15 Must-Know Household Hazards for Cats

We are familiar of the saying “curiosity kills the cat”, but do you know that dog food, your lotion, and even your kitty’s favorite room window are part of the long list of cat dangers?

In the US alone in 2016, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Hospital has recorded 97 cases of feline high-rise syndrome in their medical facility alone. In 2017, ASPCA-AH also reported 199,000 cases of potential poisoning among pets.

As responsible cat parents, we must always be mindful that what may seem safe for us humans might not be good for our kitty. Here are some of the things we need to take note of that could cause harm to our feline friends:

scared cat

Medicine and Dietary Intake

Human medicine is not the same as cat medicine and should be kept out of your frisky feline’s way. Your kitty might think that your bottle or jar of medicine is a sound-making toy that is worth rolling around and those tiny capsules and tablets bits and trinkets to play with.

What you think as a painkiller, cold medication, or dietary supplement could be choking hazard – and worse, poison – to your cat. Substances like Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are highly toxic to felines. Dietary supplements may contain caffeine and other related compounds that can cause difficulty in breathing, seizures, and even heart problems.

Also, please take note that your tablet and capsule bottles contain silica gel which could be an additional hazard for your kitty.

Veterinary medications can be potential hazards. Letting your pet cat take medicine without proper consultation or vet recommendation may cause an overdose.

There is also the possibility of giving the wrong medicine to the wrong species which could lead to unwarranted negative effects like allergic reactions. This is especially true for flea and tick products where wrong treatment or application could be dangerous.

There is a belief that food is a type of medicine. Food, after all, contains nutrients to keep us all healthy. There are times – and this is especially true if we have both cats and dogs in our household – when the kitty gets attracted to dog food.

Having the kitty snack on dog food once in a blue moon is alright, but excessive dog food is unhealthy. Dog food lacks the proper nutrients such as certain amino acids, taurine, and ample amount of protein that felines need. If your pet cat gets addicted to dog food, this could cause an imbalanced diet which could lead to blindness.

Cosmetics

Our kittens tend to lick us to show affection or tend to rub on us and then later groom on their fur. What we do not know is that in letting them do this, we become potential hazards. This is because we hoomans put on cosmetics like soap, shampoo, scents, makeup, and all the other substances we put on our skin, hair, and face.

We may use natural products to lessen the cat danger levels these cosmetics pose but it is still better to consult with the vet to ensure that whatever we put on ourselves is not risky to cats’ health whenever they fling themselves at us for a lick or a rub.

A lot of topical ointments and creams have flurbiprofen (sounds like ibuprofen, and you know by now what ibuprofen can do to our frisky felines), and other related substances. These can cause our poor kitty kidney problems, anemia, lethargy, loss of appetite and will to eat, diluted urine, and Melena (that black, tarry, or even bloody stools that would make us screw our faces at the thought of how painful this probably felt for our poor cat when it pooped).

Sunscreens, on the other hand, contain zinc oxide that is highly toxic to cats. The same goes for tea tree oil and citronella which are found in some lotions and other skin applications.

Insecticides, Pesticides, and Rodenticides

Applying the wrong treatment for insecticides and pesticides to the wrong species can lead to our poor pet cats getting poisoned.

Cats are natural rodenticides but sometimes we feel that the fastest way to rid our houses of vermin is by using chemical rodenticides. In addition, our kitties find some of these rodenticides as “good stuff” to eat or play around, so they may accidentally ingest them just by taking a nose dip or a rub on the bait.

Non-kitty friendly chemical rodenticides can cause problems such as bleeding, seizures, and even kidney damage.

The Not-So-Kitty-Friendly Human Food

Sometimes we feed our feline friend food scraps from our plates and tables but what we do not know is that there are some human foods that are meant only for humans and not for our cats.

Grapes, raisins, avocado, and food products with xylitol are examples. Xylitol is an artificial food sweetener found in food products that humans find ingestible – but poisonous for our cats.

