These Common Household Hazards Can Hurt Your Cat

Here's everything you should keep out of reach 🤢

cat at the vet with hazard sign

Cats tend to be a little pickier than dogs when it comes to what they’ll eat, but they’ll still happily nibble on things they shouldn’t.

So it’s important to know the symptoms of poisoning in cats and what foods and items are dangerous so you know what to look for in case your cat ever does get into trouble.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Erica Irish, a veterinarian and member of the board of advisors for BetterPet, to find out everything you need to know about poisoning in cats so you can protect your cat.

Foods poisonous to cats

A common cause of poisoning in cats is via human food — which can happen when your cat gets into food he’s not supposed to or if you accidentally feed him food that’s not safe.

While you might feel guilty when your cat’s watching you eat and waiting for a scrap of food, you shouldn’t feed him anything without checking with your vet first — since there are a lot of human foods that can be toxic to cats.

Some common foods that are poisonous to cats include:

Household items poisonous to cats

There are lots of products that you use every day that can be toxic to cats, so it’s a good idea to be aware of what they are so you can keep them out of your cat’s reach.

“This list can be quite long, and it is forever changing!” Dr. Irish told The Dodo. “Ideally, you’d want to keep your kitties away from any cleaners you use, especially liquid bleach and powdered drain cleaners.”

Beyond household cleaners, some popular wellness products can also be toxic to cats.

“Essential oils can be very irritating to cats' airways, and salt lamps are poisonous if licked,” Dr. Irish said.

Here’s a list of common household items that are poisonous to cats:

  • Bleach
  • Prescription medications
  • Pain medications
  • Rat poison
  • Essential oils
  • Soap
  • Air fresheners
  • Medication made for dogs only (such as some dog flea treatments)

This list isn’t exhaustive — to check if any products you have around the house are toxic to your cat, you can visit the ASPCA site for more information. But basically, anything you wouldn’t eat yourself, or medicines that aren’t meant for cats, can be toxic to him.

Plants poisonous to cats

Plants are common household items that can be toxic to cats, as well, whether they’re indoor or outdoor plants.

Some common indoor and outdoor plants that are poisonous to cats include:

  • Sago palms
  • Daffodils
  • Azaleas
  • Autumn crocuses
  • Hyacinths
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Cyclamen
  • Rhododendrons
  • Tulips
  • Oleander
  • Lilies
  • Kalanchoe
  • Aloe
  • Jade
  • Snake plants (also called mother-in-law’s tongue)
  • English ivy
  • Monstera deliciosa
  • Marijuana plants
  • Yew
  • Eucalyptus

If you’re not sure if a plant is poisonous to cats, you can visit the ASPCA website for a complete list to avoid bringing anything dangerous into your home.

Cat poisoning signs and symptoms

Symptoms of poisoning can vary depending on what your cat ate.

“It depends on the type of poison,” Dr. Irish said. “Some poisonous plants may cause gastrointestinal signs, like vomiting or diarrhea, if ingested, or they can cause tongue lesions and excessive drooling if just irritating to chew upon. Certain topical flea products made for dogs, when applied to cats, can cause neurologic signs, like tremors and seizures. If rat poison is ingested, it can cause bruising, bloody vomit and internal bleeding.”

While your cat can show different symptoms depending on the type of toxin he ate, here are some general signs of poisoning you can watch out for:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Blood in vomit
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive thirst

It’s important to note that if your cat did eat something bad, symptoms can show up anywhere from immediately to several days later, so it’s important to keep a very close eye on him and seek veterinary help as early as possible.

“Symptoms for some poisonings can occur right away (minutes or hours) or within 48 to 72 hours,” Dr. Irish said. “Rat poison can be absorbed very quickly, showing signs within hours, while overdosing on anti-inflammatories may take two to three days to start showing symptoms.”

What to do if your cat is poisoned

Because symptoms can take some time to show up after ingesting certain toxic substances, it’s important to take your cat to the vet immediately if you think he ate something poisonous.

If your cat eats something toxic at night after your vet’s office closes, don’t worry — your vet will likely have an after-hours service to direct you to an emergency hospital, Dr. Irish said.

“You should call your local vet, emergency vet or one of the poison hotlines made for pets,” Dr. Irish said. “This includes the ASPCA and the Pet Poison Helpline.” You can call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 and the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661.

Try to bring as much information with you to the vet as you can to make diagnosing and treating your cat as quick and easy as possible.

“You can tell them your cat’s name, age and body weight,” Dr. Irish said. “You should also inform them of any preexisting conditions, like heart disease or kidney disease. If you have the plant or product that was ingested, bring this with you so the vet can read the label. It also helps to know how long ago the ingestion occurred and how much was ingested.”

Long story short, don’t wait to take your cat to the vet if you think something is wrong.

“If your cat is suddenly acting strange or ill, contact your local vet or ER right away!” Dr. Irish said.

And the best way to treat cat poisoning is to prevent it!

“Keep plants out of reach or outdoors,” Dr. Irish said. “Avoid using essential oils in your home. Keep medications and household cleaners tucked away in drawers or cabinets. Do not leave certain foods out on the counter where your kitty can reach them.”

It can be scary if your cat gets sick from eating something he shouldn’t, but if you keep toxic items out of his reach, are aware of the symptoms of cat poisoning and take your cat to the vet immediately if he does get sick, there’s a good chance your cat will be just fine.