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. Wow, thank you for this story! My son has been asking for one and I almost bought him a cute one a couple of weeks ago but we decided to look around some more and be sure it was the one he wanted. I had them as a child and had so much fun with them. But I will be telling him we need to think of something else, I don’t want one after reading this story!

    I am so sorry for your loss. It’s always hard to lose our furry friends but …so young… that would be extra hard!

  2. This topic and horrific, heartbreaking tragedy remains SUCH a very important message and warning for all pet lovers at this time of year, Jenny! Thank you so much again for posting this each year at Donna’s request in memory of her beloved Charlie. 🙂 <3

    Again…God Bless You, Donna, for reminding us how dangerous the most lovely of decorations can be for our beloved furry children! (Again, please accept my most heartfelt condolences on the tragic loss of your beautiful beloved Charlie boy. *GREAT BIG LOVING HUGS*)

    Big hugs & lots of love!!!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle <3

  3. Such a very important message and warning for all pet lovers at this time of year, Jenny! Thank you so much again for posting this each year at Donna’s request in memory of her beloved Charlie. God Bless You, Donna, for reminding us how dangerous the most lovely of decorations can be for our beloved furry children! (Again, please accept my most heartfelt condolences on the tragic loss of your beautiful beloved Charlie boy. *GREAT BIG LOVING HUGS*)

    Big hugs & lots of love!!!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

  4. Teresa Reid says:

    Thanks for posting this every year Jenny and pray that someone who unknowingly has any of these pretty snowglobes will read this so they can keep their kitties and children safe. ♥♥♥♥

    1. Charlie’s mom always emails me every year, reminding me to post – just love that she does that.

      1. I think that is so good of her to do that, Jenny! This is such a danger for kitties and children (as Teresa reminded me). Sometimes I just think of the dangerous things for kitties but children are often at risk of the same dangers! Bless you & Charlie’s Mom, Donna! 🙂 <3

  5. Thank you for posting this story at this time of year each year, Jenny! I used to think how lovely it would be to have some Christmas snow globes for decoration but not since I read this story originally a few years back. I had no idea they were filled with deadly antifreeze!!! You are saving lives each year by sharing Donna’s tragic story with everyone. God bless you and Donna! <3

    Big hugs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle <3 <3 <3

  6. Teresa Reid says:

    So sorry for your loss and all that you and your husband and poor Charlie suffered. You didn’t know. You are honoring Charlie so much by writing to let everyone know that these beautiful snow globes are deadly items just waiting for an accident to happen. You are saving so many lives just taking the time to alert everyone. I had two and they were shipped out immediately after reading your story the first time Jenny had it here.

    So happy that you were able to later adopt two other angels and know that Charlie is looking down on you and smiling to know you are once again happy. Thanks so much for writing your story though it was very painful. ♥♥♥

  7. I am so sorry for your loss.
    Such a sad story.
    I will share your story.
    And our home will be forever globeless.

  8. So sorry you went through this but I want to thank you so much for sharing your story. You may have saved me the same pain. I had a snow globe on a shelf in the room with the litter boxes. Needless to say it is gone now. I had no idea and you may have saved our 8 fur babies lives. Thank you so much.

  9. OH thank you soo much for this warning, and I came sooo close. As I was unpacking my ornaments one of my small globes had broken. I do store them in plastic bags when I put them away but I never thought. I took no special care when I cleaned it up (except for the glass) I had it on my counter, only dabbed the water off the floor and didn’t particularly worry about washing my hands after. I cry no to think how close I came to causing harm. Thank you again for sharing and I am so sorry for your loss

    1. Glad it helped you =)…and I think Charlie’s mom is too – that’s the reason she has me run it every year =)

  10. Lisa McGregor says:

    I’m very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this story. Your kitties are beautiful and I know they bring you comfort. I also just read another story like this one. If you cat or dog is ever exposed to anti-freeze, get them to the vet and tell them to use alcohol, yes vodka, to get the anti-freeze out of their system.

  11. Teresa Reid says:

    So sorry this happened and sending this family lots of love and good wishes. They are doing a great thing by sharing their story, even though it is horribly sad, because it will let all of us know the dangers that these pretty things bring. I never knew this before reading this post last year and wouldn’t think that those held anything except harmless water. Think that I also heard they might have glycerine added to make the things inside the globe float very slowly. Hope that this Christmas will be a very happy one for the Smith’s and a safe one for all kitties everywhere.♥

  12. Patti Johnson says:

    Jenny, thank you so much for sharing this tragic story with all of us again as this is definitely the season where deadly holiday decorations can create such health risks for our dear kittehs.

    Big hugs!

    Patti & Pink Sugar <3 <3 <3

  13. Patti Johnson says:

    Oh, Donna, how hard this tragedy must have been for you and your family! ***BIG HUGS*** Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Hopefully sharing your story will save the life (or lives) of other kittehs whose owners have snow globes. So devastating to lose a pet at any age but Charlie was still just a baby at 10 months. Poor little guy. RIP Charlie-kins. RIP dear boy. <3

    Big hugs and lots of blessings to you and your family…

    Patti & Pink Sugar <3

  14. Patricia McDermott says:

    thank you for sharing your very heartbreaking story of your precious charlie. i had no idea either that snow globes had anti freeze in them. i thought it was distilled water! there needs to be MUCH better labeling on all this crap out there that can kill your animals.. your kids too. thank you for letting is know and also bringing it to the media.

  15. Oh my gosh,totally devastating that must have been for you.Thank you for sharing this info.Who would of known.Im so sorry,your poor little sweety had to go to Heaven way too soon.My prayers are with you and your new kitty.Sincerly Lisa

  16. Thank you for sending the email with this story in a link from Floppycats. Even though I have raised many cats throughout my entire life, I was not aware of the dangers of snow globes. You can be sure that the one snow globe I have in my home is now high up on a wall unit so that my Giorgio does not have access to it. What a horror! I once lost an 8 month old kitty to accidental rat poisoning in a similar situation (didn’t know until too late) which perhaps Jenny will let me share. It’s so hard to lose a beloved pet and not possible to replace them, but we go on loving even more precious babies. Thank you, again, for spreading the word on the dangers of snow globes . This reader has learned something new!

  17. Nancy Gorman says:

    what beautiful kitties! it’s so hard to lose a pet. I’m so glad that I just read this article about the snow globes. I’ve always loved snow globes but I love my kitty, skeeter, more. my snowglobes will now all be kept in a cabinet.

  18. i am so sorry to read the sad news. it made me very upset. i pray the charlie is well now in gods garden waiting till the day he sees you again

  19. Randy,

    only *imported* snow globes use antifreeze.

    Made-In-America snow globes do not. Try “Snow Globe Central” for beautiful handmade snow globes which include food-grade liquid as a bonus.

    Imported Snow Globes ARE dangerous, but those made here in the U.S. do not include toxic liquid.

    1. So how can cat owners really know if a snowglobe has toxins in it or not?

  20. Oh my gosh, that’s so sad! I really feel bad for you, loosing Charlie. But I’m glad you could muster the strength to tell this story. I’m getting a little ragdoll myself soon and I’ll make sure never to get any snow globes! Or anything else anti-freeze for that mater. Thank you

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