Onions and garlic can cause damage to a hapless kitty’s red blood cells, thereby, causing hemolytic anemia. When you are raising kittens at home by feeding them baby food, please check the ingredients for onion flakes or powder as this would make the baby formula a definite no-no for the cats.

Other ingredients that you need to be wary of and avoid feeding to cats are raw potatoes, unripe tomatoes, apricots, cherries, apple seeds, and certain nuts. Their stomach does not have the proper mechanism to handle these food types and feeding them food with such ingredients might induce vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs. It contains methylxanthines which, if ingested by your cat, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, and hyperactivity. In worse cases, chocolate can cause the poor feline abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, and seizures.

Milk is relatively safe for cats but you still need to check for any adverse effects. Some cats are lactose intolerant so you need to check with the vet first before feeding any type of milk to them.

Food leftovers especially bones are not advisable for the kitties. This is because broken bones can cut the poor cat’s digestive tract while big pieces could get stuck. If and when this happens, the poor feline will have to get hospitalized and worse, go through surgery.

Houseplants and Flowering Plants

Our kits are curious and territorial so they tend to chew on leaves or rub themselves on certain plants, then later on groom and lick themselves.

Plants such as azalea, rhododendron, sugar palm or sago palm, lilies, and Kalanchoe schefflera are some plants toxic to cats. Lilies, for example, can cause life-threatening kidney failure regardless of amount ingested.

Sugar palm or sago palm, on the other hand, can cause acute liver damage – and take note, sugar palm fruit is edible to humans and is mixed with other ingredients in certain recipes so please make sure that the food you feed your feline does not have sago.

Morning glory causes kitty hallucinations. Wandering Jew, on the other hand, can cause allergic reactions and rashes.

There are other plants that we have in our homes which may not be safe for our feline friends, so it is advisable to know them to be safe. The Animal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a list of plants where you can check your house and garden plants against to see whether your home flora is safe for your kitty or not.

scared cute kitten

Chemical hazards

Cats urinate two to three times a day if well hydrated and can drink up to four ounces in addition to food intake.

There are days, however, when the kitty may find itself wishing to drink from toilet water. When we put toilet cleaning tablets in a water tank, the water that gets out of the tank every time we flush becomes clean water, but it is still definitely not safe for the cat. This is equivalent to letting your cat ingest household cleaning supplies which is toxic and can cause the poor feline various problems.

Garden products are also toxic. We have already mentioned pesticides and what they can possibly do to our cat. Fertilizers may cause upset stomach, indigestion, and digestive tract blockage.

Let us also recall that caffeine is unhealthy for our kitty, so using used coffee ground fertilizers may be dangerous for our cat. Cocoa mulch or shells, on the other hand, may be beneficial to plants but they are definitely toxic to our cats and dogs, especially if ingested in big amounts.

Heavy metals are barely detectable from construction and household cleaning and are toxic to cats. Lead, for example, is easily absorbed yet difficult to detect because they come from many places such as linoleum, some consumer products, and paint chips and dust from the sand of older homes where layers of paint are sanded or scratched off.

All Strings, Cords, and Wires

Kitties love to play and find all stringy objects purrfect toys that are worth pawing and gnawing. Strings and cords for blinds, however, are choking hazards for our cat.

Choking may also be the outcome of a kitty that gnaws and swallows small string-type objects like flosses. Ingestion could also lead to indigestion and stomach blockages that would require surgery for their removal.

Wires may also cause more harm to our kits than just mere choking. There are cases of cats getting electrocuted and, for those who survive, getting their small mouths burnt due to chewing off protective layers of these wires.

Rubber Bands, Bag Ties, Hair Bands, and All Things Rubber

Anything rubber that your cat may like to play with or bite and gnaw is dangerous. Rubber items like these can cause indigestion, choking, and other gastrointestinal problems.

Plastic Bags

Plastic bags have a similar effect to the kitten as swallowed rubber. They cause abdominal pain and indigestion and may block the poor cat’s stomach.

Household Appliances

Household appliances are another cause of worry for our frisky felines. Washing machine and tumble dryers, for example, have to be checked and rechecked outside and inside. News of a cat tells one was lucky enough to get away with only a severe case of hypothermia and hospital treatment but your furry friend might not.

