Common Household Items Toxic to Cats


Ru Chen

- Updated April 27, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Cleaning products, house plants, and many foods are toxic to cats
  • Poisoning can cause serious organ failure and even death
  • Familiarize yourself with substances toxic to cats and common poisoning symptoms
  • Take your cat to the emergency vet if they show symptoms
Common Household Items Toxic to Cats

Innocuous household plants and foods can cause serious harm to cats. A bar of chocolate or a pretty lily petal can have devastating health effects on our feline friends. It’s important to know the household substances that are toxic to cats.

Let’s go over common household items that pose health risks to cats and how to recognize signs of poisoning.


Common Household Substances That Are Dangerous for Cats

Foods and Beverages

Many snacks and drinks that humans eat are dangerous for cats to consume. Because of this, it is recommended to not give your cat anything from your plate.

  • Chocolate: Contains both theobromine and caffeine, which are toxic to cats. Enough chocolate can be fatal to cats.

  • Onions, Garlic, and Chives: If you cook at home, be careful about onions, garlic, shallots, and chives. These ingredients are toxic to cats, causing vomiting, pallor, shortness of breath, and acute organ failure. Store them sealed and safely out of your cat’s reach.

  • Caffeine: Cats should avoid coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks. Anything with caffeine is highly toxic to cats. If you consume caffeine at home, make sure your cat can’t access your cup when you aren’t looking.

  • Alcohol: Alcohol usually contains ethanol and grain. Even a small bit of alcohol can cause kidney and liver damage to cats. Be careful about keeping alcohol around cats.

  • Yeast: Raw dough and other foods containing yeast can cause serious internal damage to cats. Stay watchful when baking to ensure your curious kitty is not ingesting any pizza dough, bread, or other raw dough products.

Household Plants

Plants seem like they would be harmless, but many are toxic and poisonous to cats either through ingestion or touch. Toxic plant exposure can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, lethargy, and other complications.

Common household plants and flowers that are toxic to cats include:

  • Lilies
  • Philodendron
  • Azalea
  • Pothos
  • Aloe Vera

If you have a cat, it’s best to only keep houseplants that are non-toxic to cats. Remove any toxic houseplants from your home since cats may chew on plants they encounter.


Assume all human medications are toxic to cats. Only give cats painkillers and other medications if a vet has prescribed them. Medications can cause vomiting, gastrointestinal problems, tremors, seizures, comas, and even death. Examples of medications toxic to cats include:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Aspirin
  • Amphetamine (Adderal)


Cats should avoid household chemicals, which can easily cause poisoning, burns, and death. Make sure your cat is not exposed to these dangerous household cleaning products and chemicals.

  • Rodenticides and Insecticides: Pest control products like ant baits and mice poison can kill cats.

  • Household Cleaners: Cats should avoid laundry detergent, dish soap, glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaning sprays, fabric softeners, air fresheners, and similar products.

  • Antifreeze: Even tiny amounts of antifreeze can be fatal to cats, causing neurological and organ damage. Unfortunately, cats tend to be attracted to the scent of antifreeze and its sweet taste. Keep antifreeze sealed so your cat cannot access it.


Symptoms of Poisoning and Emergency Response

Recognizing Signs of Poisoning in Cats

Prompt reactions are necessary to treat toxic ingestion effectively. Here are warning signs that your cat has ingested or inhaled something toxic.

Vomiting and Diarrhea: Gastrointestinal problems are the most common and visible symptom of poisoning.

Excessive Drooling: Drooling more than usual could be a sign of poisoning. See if there are other symptoms when your cat is drooling.

Seizure: Uncontrollable twitching and trembling requires immediate medical attention.

Lethargy and Weakness: Sometimes, poisoning symptoms are more subtle. Cats can become lethargic and weak after toxic ingestion. Because of this, extreme lethargy not resolved by rest is often considered a medical emergency.

Difficulty Breathing: Respiratory symptoms could be a sign of toxic inhalation. Coughing, sneezing, and struggling to breathe may indicate your cat has been exposed to something dangerous.

Difficulty Swallowing: Sudden dysphagia could be a medical emergency. If dysphagia is also combined with other signs of distress or fainting in a cat, they could have ingested something poisonous.

Skin issues: Inflammation, redness, and swelling could be a sign of poisoning in cats.

Immediate Steps to Take if Suspected Poisoning

Acting quickly and getting your cat medical attention is critical. Here are some steps to take if your cat is showing symptoms of poisoning or if you witnessed your cat come into contact with something toxic.

    1. Contacting a Veterinarian or Animal Poison Control Center

If you suspect your cat has been exposed to something hazardous, contact a vet or animal poison control center immediately. Because of how urgent these situations often are, pet owners should always keep emergency contact information with them.

    1. Inducing Vomiting (if instructed by a professional)

The professional you have contacted might guide you to induce vomiting so that your cat can eliminate some of the poisonous substances in them.

    1. Providing Water and Comfort to the Cat

Water may be able to help wash out toxins that have been absorbed by a cat. However, if your cat is vomiting or having trouble swallowing, giving them water may pose risks. Comfort your cat by staying by their side. A vet may prescribe fluid therapy as necessary to flush out poison from your cat’s system.

    1. Transporting the Cat to the Nearest Veterinary Clinic

Don’t hesitate to bring your cat to the nearest emergency vet if they show signs of poisoning. Toxic ingestion and inhalation can cause serious health issues in cats, potentially being fatal depending on the amount of exposure and your cat’s current health condition.

