ProActive Cat Care: Toxic Hazards

By Garry White


When we take a feline into our life, we have to adjust our thinking. Imagine bringing a new baby into your home, or a grandparent, or maybe an injured loved one. Now add Fluffy to the list. She’s part of the family, and she has special needs just like anyone else…it’s our job to identify those needs and honor them as we would for any other member of the clan.


Perhaps the most significant thing Fluffy needs from us is our awareness. She doesn’t need wheelchairs, baby cribs, or special handrails on the stairs. But she does need us to be aware of certain dangers: hazards that are just a part of our everyday life. And there are plenty of those; some of which are obvious, and many of which are obscure. As we proceed, it’s important to remember three things: (1) Cat’s will eat things that smell good to them; (2) Many toxins will lay dormant (but active!) inside a cat for long periods of time, and (3) Cats will hide an ailment until the pain is simply unbearable, which is often too late. That’s a pretty dangerous combination, wouldn’t you say?


Here’s a seemingly harmless scenario: You’re trying to lose a couple of pounds (not that you need to, but…). Its late evening and the hungry-bug bites you. You pour a tall, cold glass of Chocolate/Almond flavored Slim-Me-Down (your favorite), but after a sip you decide a tuna sandwich (lots of Mayo) sounds much better, so the glass of diet drink sits on the coffee table…forgotten. Forgotten by you, maybe; but not by Fluffy! She dearly LOVES the smell of the Chocolate/Almond Slim-Me-Down, and as soon as you leave the room, Fluffy has her own midnight snack. The only problem with this touching scene is that she has ingested ephedra, caffeine, and a little bit of Theobromine…and Fluffy is now on her way to kidney and/or liver failure. When (and how severely) depends on how much she ingested, and how often you leave such a treat out for her.


Another seemingly innocuous scenario: While Fluffy is at the vet’s for an exam, Doc coerces you into adopting a tiny, homeless puppy (sniff-sniff) that was dropped off… “Great companion for Fluffy”, he says. So you fall for it, and away you go with Fluffy and Fido…and Fido’s tiny but bothersome traveling companions – fleas! Oh well, a little flea powder will take care of that little problem, hey? Yep, it sure will. And it’ll fix Fluffy right up, too. Permanently! They run, they play, she bites or licks Fido’s fur, and she’s in dire straights almost immediately. A component in most over-the-counter flea powders for dogs is Permethrin, which is completely harmless to dogs…and DEADLY to cats.

Those are just a few situations that pose very real dangers, but they serve to point out how important it is for us to learn about toxins that are hazardous to our little friends. Here are a few other not-so-obvious things to consider:

  • Painting a room? Put Fluffy in another room with the door closed, while paint cans, rollers & pans, and brushes are exposed. Many paints are intentionally aromatic, and many contain petroleum-based components…automatic risk of liver and kidney problems for Fluffy.
  • Plugged toilet? Drain cleaners are potentially deadly for cats.
  • Having the carpets cleaned? Most home carpet-cleaning solutions are considered pet-friendly these days, but if the company happens to prefer using a stronger solution meant for commercial applications, those are generally not pet-friendly. Confirm this with the cleaning company beforehand. If in doubt, have the company provide you with an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) and get your vet’s comments on it first.
  • Potted plants. The plant itself may not be hazardous, but the plant-food you nourish it with might be another story altogether. And knowing how cats love to dig…
  • Icy steps? A product called “Ice Melt” is caustic to kitty’s skin, and can cause kidney problems if ingested…be sure you have a good boot-scrub-mat outside the door!
  • Cooking a meal? Be sure keep your ingredients closed at all times, or out of Fluffy’s reach; many spices are extremely hazardous for kitties.
  • Table foods. Don’t do it! Especially foods derived from a recipe. Most of us cook with spices such as garlic and onions: Garlic or onions (even onion powder) can be LETHAL to cats, even in the smallest quantities! And cats LOVE the taste!

The cautions listed above are just a few of the many things we need to be aware of. Take some time to learn about the dangers, the pitfalls. As you learn, make notes of specific hazards, and of course the “what-to-do-in-case” comments…you may want to keep them in Fluffy’s binder for quick reference. The links below will provide you with excellent information on toxic and other hazards for cats, but I pass along this caution: Some of the links will take you straight to a “list”, and some will take you to a website that has a list referring to toxic issues. In the latter case, I did not verify whether (or not) the entire website works…I went there seeking specific information.

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Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy’s assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.