Hot appliances like flat stoves and iron (and the ironing board) must be made off-limits to the furball especially when they are still cooling after being switched off after use. Ovens are definitely a no-go and like washing machines, they have to be checked regularly, especially before use.

The kitty might get too excited thinking that the hot plate is a good tummy warmer, only to find out too late that it is still burning hot. You may also need to switch it back on and realize too late that your kitty is still lounging on top of it.

Your curious cat may also find paper shredders as some big toys to poke their paws in. Always keep them away from the machine.

Some kitties like to lick salt lamps. If you find them doing it regularly, you may as well do away with these lamps or find ways to get them cat-proofed. Too much salt is toxic for your feline.

Cars

Always check your cars especially before you switch engines on especially in car hoods and under cars. Cats love to get into snug spots to seek warmth during cold weather and in the shade under parked cars on hot days. If unchecked, they could get injured or run over.

Make sure to close your car doors and windows properly, too, and don’t leave pets in your car unattended when you go to a nearby shop. The poor soul could get heat stroke or run out of oxygen.

High Spots

Cats can be too overconfident with their sense of balance when they nap on places like unscreened windows, ledges, and even rooftops. When this happens, the cat becomes a victim of Feline high rise syndrome which is characterized by injuries like shattered jaws, punctured lungs, and broken limbs and pelvises.

Holes and Boxy areas

Small holes and other small areas – these places make our furball feel safe and warm but these are potentially dangerous for the kitty. Chimneys, for example, need to be regularly checked for spots where cats can fit in snuggly. Cats could get stuck in these areas and get asphyxiated from the smoke and burnt from the heat.

The same goes for ground-level fridges – if you have them at home please make sure there are no cats with you when you get into them. Hypothermia may be the least of your worries if they get left inside.

All Things Small and Wonderful

Anything in the house that catches your cat’s attention can be hazard potential. Small shiny items such as needles and threads, paper clips, and marbles may turn into your kitty’s playthings that they can poke, play with, bite, and swallow which could lead to gastrointestinal injury as well as asphyxiation and choking.

Add to the list are decorations like Christmas trees, balls, Christmas lights (mind the wires), and all things hanging.

Potpourri

We know that cats have a sensitive nose which is why a potpourri’s scent can be overpowering and cause them irritation. Liquid potpourri is even more dangerous – when it is heated, the warmth could draw our cat to it and cause the pot set-up to tip over and burn the cat.

Another possible hazard is the type of potpourri used. We may need to check if the oils and potpourri are from plants that are toxic to the cat.

How Will I Know My Kitty is Poisoned?

We cannot monitor our cat 24/7 but we do need to be aware of the signs that our cat has ingested something toxic.

  • Depression, lethargy, and weakness
  • Rashes, inflammation, swelling
  • Gastrointestinal signs such as drooling, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Respiratory signs such as coughing, sneezing, or difficulty in breathing
  • Excessive thirst or urination, halitosis (bad breath)
  • Pale or yellow gums
  • Nervousness, hyperactivity, tremors, loss of muscle coordination, seizure, coma

How to Keep the House Safe for Our Cats

  1. We need to do preventive measures. Properly store substances in containers that are hard to open and place these containers in areas that are difficult for your cat to reach or are out of your kitty’s sight.
  2. If possible, use organic and more cat-friendly substances as cleaning agent substitute. Baking soda and vinegar, for example, are good substitutes for cleaning agents around the house.
  3. Stop your cat from licking you especially if you like to put on cosmetics.
  4. Always check washing machines, dryers, and your car and other cat-attractive spots before using them. If there’s a possibility that there is a kitty in the car hood, give a loud knock or thump on the hood before getting in. Honk the horns to scare any kitty underneath. Give ample time for the cat to move away to safety before starting the engine.
  5. Always consult with the vet to see which foods, medicine, and cosmetics are safe
  6. Call the vet or hospital right away when kitty gets sick, injured or poisoned.

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