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5 Non-Food Household Items That Are Toxic to Your Cat

Certain foods and plants can poison your cat, but have you considered these other dangers?

JaneA Kelley  |  Mar 22nd 2016


I don’t know how many articles exist about the foods that are poisonous to cats and plants that are not. I’m glad they’re out there, because that information is crucial for cat people to know. However, it seems like some other toxins might be flying under the radar because of the huge amount of attention given to foods and flowers. Here are some other things you should be careful not to let your cat get into.

1. Human prescription medications

One of my biggest cat-mom freakouts in recent history happened when my cat, Belladonna, got into the medicine cabinet and pulled my medication-minder out. It fell, hit the vanity top, and pills went everywhere! I was shaking with barely controlled panic until I had accounted for all the pills that had fallen out of their compartments. Even though medications that are used in humans are also used for cats, the dosages cats are prescribed are many times smaller than those we take. Trust me, the bathroom door in my home has remained closed since that incident.

Cat getting into herbs by Shutterstock

Cat getting into herbs by Shutterstock

2. Human non-prescription medications, including recreational drugs

Although cats aren’t equipped with the opposable thumbs necessary to open aspirin bottles or use many of our non-medically-sanctioned medications, they can still get into things that are left out when a cat parent is careless or high. I know of a cat who is very intrigued by his human’s medical marijuana edibles, primarily because of the fat content, and this cat guardian has to be very careful not to leave any of his “medibles” anywhere within his cat’s reach. One more thing: If your cat does get into recreational drugs, be honest with the vet when you bring him in for emergency care. The vet’s not going to report you to the cops, but they’ll need accurate information to save your cat’s life.

Cat and mouse by Shutterstock

Cat and mouse by Shutterstock

3. Mouse and rat poison

If you have cats and you have rodents, you absolutely should not have rodenticides anywhere on your property. Cats naturally want to eat mice, rats, voles, and other rodents, and if the unfortunate critter has ingested poison, guess what? Your cat’s going to ingest the poison too by eating his prey. Rodenticides contain blood thinners, which can lead to spontaneous internal bleeding. Suspected or known ingestion of rat and mouse poison requires a trip to the emergency veterinary clinic.

4. Insecticides

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the flea-control products that have been poisoning cats and causing symptoms including drooling, tremors, seizures, and even death. Pyrethrin and synthetic pyrethroids, the types of insecticide used on these collars, are known to be poisonous to cats. Other household pest control applications including room foggers can also contain these toxins. To be on the safe side, never use “bug bombs” or insecticide powders, either. Get safe flea- and tick-control products from your vet; it’s worth the extra cost to know you’re using a product that is much less likely to harm your cat.

Liquid potpourri by Shutterstock

Liquid potpourri by Shutterstock

5. Air freshening products

It’s well known to veterinarians that simmering and liquid potpourri is highly toxic to cats and dogs. Although your cat isn’t likely to start drinking the fluid because it smells good, he may lick it off his fur or feet after accidentally spilling a potpourri container. Plug-in air fresheners have volatile organic compounds (like much interior wall paint) and heaven only knows what kind of chemical concoctions are responsible for those hideous fake-flower smells. Although there’s no peer-reviewed evidence that plug-in air fresheners are toxic to cats, they could be harmful to cats with a history of asthma, as the strong odor at cat-nose height might trigger an attack.

Have you been unfortunate enough to have a cat get into something toxic? Do you wonder if a particular substance is poisonous to cats? Ask your questions in the comments, and maybe I’ll answer them in a future post.

Read more about foods and household substances safe and unsafe for cats:

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal rescue volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline authors, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.