Keep Your Cat Poison-Free: Watch Out for These 9 Household Toxins

Keep Your Cat Poison-Free: Watch Out for These 9 Household Toxins

Your cat’s curious nature is likely one of the things you love most about them. However, this same characteristic can get many cats into trouble. In fact, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) receives almost 250,000 calls every year from pet parents who suspect their cats and dogs have ingested a toxic substance. That’s far too many close calls, and every pet’s life lost due to accidental poisoning is too many. So, in honor of Poison Prevention Awareness Month, we wanted to educate cat parents on the possible household toxins that may be lurking around their homes.

Household Toxins That Could Harm Your Cat

An orange tabby cat sniffing a cup of coffee, a potential cat poison

When it comes to your cat’s health, prevention is always better than treatment. Not only could 10 minutes of identifying and locking up potential poisons prevent your cat from getting sick, but it could also save their life.

Check out these feline toxins then download your own toxins guide to keep handy on your fridge or to share on social.

1. Antifreeze

While most people know that antifreeze is toxic for cats and dogs, many are surprised to learn how little of this substance can harm their cat. It only takes an eighth of a teaspoon per pound of your cat’s weight for antifreeze to be fatal to your cat. For kittens and small cats, this can mean walking through a small puddle of antifreeze beneath a car.

Over the past two decades, many states have passed laws that require antifreeze makers to add a bittering agent to their products to deter cats and dogs from lapping up the sweet substance. Most antifreeze manufacturers have also agreed to add a bitter substance to their products sold in the U.S. However, this doesn’t protect cats that accidentally come in contact with the substance.

How to protect your cat:
  • Always clean up antifreeze and coolant spills and drips
  • Dispose of empty coolant containers in waste bins with secure lids
  • Store coolant containers in locked cabinets or in areas where your cat cannot access

2. Coffee Grounds

Most people struggle to make it through the morning without a cup of coffee. Additionally, we all agree that most cats are spunky enough without coffee. This may make you wonder why coffee grounds wound up on our list. Cats are highly susceptible to caffeine toxicity, and coffee grounds are one of the most common culprits due to their high concentration of caffeine.

How to protect your cat:
  • Dispose of your coffee grounds in a covered waste bin
  • When composting your coffee grounds, be sure your bin is cat-proofed 

3. Plants

Both indoor and garden plants can be potentially dangerous to an unsuspecting cat. And while bringing blooms indoors during spring seems like a real treat for humans, your spring bouquet may put your cat at risk. In fact, many of the most beautiful spring blooms are the most dangerous for your feline friends, including:

  • Lilies
  • Hyacinth
  • Daffodils
  • Tulips
  • Cyclamen

While it’s easy to identify many of these spring flowers and avoid bringing them home, many common potted plants and landscaping wonders are also extremely toxic to cats. The most dangerous include:

  • Sago palms
  • Azaleas
  • Oleander
  • Castor bean
  • Kalanchoe
  • Pothos
  • Schefflera

How to protect your cat:

4. Fabric Softener Sheets

Dryer sheets contain cationic chemicals. These chemicals are what make these sheets so effective at reducing static in your laundry. Fabric sheets are also made from synthetic materials that do not breakdown in your cat’s digestive system. The combination of these properties can lead to digestive blockage, mouth ulcers, GI tract issues, and even damage to the nervous system, lungs, and kidneys.

How to protect your cat:

  • Keep the laundry room door closed
  • Skip the dryer sheet when washing your cat’s bedding
  • Store dry sheets in a secure cabinet
  • Opt for natural dryer sheets when possible

5. Essential Oils

    While essential oils are dangerous for all cats, some cats are born without a specific enzyme that allows them to process gluconuridation compounds. Gluconuridations include phenols, which are extremely common in essential oils. When this enzyme isn’t present, exposure to essential oils can lead to liver failure.