Veterinary Care for Cats Exposed to Dangerous Substances

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

  1. Physical Examination and Diagnostic Tests

Your vet will perform exams and tests to diagnose what is wrong with your cat. Common tests to identify the poisoning agent include:

  • Chemical blood profile
  • Complete blood count
  • Blood test
  • Urinalysis
  • Toxicology screen

Usually, a vet can quickly diagnose poisoning in cats based on the physical symptoms. Ideally, you should bring the product label or sample of the poison your cat was exposed to if possible. Knowing what the exact active ingredient poisoned your cat can speed up your cat’s treatment.

  1. Administration of Antidotes or Medications

Most veterinary care serves to keep your cat stable as the toxins are flushed out of their system.

Induced vomiting: Helps cats eliminate the toxins they ingested.

Activated charcoal: Absorbs toxins that are in the cat’s guts.

Fluid therapy: Helps remove the toxin from the body.

Muscle relaxants: Deals with tremors.

Ethanol: In cases of antifreeze poisoning.

  1. Supportive Care

After the initial treatment, continuous monitoring will be required. A cat may be hospitalized for a long period of time until the vet allows you to take them home. Ask your vet about how you can provide the best supportive care to your cat as they go through the consequences of poisoning.

Potential Complications and Long-Term Effects

  1. Organ Damage or Failure

Poisoning causes internal bleeding, kidney damage, and other serious health problems. A cat who has been poisoned is likely to have long-lasting organ damage or failure. A long-term treatment plan will be necessary to try and mitigate the negative effects of the organ damage.

Sometimes, organs can recover from acute damage. Unfortunately, in most cases, long-term support is necessary and organ failure can worsen unexpectedly even with treatment.

  1. Neurological Damage

Exposure to toxins can cause severe neurological damage to cats, such as:

  • Incoordination
  • Lethargy
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Tremors

In many cases, there is no cure for neurological issues due to poisoning. Cats will need long-term supportive care and medication to help manage their health problems.

  1. Respiratory Distress

Respiratory distress is most common in toxic inhalation. Affected cats might have issues with breathing, wheezing, coughing, and gagging. Respiratory infections and lung damage can be followed by pneumonia, which requires antibiotic treatment and hospitalization.

Importance of Follow-Up Care and Monitoring

Even after the initial poisoning has been dealt with, your cat should still be closely monitored. Schedule follow-up care with your vet so they can continue tracking your cat’s health in case other issues pops up.

Pet Insurance Coverage for Veterinary Costs

Pet insurance is a valuable form of financial protection in case your cat gets into an accident. Emergency vet bills can be expensive, with surgery and other poisoning treatments costing thousands of dollars.

Understanding Pet Insurance

Accident-only pet insurance: Covers diagnostic and treatment costs related to accidents. If your cat ingests or inhales something poisonous, accident pet insurance can greatly reduce your vet bills.

Comprehensive pet insurance: Covers both illnesses and accidents. More expensive than accident-only pet insurance, but provides much better financial protection.

Wellness plan: Sold as an insurance add-on, wellness plans cover preventive care costs.

Coverage limit: The maximum amount a pet insurance policy will cover in a year. Most pet owners choose a limit of $10,000 for cats.

Exclusions: Many pet insurance policies have age and breed restrictions. Pre-existing conditions are also excluded, which means any diagnosis made before you obtain the policy will not be covered.

Premium: The monthly amount you pay for pet insurance coverage.

Deductible: This is the amount you need to pay in out-of-pocket vet expenses before pet insurance coverage kicks in.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Pet Insurance for Cats

Choosing a suitable pet insurance policy goes a long way. Make sure to consider:

The breed and age of your cat: Some cats are more prone to accidents and breed-specific conditions.

Pre-existing conditions: These are not covered by pet insurance policies. However, if your cat has pre-existing conditions, comprehensive coverage might be more useful since a cat with poor health is more likely to receive additional diagnoses later on.

The coverage limit: Most pet owners choose $10,000 as the annual limit, but you can opt for a lower or even unlimited coverage limit.

Coverage type: Accident-only insurance will cover all sorts of toxic ingestion and accidents, but it will not cover illnesses such as kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer. Be sure to choose the option that aligns best with your needs.

Reputation and Customer Service: A good pet insurance provider should have a solid reputation and excellent customer service.

Some of the best pet insurance providers that offer coverage for accidental poisoning include:

Benefits of Pet Insurance for Veterinary Care

  1. Financial Assistance for Emergency Treatments

Worried about your cat being exposed to toxic substances? Veterinary care provides financial assistance so you can afford the necessary medical care for the necessary emergency treatments.

  1. Coverage for Illnesses and Accidents

If your cat swallows a poisonous flower or cleaning product, pet insurance can cover the emergency vet expenses. Cat hospitalization costs between $500 to $4,000. Life-saving surgeries and ER exams for poisoning can cost over $5,000. Pet insurance coverage can cover a significant amount of these costs, helping pet owners and cats get through this difficult time.

  1. Peace of Mind for Pet Owners

Pet insurance gives pet owners peace of mind, allowing them to provide cats with the veterinary attention they need without stressing about the financial strain.



Many common household items are toxic to cats, including:

  • Cleaning products
  • Chocolate, coffee, garlic, and alcohol
  • Lilies, azaleas, and other plants
  • Human medications, toothpaste, and lotions

If your cat shows any signs of poisoning, don’t hesitate to bring them to the emergency vet. Prompt veterinary care in cases of exposure can go a long way in protecting your cat and helping them recover from poisoning.

Emergency vet bills can cost thousands of dollars. Pet owners facing financial challenges should consider obtaining pet insurance to help cover these expenses so their cats can receive the necessary medical care.

About The Author

Ru Chen

Ru Chen

Content Writer

Ru Chen is a content writer with several years of experience in creating engaging and well-researched articles. She mostly writes about insurance, business, digital marketing, and law. In her free time, she can be found watching horror movies and playing board games with her partner in Brooklyn.

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