Hidden Hazards: Household Things that are Toxic to Cats

Hidden Hazards: Household Things that are Toxic to Cats

Your cat's safety is undoubtedly a top priority, but did you know that many seemingly innocent household items can pose a significant threat to their well-being? In this article, we'll uncover some common items that could be dangerous – and even fatal – to our beloved cats. Read on to ensure you're creating the safest possible environment for your curious companion.

Household things that are toxic to cats

  1. Lilies and other toxic plants

  2. Human medications, such as painkillers and antidepressants

  3. Essential oils and diffusers

  4. Cleaning products, Insecticides and rodenticides

  5. Chocolate and other human foods

  6. Antifreeze and other automotive chemicals

  7. Small objects, such as rubber bands and hair ties

In this section, we'll delve deeper into some of the items mentioned above, exploring the reasons why they're dangerous to cats and providing tips on how to keep your feline friend safe from harm.


Lilies and other toxic plants

Lilies, particularly those from the Lilium and Hemerocallis genera, are highly toxic to cats. Ingesting even a small amount of any part of the plant can lead to severe kidney damage and potentially death. Other toxic plants include azaleas, rhododendrons, and sago palms.

To keep your cat safe, remove any toxic plants from your home and garden. If you're unsure whether a plant is toxic, consult the ASPCA's list of toxic and non-toxic plants or contact your veterinarian for advice.

Here are some of the common plants that are toxic to cats:

  • Aloe vera

  • Autumn crocus

  • Begonia

  • Daffodils

  • Dieffenbachia (dumb cane)

  • English ivy

  • Hyacinth

  • Oleander

  • Philodendron

  • Pothos (devil's ivy)

  • Tulips

  • Yew

Human medications

Many common human medications can be dangerous to cats, even in small amounts. Painkillers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can cause kidney and liver damage, while antidepressants can lead to neurological issues and heart problems. Additionally, cold and flu medications, ADHD medications, and sleep aids can all have severe consequences for your feline friend.

To keep your cat safe, store all medications in a secure location, such as a locked cabinet or a high shelf. Never give your cat human medication without consulting your veterinarian, as even seemingly harmless over-the-counter drugs can be toxic to cats. If you suspect your cat has ingested any medication, contact your veterinarian or an emergency animal clinic immediately.

Essential oils and diffusers

While essential oils may provide health benefits for humans, they can be harmful to cats. Cats lack the liver enzymes needed to metabolize many essential oil compounds, making them susceptible to poisoning. Diffusers can also pose a risk, as the oil particles in the air can irritate your cat's respiratory system.

Avoid using essential oils around your cat, and store them securely out of reach. If you must use a diffuser, do so in a well-ventilated area away from your cat and ensure they have access to fresh air.

Cleaning products, insecticides, and rodenticides

Many common cleaning products contain chemicals that can be harmful to cats if ingested or inhaled. Bleach, ammonia, and other strong cleaners can cause respiratory distress and gastrointestinal upset. Insecticides and rodenticides are designed to kill pests, but they can also be lethal to cats if ingested.

To protect your cat from these hazards, store cleaning products and pest control substances in a secure location out of their reach. When using these products, ensure proper ventilation and keep your cat away from the area until it is safe for them to return. If you suspect your cat has been exposed to a toxic substance, contact your veterinarian or an emergency animal clinic immediately.

Chocolate and other human foods

Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance that is toxic to cats. Even small amounts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and seizures. Other human foods that can be harmful to cats include onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, and caffeine-containing beverages.

To prevent accidental ingestion, store these foods securely and avoid feeding your cat table scraps or sharing your snacks with them. Instead, provide a balanced diet formulated specifically for cats to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

Now that we've explored some of the dangers posed by these household items, let's discuss a few additional hazards your cat may encounter.

Antifreeze and other automotive chemicals

Antifreeze and other automotive chemicals, such as brake fluid and engine coolant, can be extremely dangerous to cats. These substances often contain ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic and can cause rapid kidney failure if ingested. Cats may be attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze, making it even more important to store these chemicals securely and clean up any spills promptly. If you suspect your cat has ingested antifreeze or another automotive chemical, contact your veterinarian or an emergency animal clinic immediately.

Small objects, such as rubber bands and hair ties

Curious cats may be tempted to play with small objects like rubber bands and hair ties, but these items can pose a serious choking hazard if swallowed. Additionally, ingesting these objects can lead to intestinal blockages and other digestive issues, requiring emergency veterinary care.

To keep your cat safe, store small items like rubber bands and hair ties in closed containers or drawers, and always pick them up if you see them lying around. Provide your cat with appropriate toys designed for feline play to satisfy their natural instincts and curiosity.

Signs Your Cat Might Be Poisoned

Some common signs that your cat might be poisoned include:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

  • Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth

  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing

  • Lethargy or weakness

  • Loss of appetite

  • Increased thirst or urination

  • Seizures or tremors

  • Unsteady gait or disorientation

  • Pale or yellowish gums

It's essential to be familiar with these symptoms, as early detection and intervention can be crucial in saving your cat's life.

What to Do if You Think Your Cat Was Poisoned

If you believe your cat has been poisoned, the first thing you should do is call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Do not attempt to make your cat vomit unless told to do so by a professional.

If you have the container of the ‘poison’, bring it with you or find out the name, active ingredients, and manufacturer.

Be prepared to answer questions such as when your cat was exposed to the poison, what the dose was, and the symptoms of your cat.


Keeping our feline friends safe from potential household hazards is crucial for their well-being. By being aware of common dangers and taking preventative measures, you can create a secure environment that allows your cat to thrive. Remember to always consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about your cat's health or safety, and act swiftly if you suspect poisoning. With vigilance and care, we can ensure our beloved cats enjoy happy, healthy lives by our sides.


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