    The most dangerous essential oils include:

    • Cinnamon oil
    • Citrus oil
    • Clove oil
    • Eucalyptus oil
    • Pennyroyal oil
    • Peppermint oil
    • Pine oils
    • Sweet Birch
    • Tea Tree oil
    • Wintergreen
    • Ylang Ylang
    How to protect your cat:
    • Do not apply essential oils to your cat’s coat
    • Never allow your cat to ingest essential oils
    • Avoid using oil diffusers in the same room as your cat

    6. Dishwasher & Laundry Detergents

      Household cleaners like dish and laundry detergents are commonplace. And while these cleaners offer a convenient way to keep your home free of dust, dirt, and grime, these products can be serious concerns for cat owners. Ingesting detergents can lead to gastrointestinal issues for cats. Additionally, most cats who ingest cleaners or detergents also wind up with secondary respiratory issues caused by inhaling while trying to purge their stomachs.

      How to protect your cat:

      • Keep all cleaners locked away from your cat
      • Avoid letting your cat walk across freshly sprayed surfaces

      7. Nicotine

      Every year, thousands of pet owners call the Pet Poison Hotline because their pets have ingested nicotine from e-cigarettes, and many vets report a sharp rise in nicotine poisoning in their pet patients. 

      What makes e-cigarettes so dangerous for our feline friends? The concentration of nicotine that is packed into such compact cartridges makes it easier for cats to get a huge dose of nicotine in one bite. Of course, the danger is multiplied when you take into account a package of multiple cartridges or a liquid refill container.

      Nicotine toxicity can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and an elevated heart rate. High levels of nicotine ingestion can lead to trouble breathing, tremors, seizures, coma, or heart failure.

      How to protect your pet:

      • Never leave cartridges or e-cigarettes lying with paw’s reach
      • Have a designated storage system for any e-smokers

      8. Pennies

      Just one to two pennies can lead to zinc poisoning for any unfortunate cat that swallows a few coins. Zinc poisoning can cause your cat to vomit, suffer from diarrhea, depression, and lack of appetite. More seriously, zinc poisoning can also result in anemia or organ damage to the liver, kidneys, heart, or pancreas.

      How to protect your cat:
      • Always supervise your cat around coins
      • Do not allow your cat to play with small metal objects
      • Diaper rash medications often contain high levels of zinc–keep them away from your kitty

      9. Over-the-Counter Medications & Prescriptions

      Accidental ingestion of their owners’ medications continues to be a leading cause of toxicity in cats. Surprisingly enough, pet medications are also often the culprit in cat poisonings. This is because many are flavored to be more palatable for the pets that have to take them.

      The severity of poisoning and its effects on the cat depends on the medication and how much of the medicine the cat ingests.

      Some of the most common OTC & prescription medications that get cats into trouble include:

      • Acetaminophen
      • Aspirin
      • Ibuprofen
      • Naproxen
      • Sleep aids
      • Cholesterol medication
      • Antidepressants

      How to protect your cat:

      • Keep all medications (including pet meds) in a secure location
      • Ask houseguests to keep their medications in a location where your cat cannot access them
      • Do not leave medication bottles open
      • Thoroughly pick up any medications that spill

      Protect Your Cat from Potential Poisons

      a tabby cat with a bottle of pills--a common household poison

      While potential poisoning is a very serious and scary topic, protecting your cat is easy. Due diligence and observation are key to keeping your kitty safe, healthy, and out of trouble. Should you ever worry that your cat has consumed something poisonous, contact your vet immediately or the Pet Poison Hotline (800-213-6680).


      Have questions? We've got answers.

      Take your cat care to the next level with insights from our Cat DNA Test.

      Related Posts

      Are Siamese Cats Hypoallergenic: The Truth Revealed
      Are Siamese Cats Hypoallergenic: The Truth Revealed
      Siamese cats are a popular choice of a pet because they are known for being cuddly, fun, and very affectionate. You m...
      Read More
      Do Cats Have Periods? What To Expect During A Female Cat’s Cycle
      Do Cats Have Periods? What To Expect During A Female Cat’s Cycle
      We all know that human females have menstrual cycles, which occurs when the uterus sheds its lining once every 28 day...
      Read More
      When Do Cats Stop Growing?
      When Do Cats Stop Growing?
      How can you tell if your cat is fully grown? Learn about cat life stages and developmental milestones that can help y...
      Read More