The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) received nearly 166,000 calls in 2011 about pets exposed to poisonous substances. Protect your cat by educating yourself on poisonous plants, foods, and household products and removing them in advance from your home.


When you've made the loving decision to buy or adopt a cat, keeping it safe is one of the most important aspects of that commitment. That's why you need to learn about plants, foods, and household products that are poisonous to cats. Begin with a thorough inventory of your home, garage, and yard. Then promptly toss, replace, or securely store any dangerous products.

Here are some household items likely found in your home or garage that could be a danger to your cat:

  • Automotive products. Keep all auto products in tightly sealed containers. But if you happen to spill any, particularly antifreeze, clean it up immediately. Most antifreezes contain an extremely toxic, sweet-tasting chemical called ethylene glycol. Look for antifreezes that contain propylene glycol instead.
  • Heavy metals. Lead, found in products such as paint and batteries, can be toxic to your cat if swallowed.
  • Household cleaners. Store these products where your cat can't reach them: bath and toilet-bowl cleaners, carpet cleaners, laundry detergents, and anything that contains bleach, ammonia, formaldehyde, and glycol ethers.
  • Insecticides. This includes outdoor, indoor and pet pest-control products. Read the label thoroughly and follow all instructions and warnings very carefully.
  • Human medications. Keep all human medications out of reach from your pets. A few examples include acetaminophen, antidepressants, cold medicines, ibuprofen, naproxen, pain killers, and vitamins. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) is especially poisonous to cats. If you happen to drop one of your pills, don't stop looking until you find it and dispose of it properly.
  • Pet medications. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing in this case. Precisely follow your vet's instructions on administering pet medications, and never give your cat medicine prescribed for your dog, or vice versa.
  • Rodent and insect baits. Mice and rat bait contain the poison rodenticides, which is grain-based and enticing to dogs. Slug and snail baits contain metaldehyde, and fly baits contain methomyl. Keep any and all of these deadly products well out of your cat's reach.
  • String. This household item is not poisonous to your cat, but can cause serious harm to the animal's gastrointestinal tract if swallowed. So can similar items such as tinsel, thread, and rubber bands -- all of which may look like toys to your cat. If you think your cat has ingested such items, take it to the vet right away.

Poisonous Foods

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In general, sharing table scraps with cats isn't recommended given the very specific dietary requirements they have. Beyond that, it's important to know which foods are toxic and should be kept behind closed doors. Here are some important examples:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Bones (found in fish, poultry, or other kinds of meat)
  • Candy and gum containing the sugar substitute xylitol
  • Chocolate and caffeine (any type, all forms)
  • Citrus oil extracts
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Milk and other dairy products (Contrary to popular belief, cats shouldn't be given milk as they aren't able to break down and process lactose, which results in diarrhea and upset tummies.)
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions and garlic (any form)
  • Raw eggs
  • Raw fish
  • Salt
  • Tobacco
  • Yeast dough

Poisonous Plants

aloe vera plant in blue ceramic pot

Many indoor and outdoor plants are poisonous to cats. A few of the more common ones are listed below. If you have questions about your plantings, it's always a good idea to check with your veterinarian.

Signs and Symptoms

Your cat's reaction to specific toxins can vary, but there are some signs and symptoms to let you know something is wrong. A few to report immediately to your vet include abdominal pain (your cat's stomach will be sensitive to the touch), a chemical odor on the body, coma, convulsions, diarrhea, excessive drooling, nervous twitching, and vomiting.

If you suspect that your cat has eaten something toxic, call your vet or the ASPCA 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center's (APCC) hotline at 888/426-4435. Stay calm and be prepared to offer as much information as you can, including details on your cat's breed, age, sex, weight, what you think your pet has ingested and when, and the symptoms. There is a fee for using the ASPCA hotline, but it will most likely be a small price to pay in exchange for possibly saving your pet's life.

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