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4 Cat Hazards That Might Lurk Around Your Household

Check for these less-obvious potential threats when making your home safe for your cats.

Catherine Holm  |  May 6th 2016


Many of us are savvy about the well-known dangers around the house that could harm our cats. A lot of us know, for example, that Easter lilies, string, and rubber bands are hazards for kitties. But what about the strange things we might not think of? For example, what if I track a small bit of leaf detritus into the house and it happens to be poisonous?

In my household, everything is suspect, unless it’s safe. Here are some reminders of things we might not think about but that could be harmful to cats. I also asked the opinions of some pet experts on this topic.

1. Tub cleanser

I love to scrub the tub (part of my penchant for cleaning), but I’m not sure that I want my cat having a taste of cleanser granules. So I make sure that the tub is really rinsed out when I’m done. Even though I like to use the more “green” types of cleanser, or sometimes just liquid soap, I can’t be entirely sure that a small dose of this on a cat’s paw wouldn’t harm that cat if ingested.

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Cat and toilet by Shutterstock

2. Bathroom body powders

It’s really easy to treat your skin or your body with powder after a shower (talcum, medicated, whatever) and get it all over the floor. Kitties will walk right into this. I don’t use these powders, but if you need to use them, wipe them up right away — thoroughly and with a damp rag to pick up every particle. Better yet, put the powder on in some safe spot where a cat won’t walk.

3. Toilet lids

I don’t want my cats drinking from the toilet (gross), but this becomes doubly important if you put toilet cleaners in your toilet. Even if you flush, how can you be sure that your cat won’t ingest some small amount? And cats are such small creatures — it may not take much of an amount to harm them or get them into trouble.

4. Small things that can be swallowed

This list could go on forever. For me, small things that can end up in the common area of the house really easily (unless I stay alert) include the rubber bands that come around green onions from the store, for example. Or those twist ties. Cats can’t resist them (mine love them), but the last thing I want is a cat swallowing one of them. Cats are fast — don’t let these things float around the house in the first place.

Experts speak out

I asked several people what they thought were the most innocuous dangers to kitties in households. The responses were all over the board. I’ll list them here so that perhaps your radar will be alerted to new dangers that you might not have thought of in the past.

Danel Grimmett, DVM, of Sunset Vet Clinic agreed that cat owners need to be “vigilant in maintaining a cat-safe environment.” Even something as simple as a dryer door left open can attract a curious cat and lead to disaster. Visitors to your home can also unwillingly expose your cat to danger, whether it be a toxic substance or plant (such as an Easter lily) or a simple flea infestation. Grimmett mentioned a recent case of rat bait ingestion, when a maintenance worker left the door to the hot water heater open and the cat went inside to investigate and found the bait.

Erin Gleeson of 1-800-PetMeds points out that many over-the-counter medications are very dangerous for cats, including acetaminophen (Tylenol), which can cause liver failure in cats with just a small dose. Certain NSAIDs like Advil and aspirin can be dangerous for cats. PetMeds.com posts on their blog about the top 10 dangerous medications around the house. And here is an infographic on the most common causes of pet poisonings.

Gleeson was once a veterinary technician and remembers a case where exploratory surgery revealed 20 hair ties and rubber bands in a cat’s GI tract.

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Teenage girl hugs cat by Shutterstock

Author and pet columnist Darcy Matheson mentions “true lilies” and how toxic these are for cats. Even the pollen from these plants can make a cat ill. The true lilies include day, tiger, Asiatic, Japanese show, and Easter lilies.

Garden fertilizers such as bone, blood, and fish meals, commonly used as an organic fertilizer to boost the nitrogen content in garden soils, taste delicious to cats because they contain ground-up dried and flash-frozen animal bones. “In fact, it’s so appetizing that pets will gobble up pounds of it, leading to a ‘cement-like’ blockage in their GI tract that may have to be surgically extracted,” she says. A bigger issue is when these meals are mixed with insecticides, which can lead to toxic poisonings in cats.

Matheson points out that the THC in medical marijuana is toxic to cats. “While pets can show toxicity symptoms within a few minutes of inhaling smoke or eating weed, they’re usually minor, and eating a joint won’t kill the animal. The bigger danger is if pets get into marijuana butter or edibles, which have a much higher concentration of THC and can cause low blood pressure and seizures. The message? Stash the stash to keep your pet safe.”

Laura Kee, DVM, of Compassionate In-Home Euthanasia reminds us that there are many toxic substances in the household that can harm our cats. “Pyrethrins/permethrin (spot-on insecticides) are still one of the most common toxicities seen in cats around the world.” Other things to watch out for include onions, benzocaine (Orajel), and phosphate enemas (Fleet, usually the ones used for children).

And Kee brings up string again: “The worst danger to cats, which I have seen time and time again, is a simple piece of string. I have seen MANY cats who have swallowed linear foreign bodies (string, ribbon, etc.) and have had to have emergency surgery to have these items removed, or risk death. I never let my cat play with them unsupervised anymore.”

What are dangers you are aware of that might be easy to overlook? Tell us in the comments!