Did you know that many of the items that you may currently have in your home can be incredibly harmful to pets?
From the flowers on your coffee table to the disinfectant you use to clean the bath, if ingested, they could cause your cat’s body to start breaking down and lead to some serious issues with their organs. This may prove fatal.
It is why you must consider what you bring into your home, from your purchases at the garden centre to the disinfectant you use to clean their equipment and the food you leave out on the kitchen table when you’re cooking.
The most poisonous household products for cats
Easter, Day, Tiger, Japanese, Asiatic, Rubrum, and Stargazer varieties can all cause kidney failure in cats. Every part of the flower is poisonous to cats, from the leaves and the petals to the water they are sitting in.
Lilies of the valley can also cause heart rhythmic issues. While Cala, Peace and Peruvian lilies are generally safe for cats (not dogs), they could still cause mouth irritation if eaten.
Always cut the pollen stems out of those which are generally safe too, as this can fall and get on to your cat’s fur and then be ingested when they clean themselves.
There are dozens of other indoor and outdoor plants which are also toxic, such as amaryllis, azaleas and rhododendrons, crocuses or daffodils. If you’re after pet-safe houseplants, take a look at our guide, but always still keep them out of the way.
Ethylene glycol is the active ingredient in windscreen de-icer sprays, screen washes and motor oils. They are designed to keep your car running smoothly and ice-free in the winter months. But if your cat were to lick this off your car, it could cause some really dangerous issues, from sickness to kidney failure.
Just the tiniest amount can have these effects. Grit is also harmful, as is natural salt, so if you put any on your path, ensure cats don’t bring any in on their feet which they could consume when cleaning themselves.
It is thought cats are drawn to the natural sweetness in the products, so look out for one which is safe for animals and has added bittering agents. Otherwise, it could lead to fatal results.
What may make you better after an illness will likely have the opposite effect on your pet, unfortunately.
Things such as ibuprofen and paracetamol which are often lying around for those ‘just in case’ moments can lead to ulcers and anaemia for cats, and potentially kidney and liver failure which leads to fatalities.
Anti-depressants, cold medicines, cancer medicine and vitamins are also dangerous, as are vet medicines which aren’t required by your animal or are for another pet.
Cats love playing with balls of string, right? You find it funny when they jump up to try and catch that loose thread hanging from your coat, or if they seem enthralled by the pompoms on your jumper.
But small bits of string could catch in their throat, leading to choking. They may go off their food if something is stuck in their throat, which is a bad sign.
This can cause allergic reactions and headaches in humans. But for pets, it could cause them to excessively lick their paws, lose patches of fur, cause lethargy or affect their respiratory system.
The symptoms should be diagnosed by a vet and can be treated with antibiotics, but in the long term, you will also need to remove the mould in your home. You may wish to leave it to the professionals, and invest in a dehumidifier.
It makes sense as the same applies to humans, but bleach, drain cleaners, ammonia and toilet cleaners are all incredibly toxic to pets.
While you may keep them tucked away in a cupboard with a tight lid, remember that the smell may attract cats to recently cleaned surfaces who could then lick it, especially if there is water still on it.
Always rinse the surfaces clean and dry them so no trace is left behind, and preferably keep on top of the cleaning so less product is needed, or use natural cleaners. This is particularly relevant if you’ve ever caught the cat licking water out of the sink or toilet bowl.
Dog flea treatments
Spot on treatments and tablets meant for dogs can be highly toxic to cats. The dosage is too high, and they contain insecticides which can cause vomiting and seizures in cats (more below).
Never use a dog spot on with a cat, and if you have a dog and a cat, keep them separate until the medication has had time to soak in.
Insecticides, in general, are bad too. Anything you’d use in your garden to keep away pests such as flies or slugs is dangerous, so try to avoid using them if your cat likes to sniff the flowers, or you have visiting felines.
Remember that even after they have dried, there is still the chance that they could get some leftovers on their fur. It is also worth bearing in mind if they tend to consume insects outside which may have come into contact with things like this, such as small flies or spiders.
Tinsel and other similar decorations can be harmful if swallowed, as they could cause blockages or choking hazards. Lights are obviously dangerous if they are chewed or become tangled around your cat, and snow globes often surprisingly contain ethylene glycol. As mentioned above, this is a type of antifreeze and they could lick it if the globe becomes broken.
Also, watch out if you have a real tree. Not only may it be treated with insecticides and have sharp pine needles, but the oils produced by them are mildly toxic if consumed. Watch out for them climbing into the tree as the oil could rub off on their fur, which they then lick off.
If swallowed, a battery could just pass through the digestive system and cause no real effects except some stomach upset. But this is the best-case scenario.
Cats may be drawn to the shiny outer of a battery. If it were to open during the passage (should it get stuck in the oesophagus), or indeed if your cat were to lick a corroded or damaged battery, it could lead to ulcers in the stomach, mouth and intestines.
Both alkaline and lithium batteries will be damaging. While lithium disc batteries are often noncorrosive, they’re much harder to pass through the digestive system.
It is best to avoid the consumption altogether so always watch out for any batteries left in toys or ornaments near where your cat sits or plays.
What to do if your cat has ingested something toxic
If you suspect that your cat may have consumed something dangerous or poisonous, or if they are displaying side effects such as:
- Respiratory difficulty
- Coughing or wheezing
- Depression/a change in behaviour
- Dilated pupils
- Drinking more and urinating more
- Upset stomach/sickness
- Excessive saliva
- Skin irritation
then you should ring your vet straight away. They will be able to help with any advice and get you seen if it is an emergency.
They may want to see samples of stools, urine or saliva if you are unsure as to what it is they have consumed.
If they don’t think it is an emergency, or if they’ve only had a tiny bit of something and there seem to be no effects, still keep a very close eye on them. You may want to contact an online vet for advice. Some of the above symptoms may only appear gradually or after a few days.
Don’t let your cat outside. Here, if they were out for hours, you wouldn’t know if they suddenly took a turn for the worst.
After the incident, always learn from what happened. Keep things out of the way of your cat (or better still, get rid of them) and if it was something out of your control (such as an outdoor plant not in your garden), maybe switch to keep them as an indoor cat.