that but congratulate you on informing everyone and keeping the memory of your kittie alive. God bless. TK

  8. Thank you so much for sharing Charlie’s story. I can honestly say I did not know this.
    I am so sorry for your loss. Charlie was a Beautiful boy.
    Thanks again for this valuable information, I will share with all my friends.

  9. Thank you to everyone for your kind words. Please share this story. Charlie would have wanted it!
    Regards,
    Donna

  10. THANK YOU! so much for the education. I hope your story will save some precious lives!

  11. Great idea Teresa! I am seeing our vet in in a large NYC hospital in August and will also pass the information along.

    Donna & Jen, Can I have your permission to print and post your story on their community board?

  12. Dear Donna –
    Thank you for your courage to speak through your pain. Keep talking. Your word spreads and saves lives; it ripples outward with an important message.
    I am so sorry that this happened to you. You must believe that neither you nor your husband are responsible for this senseless tragedy. My heart stopped at the sight of the word antifreeze. From there, I cried throughout. Your message is a very important one.
    Antifreeze is poisonous to more than just cats. Those snow globes are routinely & innocently purchased in stores that offer discount options of 99 cents to high end shops for close to $100 (or more). I am shocked, angry and disappointed. None of these globes (to my knowledge, which is pedestrian) lists ingredients. Any product being sold that has an inherent enticement to children and/or should have its ingredients listed on it. Any product containing any poisonous substance should have it prominently listed on a label. We see it all the time: “this product produced on machinery that also processes wheat’. Really?! The potential of wheat contamination is shown and there is no listing for antifreeze?! They should both be listed on their respective products.
    I have a big, old, heavy snow globe/music box. My children used to have those little plastic ones. Now I can’t throw the big one out as I don’t know what poisons are in it. It will never come out of its storage place under the basement stairs again. I will never purchase one of those toy snow globes again. It is all too risky. That something meant to be joyful and innocent has been made so sinister for the sake of the almighty buck is scary. Your experience is a lightbulb turned on for all of us. We must be vigilant and critical of what we bring into our homes – for the safety of our loved ones. It’s crazy.
    Everyday, I speak to a lot of pet owners and young parents. I will be telling your story to all of them. It is an important one.
    Hugs and whisker kisses to your entire family – you are all beautiful.

  13. Thank you for honouring your beautiful Charlie by helping other cats. I’m so very sorry that you lost him in this way. I had no idea that snow globes contain antifreeze. This is such vital information for all who love cats. Nothing will make up for Charlie’s loss, but I’m certain other cats will live because you’re brave enough to tell his story.

  14. Teresa Reid says:

    Am so terribly sorry for your loss. Thanks to you, many people who may not realize that snowglobes may be lethal to cats and dogs, now will be spared that same tragedy because of your willingness to educate people about this terrible but preventable occurrence. Thank you for your letting all of us know and I am going to pass this on to my vet right now so hopefully she can share this with all the clients. Know that Charlie is smiling down on your right now proud of all the good work you are doing to help others.

  15. Eszti & Phineas says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It must have been horrible; but by sharing this story and information with people you can be sure that Charlie did not die in vain and he is saving lives right now while you are keeping your promise. I’m certain that not many people are aware of the fact that snow globes do (or can) contain anti-freeze! They can also contain propylene-glycol which can lead to poisoning as well.

    Thank you for sharing this information and your Charlie’s story!

  16. Susan Pike says:

    I shared your story on some other sites to warn pet parents. I know how hard telling your story had to be and I feel your pain but hope that it might have saved lives for it. I never knew and wouldn’t have even thought about it if not for your story. So thank you for being brave and strong enough to let us know about this danger. Bless Charlie and you Donna, your in my prayers.

  17. Thank you for sharing…fortunately, the snow globe that was broken for Christmas last year contained only water at my house…and glitter, which made for a sparkly floor, but that’s about all.

    I was in tears reading your story, and was thinking about my recently passing kitty, Cirrus, whose company I was able to enjoy for 17 long years. I know the loss is no less with a younger kitty though, having fostered kittens, and losing them to Fading Kitten Syndrome. Bless you and sweet Charlie, who is being kept company by my boys, Cirrus, Scotch & Soda, and the little FKS kittens, Tiniest Tiger, Tiger-Baby, Cheddar and Cupro! ~hugs~

  18. Coinneach Fitzpatrick says:

    Gods, poor baby. Thank you for passing this info on; I had no clue about antifreeze in snow globes (not that I have any, I’m not a holidays sort of person). I always figured it was just plain water.

  19. So sad history!!!
    Despite his pain, thank you for sharing this information, because here in Brazil the quality control of this type of product simply does not exist.
    Thank again.

  20. My heart is breaking for you. Charlie was beautiful . Thank you for telling your story, I did not know that about the snowglobe water. There should be a warning on the package or something.
    I know how it feels to loose a kitty that way, we lost our kitty Maddie to weed spray on our neighbors lawn. The pain never stops, the “I wish I wouldn’t have….” goes on forever.
    Deb

    1. Weed spray on lawns is another reason why we never let our cats out. I am sorry about your maddie.

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