What is toxic to cats? We all want to keep our cats safe and healthy, which is why you need to be aware of the list of items around your home that could be harmful or toxic. There are many things around the home that can impact a cat's health, ranging from triggering an allergic reaction to full-on poisoning which can be fatal.
This list is not necessarily definitive, there may be some items that are toxic that aren’t covered below. But this does cover a large range of the items you should be conscious of around your feline friend.
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Read more: How to make your home safe for cats.
Human Foods That Can Be Toxic to Your Cat
What’s safe for your diet isn’t necessarily safe for your animals. Here are some of the foods that could be toxins for your cat, or dangerous for other reasons.
Garlic, onions, chives, and leeks are all toxic to cats and kittens. Even small doses over time can cause serious health issues, with garlic and chives being the worst offenders. Keep them off your cat’s menu.
Chocolate is another no-no. All forms of chocolate contain theobromine, an ingredient that humans can naturally metabolize but cats can’t. This can build up, becoming a toxin.
You should always avoid giving your cat alcohol as well. Alcohol impacts kitties the same way it does humans, but cats need much less to start having serious effects on their liver, and alcohol poisoning is possible even from a few teaspoons of some drinks.
Cats may sometimes eat bread, which isn’t great for them but isn’t normally too harmful. But raw bread dough can be a serious issue, as the yeast can continue fermenting in the stomach.
Lactose products such as milk and some other dairy products should be avoided as cats are often lactose intolerant. Expect stomach pain and other gastro issues. Eggs are usually OK provided they’re cooked, but raw eggs are a salmonella risk.
Grapes and raisins may seem like harmless fruits that are a good size for a kitty treat, but they’re actually highly toxic and can lead to kidney damage and eventually kidney failure.
If you are feeding a diet of raw meat and fish, there are risks related to E.coli and salmonella, particularly with chicken, while raw fish contains the enzyme thiaminase, which destroys the essential B vitamin thiamine in cats. As a raw food feeder, you are likely aware of these issues and know how to avoid them when feeding your kitty.
Most commercially raw frozen food is deep frozen to help kill off potential issues.
Caffeine is another substance that has a similar impact on cats as it does on humans but on a much more intense scale. Even a small amount of caffeine can cause problems with the heart, nervous system, lungs, and other organs.
And finally on the topic of food, while not toxic, avoid letting your cat eat cooked bones and make sure they don’t accidentally eat your used gum. Both could cause blockages and cause your cat to suffocate, while bone splinters can also cause severe damage to your cat’s body.
Gum and other candy can also contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that can be toxic.
Other Everyday Items That Can Be Poisonous to Your Pet
Various items from around your home may cause harm to your cat. Sometimes it may be hard to track the source, but you need to think carefully about potential causes. Laundry detergents and fabric softeners may cause issues, even once clothes are laundered.
Read more: Leo’s allergies
It’s the same with dishwashing soaps – a full dishwasher cycle may not clear all of the trace soap, so be careful especially if your cat’s bowls have been put in the dishwasher.
Many medications intended for humans are toxic to cats. Be careful not to leave painkillers like ibuprofen, or other tablets like antidepressants, in a place where your cat could get to them.
Often plug-in air fresheners release chemicals that are toxic or at least harmful to your cat, while scented candles and wax burners can have a similar effect.
Essential oils can also be harmful if the quality is low, or the dose is too high.
You need to be careful around certain garden and house plants too. While cats won’t often eat plants, they may be curious. Tulips and lilies are particularly dangerous.
While some flowers are non-toxic plants, they may be covered in insecticides or pesticides. Mosquito spray can be dangerous even just inhaled, and not only if your cat wanders through it – those fumes have been known to harm indoor cats if windows are left open.
Then there are the cleaning and toiletry products you’ll either use on yourself, or on surfaces in your home. Hand soap, shampoo, conditioner and styling product, as well as lotions and perfumes, could all be harmful to your cat, so watch for how they react after you’ve picked them up. Nail polish too – make sure they don’t lick your fingernails or get access to a bottle left within reach.
