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7 Things That are Toxic to Cats That You Probably Have at Home Right Now

cats inside and on top of a cat house

You might be surprised by the number of household items that can be harmful to your cat. To help you safeguard your home and protect your feline friend, we have gone over seven of the most common items people own that are toxic to cats.

Most of the products on this list are common household items that, if consumed, can even be fatal for your cat. These common household items can cause clinical signs that range from gastrointestinal issues, like vomiting and diarrhea, to far more serious medical issues, like permanent neurological diseases and even death.

Do your part to make your home a safe place for your cat by reading through our list. If you have any further questions, you can always reach out to one of our Hello Ralphie online vets. We would be happy to answer any of your questions and help you make your home just as safe for your cat as it is for you!

For more information about pet toxins, you should also read through our Top Ten Lesser-Known Pet Toxin list.

1. Day Lilies and Easter Lilies

Lilies are the perfect fragrant spring flower and they look really lovely in the home or garden. Unfortunately, many people are not aware that they can be incredibly harmful to cats when they are ingested.

Even if your cat only consumes small quantities of the stem, leaves, flowers, pollen (even just a few grains on their fur), or even the water in a vase, the results can be fatal. This is true for any flower from the lily family, so cat owners need to be very cautious about which flowers they use to decorate their home.

The lily toxin has not been identified that can greatly damage the kidney of a cat. Lilly consumption almost always leads to acute renal failure in cats, especially when the cat has a heightened susceptibility to this toxin.

Lily poisoning requires intensive care in an ICU and may cause permanent damage to your cat’s kidneys if they are lucky enough to survive ingestion.

Another common household plant that can be fatal when ingested is the poinsettia. These plants are common festive decorations around the holidays, but they should be avoided in households that own cats. For more information, consider reading through our Vet’s Guide to Holiday Pet Safety.

woman and cute cat looking inside open fridge

2. Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen toxicity, or Tylenol toxicity, is one of the most common fatal toxicities diagnosed in cats. Most households will carry acetaminophen in their cabinets, so you must make sure that none of these pills ever spill on the ground. You also want to make sure the bottle is kept out of reach of your cat, as they like the sound of the rattling bottle and can cause it to spill.

Your cat’s liver is very different from your own and, unfortunately, it is not able to digest the ingredients in acetaminophen properly. While it is relatively harmless for us in low dosages, in cats, consumption can lead to acute liver failure and other serious medical issues.

Usually, by the time the cat is showing visible signs of illness from Tylenol ingestion, it is too late and the result is a poor prognosis.

3. Allium (Onion/Garlic) Toxicity

Any plant from the allium family is also very toxic to cats. The most common food items that fall within this family are all varieties of onions and garlic.

Onion and garlic ingestion can lead to an attack on your cat’s red blood cells and cause anemia (a low red blood cell count). Red blood cells have a very important job to carry oxygen to all parts of the body! This can make your cat very sick and in very severe cases where the animal has consumed large quantities of these foods, the result can be fatal.

Make sure to take care when you are cooking with these common ingredients and make sure that your cat is unable to eat any off of the floor and kitchen counters.

4. Grapes and Raisins

Consumption of grapes, or any derivative of this popular fruit, like raisins, can be highly toxic to cats. Grape ingestion can cause immediate harm to the kidneys and lead to acute renal failure when large enough quantities were consumed.

Make sure that any grapes, or even grape-like fruits, like prunes, are kept out of reach of your cat. Always keep these foods in a place where your cat cannot access them.

5. Chocolate

Just like dogs, chocolate is very toxic to cats. Chocolate contains a harmful compound called theobromine, which can affect your cat’s cardiovascular system. When the cat consumes high enough doses, the nervous system can be impacted, resulting in serious issues, like seizures.

In high quantities, chocolate can even be fatal to cats. There are many types of chocolate available and they have different effects on cats. Dark chocolate contains the highest percentage of theobromine, so it is the most toxic chocolate to animals. Milk chocolate is toxic to a lesser effect, while white chocolate is often non-toxic to animals, as it has virtually no theobromine.

For more information about chocolate toxicity in dogs, visit our “How Much Chocolate Can Kill a Dog?” guide.

red cat sniffing mug of black coffee standing on table

6. Caffeine

Caffeine products are a staple in most households. Unfortunately, they are also very toxic for cats. Caffeine consumption, especially in higher quantities, can cause cardiac complications, as well as neurological issues, like seizures.

If you suspect that your cat has consumed caffeine, schedule a virtual vet appointment with one of our Hello Ralphie vets as soon as possible.

7. Ethylene Glycol

Ethylene glycol is the primary ingredient in most standard windshield washer fluids. Ethylene glycol has a very sweet taste that can be enticing to animals.

These chemicals are often kept in sheds and garages, where outdoor cats like to hide. Unfortunately, cats will often consume them if they are left uncovered. Ethylene glycol causes small microscopic crystals to develop inside the kidneys and the result can be fatal renal damage.

It is an extremely toxic substance and far too often the result of consumption is fatal. Unfortunately, in most cases of ethylene glycol consumption, by the time the cat feels sick, it is too late.

Please be careful about leaving windshield washer fluid open or accessible, even if you own an indoor cat. You should also be careful with spills, as even just a few small licks of the fluid can potentially be fatal to cats.

If your pet has ingested anything besides their normal pet food it is always a smart idea to reach out to a veterinary professional asap. Many toxin ingestions are extremely time-sensitive and you can possibly save your cat by acting quickly!

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