Common Household Items You Didn’t Know Were Toxic to Your Cat

As most cat owners know, a finicky feline who turns his nose up at everything but his favorite food in his favorite dish in his favorite spot in the house might also enjoying chomping on houseplants or live insects. We humans don’t always understand why our cats choose to eat certain things, but one concept we do understand is that not all things that can be eaten should be eaten. Today, we’re going to talk about common household items that are toxic to cats. You might not be able to stop your cat from hunting down crane flies that find their way into your living room, but you can definitely keep him away from some edible hazards!

1.) Houseplants

Back in April, we discussed how certain plants—even ones that are completely safe for humans—can be deadly for animals. Just to refresh your memory, here are some plants that you need to be wary of if you share your home with a cat:

• Aloe
• Baby’s Breath
• Buttercup
• Chamomile
• Chrysanthemum
• Hibiscus
• Holly
• Iris
• Lilies
• Poinsettia
• Sweet Pea

When you buy a live plant from a nursery or home improvement store, it’s very common for the flower to come with care instructions. These instructions usually give some valuable information about the plant (especially if you’re trying to start a garden or keep your flowers healthy), but they very rarely specify whether or not your new bloom is pet-safe. For this reason, it’s critical that you do your research before you bring any plants into your home. Do not take the information card’s silence on the matter as a reassurance that the plant won’t harm Fluffy!

2.) Insecticide Sprays and Foam

Spotting a wasp or cockroach indoors is often enough to make homeowners reach for a can of insecticide, but these products aren’t just good for killing insects—they can also poison an unsuspecting cat if you’re not careful! So, before you start “gassing” any trespassers, remove your cat from the area, and don’t let her back in until the spray/foam has completely dried and you’ve cleaned any surfaces that it might have come in contact with. Do not use spray insecticide near your cat’s dishes, toys, or bedding, and always store these products in a place where Whiskers can’t reach them.

3.) Medicine

Never give your cat any kind of medication intended for humans or other animals unless a licensed veterinarian tells you to do so! First and foremost, it’s very easy to overdose your cat on the medicine you’re trying to administer; it may be safe to start Princess on a regimen of clomipramine to help with her separation anxiety, only your vet will know the exact amount that you can safely give her. And secondly, just like with the plants we discussed earlier, some medicines that are safe for humans are very toxic to cats. For example, painkillers like ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen are a staple of many first aid kits and medicine chests, but even one or two pills of these substances can kill an average-sized cat. Benzodiazepines, sleep aids, and ADHD medication can be lethal, too.

If you have concerns about your cat’s health or well-being and think that she could be helped with some kind of pill or serum, talk to your vet instead of trying to medicate her yourself. In the meantime, keep any and all human/animal medications away from your cat. Behind a cupboard door or on a very high shelf might work, but a plastic baggie in your purse or on your valet stand probably won’t cut it. Oh, and don’t store your medicine and your pet’s medicine in the same place. If there’s ever a mix-up, it could end in tragedy…or at least a very embarrassing phone call to poison control!

4.) Chocolate and Other Human Foods

Though cats have a reputation for being picky eaters, some kitties are as shameless as dogs when it comes to begging for table scraps. It’s really not a good idea to let Smokey mooch off your plate, though, and that’s not just because doing so reinforces his bad behavior. No matter how much he cries or whines, your cat’s diet should not include:

• Chocolate.
• Alcohol.
• Caffeinated beverages (like coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks).
• Grapes, raisins, or currants.
• Mushrooms.
• Onions and garlic.

Now, most of these foods really need to be ingested in large amounts to be toxic; a tiny lick of coffee or nibble of onion probably won’t warrant a trip to the emergency vet. However, there’s no true “safe” amount of any of these substances, so it’s much better to keep them out of your cat’s mouth entirely. Overall, Smokey should subsist primarily on healthy, natural cat food and stick to safe, hairball-fighting human foods for his treats. Reinforce this dining policy by ignoring him while you’re eating, not leaving food out where he can help himself to it, and shooing him away if you notice him “inspecting” the garbage can.

Final Thoughts

The following are some signs of acute poisoning in animals. Again, this list might seem familiar to those who read our April post about poisonous plants:

• Coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing.
• Lethargy and weakness.
• Vomiting and diarrhea, which may or may not be bloody.
• Shivering and muscle spasms.
• Loss of appetite.
• Drooling or tongue lolling.
• Skin irritation.
• Loss of coordination.

If you have reason to believe that your cat has ingested a toxic substance, take action immediately. Call his regular veterinarian or contact the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control center at (888) 426-4435. These two sources will be able to give you emergency advice.

While it may be frustrating to watch your cat refuse to take her monthly heartworm pill when, just moments ago, you had to pry apart her jaws to remove a candy wrapper she’d found on the floor, situations like these illustrate an important point: cats don’t always know what they should and should not consume. Thus, it falls on their owners to keep them out of harm’s way. Taking some simple precautions can, quite literally, save your cat’s life.

…Just don’t expect Ginger to express her gratitude anytime soon. We are talking about cats, after all…

Photo courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr

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