Meanwhile, household cleaning products can contain harmful chemicals too – make sure you avoid household cleaners containing benzalkonium chloride, as this is particularly dangerous.
Unsurprisingly, rat poison isn’t exactly pleasant for your cat and could be toxic to them, so if you have a rat problem then consider whether it’s better to use alternative methods to get rid of them. Antifreeze is a highly toxic substance in general.
Plus, cats can be susceptible to mold, both the home-grown kind if your home has damp problems or certain mycotoxins produced by molds in foods. Make sure you never leave old food within reach of your cat.
Sometimes it’s not just enough to pay attention to the products used in your home. Beware of what your shoes could have picked up if you wear them into your home, while anything new (beds, couches) may be made from a material that can trigger a reaction in your cat.
Cat Products That Could Be Harmful
While unlikely to cause extreme cases of toxicity, there are a number of cat products that your cat may react badly to. If your cat is showing signs of itching, irritation or other allergic reactions, consider:
- Have you altered their diet, or tried new cat food recently?
- Do they have any new toys or beds?
- Have you introduced a new type of water or food bowl?
- Are they on any new supplements or medications, or have you been using flea or tick medications?
- Has there been a change to their drinking water?
- Have you changed their cat litter? Some scented litters have toxic fragrances, while unscented litters may trigger an allergic reaction, such as corn-based litter
- Have you installed a new litter mat?
- Has your cat recently been vaccinated?
All of these products could contain materials or fibers that may trigger an allergic reaction, so if symptoms start new then think about what you’ve recently introduced. If symptoms are an ongoing issue, speak to your vet for advice.
Symptoms of Toxicity or Poisoning in Cats
There are various symptoms of toxicity in cats, depending on what it is they’ve ingested. Some of these could appear suddenly while others may be more gradual. Be sure to look out for any signs of:
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive saliva or drooling
- Respiratory issues, wheezing, or trouble breathing
- Shivering or tremors
- Skin irritation and scratching
More serious cases of poisoning could lead to liver failure, problems for the kidney or central nervous system, comas, and eventually death.
If you suspect your cat may have been poisoned, you should call your veterinarian immediately. Give them as much information as you can and gather any samples of vomit or diarrhea to take with you to your appointment.
What is really toxic to cats?
There are many toxic items for cats. Some of the worst include garlic, chives, household chemicals, tulips, certain other plant species, and human medications like antidepressants or ibuprofen. Always seek emergency medical attention if your cat ingests a highly toxic substance.
What should you avoid with cats?
There are lots of potentially hazardous items in your home for cats. Avoid using human medicines, always check any human food you want to share, and be careful around certain plant species (indoor and outdoor). Household chemicals are often toxic too.
Are roses toxic to cats?
Roses are not toxic to cats on their own. Cats may still experience some stomach upset from ingesting a clean rose, but this is just a general intolerance to eating plants and will be mild. Roses coated with pesticides are much more dangerous and can induce serious symptoms.
Are tulips toxic to cats?
Tulips are one of the flower species that are toxic to cats, as well as to dogs. Signs of tulip ingestion include vomiting and diarrhea and can cause hypersalivation (excessive drooling) too. Ingestion of large amounts can induce more serious problems related to the heart and lungs, or induce a coma.
What disinfectant is toxic to cats?
Many everyday disinfectant cleaners and antibacterial products can be toxic to a cat, causing poisoning or burns to the skin, tongue, and eyes. The dangerous component is benzalkonium chloride. If you have to use these products, dilute them as per instructions and keep your cat away until fully dried.
What foods are toxic to cats?
Many foods are toxic to cats, with varying symptoms depending on the food. Milk and dairy products, chocolate, grapes and raisins, garlic and onions, liver, and raw meats can all be dangerous in different ways for your cat.
How much garlic is toxic to cats?
Garlic, as well as other plants in the Allium species (including leeks, chives, and onions), are toxic to cats, as well as dogs. Of these, garlic is the most toxic – 1 gram for every 5lb is toxic, so a 10lb cat eating 2 grams will likely be poisoned.