Cats are naturally curious because they have an instinctive urge to explore their environment for both prey and predators. When their environment is your home, this natural instinct can lead them into dangerous situations. Learn which common household things are toxic to cats, signs your cat may have eaten something poisonous, and tips for cat-proofing your home against accidental poisoning.
If you suspect your cat ate something toxic, contact your veterinarian, an emergency animal hospital, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.
Food & Beverages
Many popular human foods and drinks are toxic for cats, including:
- Onions, garlic, shallots & chives
- Grapes & raisins
- Alcoholic beverages
- Caffeine (energy drinks, coffee, soda)
Learn about more foods that are toxic to cats, and discourage your cat from begging for scraps. If you want to indulge your kitty, buy them treats formulated specifically for cats, and be mindful of any extra calories.
Is Canned Tuna Safe for Cats?
It’s not a good idea to feed your cat canned tuna meant for people. Canned tuna isn’t nutritionally balanced, so you’re better off feeding your tuna-loving cat our Carnivore Cravings Minced Morsels Tuna Recipe, which is a complete and balanced meal for cats.
Medications & Supplements
Many types of medicine that are safe for humans can poison your cat, including vitamin and mineral supplements. While cats of course need vitamins and minerals, the dosages found in supplements made for people are far too high for a cat and can harm their health. Other dangerous substances for cats include:
- Cold medicine & cough drops
- Allergy medicine
- Digestive/Nausea medication
- ADD & ADHD Medicine
- Cardiac medication (beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, anticoagulants & many others)
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol)
- NSAIDs (Aspirin, Aleve, ibuprofen & many other types)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Excedrin & many types of cold medicine)
- Prescription creams/ointments
- Nicotine patches/gum
Be extra careful with this one: Cats are especially sensitive to acetaminophen because their bodies can’t metabolize it well, so even a tiny amount can be toxic.
If you’re also a dog parent, be sure to keep canine flea and tick medication away from your cat. Dog flea treatments have ingredients that are extremely toxic to cats, so make sure your cat doesn’t lick your dog for 24 hours after topical flea medicine is applied.
Household Cleaning Products
Many household cleaning products pose a threat to cats. Ingredients like bleach, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, isopropyl alcohol and others can be toxic and/or cause chemical burns. Keep these types of cleaning products where your cat can’t get them:
- Kitchen & bathroom all-purpose cleaning sprays
- Disposable cleaning wipes
- Toilet bowl cleaner
- Glass cleaner
- Oven cleaner
- Floor cleaner
- Car cleaning products
- Dish soap
- Laundry detergent
- Fabric softeners (liquid or sheets)
- Pest control products (baits & poison for ants, mice, etc)
- Air fresheners & potpourri (speak with your veterinarian for safe alternatives)
In addition, common household products like antifreeze, paint thinner, and chemicals for your pool or hot tub are also toxic to cats and should be stored safely out of reach.
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, cats are more sensitive than dogs to drugs and chemicals due to lower levels of certain liver enzymes. This, along with their smaller body size, makes cats even more vulnerable to poisoning from household medicines and chemicals.
Cats can also ingest chemicals by licking their fur and paws, so keep your cat away from an area you just cleaned, until all surfaces have been rinsed or fully dried.
Toiletries & Beauty Products
Many of the personal care products you use every day can be harmful to your cat. These include:
- Body wash & shower gels
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Sunscreen (especially zinc oxide & salicylates)
- Mosquito repellent
- Hand sanitizers
- Nail polish/glue/remover
Skincare products with salicylic acid (also found in aspirin) are especially toxic to cats because they lack the liver enzyme that metabolizes salicylates. Salicylic acid is commonly found in acne-control products like face cleansers, toners, lotions and spot treatment creams.
Keep in mind that many common bathroom implements like tweezers, razors and dental floss can also be harmful to your cat, so be sure to put them away after each use.
Hair Growth Products Can Poison Cats Indirectly
According to research done by the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, extremely small doses of baldness treatments (like Rogaine) can harm or even kill cats, due to the active ingredient minoxidil.
If anyone in your household uses topical products to promote hair growth or thickening, there’s a danger your cat could ingest dangerous amounts of minoxidil from licking their head or even just their pillowcase.
Common Household Items & Kids’ Toys
In addition to obvious sources of chemicals, there are many other items in your home that could be toxic to your cat if eaten. These include:
- Essential oils
- Kids’ toys with small or breakable parts
- Rubber bands, paper clips
- String, yarn, ribbons
- Plastic bags
Stringy objects, or any non-food item small enough to swallow, can cause a serious blockage in your cat’s digestive tract. Many toys made for cats include string and feathers, so be sure your cat can’t get to them unless you’re there to supervise (and play!).
Plants and Flowers
Unfortunately, some of the most beautiful and common household plants can also be the most deadly to your furry friend if ingested! Although this list is not all-inclusive, if you have any of the following plants in your home, be sure to keep them out of reach from your cat:
- Snake Plants
- Jade Plants
Tobacco and cannabis are also plants that are toxic to cats – if you have any of these products in your home, keep them in a place your cat can’t reach. To learn more about which plants are safe for your cat, check out our Safe Houseplants for Pets blog!
Signs Your Cat Ate Something Toxic
You might walk in on your cat eating or licking something poisonous, or find a spilled product that gives you a clue. But cats are notoriously stealthy and might get into something dangerous with no obvious evidence.
Changes in your cat’s behavior that could be a sign of poisoning include:
- Vomiting (chronic, severe, or otherwise outside their usual vomiting habits)
- Difficulty walking/collapse
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive eating or drinking
- Loss of appetite
- Labored breathing
- Visible burns/ulcers on tongue, skin or paws
- Pale gums
- Jaundice (yellowed skin & eyes)
If you believe your cat might have eaten something toxic, call your vet, an emergency animal hospital, or animal poison control right away. Any information you can provide about what they ate will be a big help.
Tips for Cat-Proofing Your Home
There are several simple ways to keep your cat from accidentally eating something harmful:
- Re-home toxic plants: give them away to a friend or family member, take them to work, or see if a local school or community center might want them.
- Install safety latches on cabinets & drawers
- Get garbage cans with a tight lid, or keep trash cans in a cupboard with a latch
- Keep toxic items in a closet & always close the door
Buy home storage and organization products that close tightly, like bins and latching containers, and get in the habit of putting away potentially harmful items as soon as you’re done using them.
It may take a little extra effort to make your home a safer place for your cat, but the peace of mind will be worth it! Read our article on how to cat-proof your Christmas tree to keep your kitty safe during the holiday season, and check out our blog for the pet obsessed for more great cat tips!