Protect Your Cat: 35 Items that are Toxic to Cats

Items Toxic to Cats

photo: Adobe Digital Media

If you own or care for cats, make sure you know all of the Items that are toxic to Cats and are potentially deadly to felines . . .

There are many common household Items that are toxic to cats and several plants to be avoided for a safe cat home.  Here is a list of items that every cat caregiver should know as they are toxic and potentially deadly to cats and kittens.  So keep cats safe, by keeping these potential poisons away.  As the saying goes, “curiosity killed the cat” and that can be a human’s worst nightmare when it comes to accidental poisoning a furry friend.   Your best line of defense is to cat-proof your house.

Items that are Toxic to Cats

First we look at plants that toxic to cats and then consider several common household items to watch out for if you have cats.

25 Common Plants to Avoid that are toxic to cats (in alphabetical order)

1) Amaryllis – The outer layer of the bulb is the most toxic part of this beautiful holiday plant. Similar in appearance to the poinsettia plant, amaryllis is a popular flowering holiday plant that is a member of the lily family. Unfortunately, whether it’s the bulb, leaves, stem or flowers, this plant poses a threat to cats if ingested.  Amaryllis plants contain the chemical lycorine, which can cause adverse effects to cats such as vomiting, diarrhea and tremors.

2)  Azaleas and Rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.)-  Azaleas, which are also sometimes known as rhododendron or rosebay, are another holiday plant cat owners should never allow in their homes. However, be on the lookout because they often appear in holiday bouquets or floral arrangements.  Azaleas contain a toxin called grayanotoxin, which can adversely affect the sodium channels within a cat’s body. Azalea toxicity can cause a wide range of symptoms, including excessive drooling, decreased appetite, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and even cardiac failure. Note that all parts of the azalea plant are toxic to cats.

Axelas Toxic to Cats
photo: Adobe Digital Media
3)  Boxwood – The boxwood, or box tree, is a decorative shrub often used as a hedge in North American gardens.  When ingested by cats, the leaves of this plant are poisonous.

4)  Castor bean (Ricinus communis) — these beans are very toxic causing oral irritation, burning of mouth and throat, increase in thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure, convulsions. Access to ornamental plants or pruned foliage most common in poisonings.

5) Chrysanthemum, Daisy, Mum (Chrysanthemum spp.) – contain pyrethrins, which are used in dog flea and tick medications, and are particularly poisonous to cats. If your cat has eaten chrysanthemums look out for vomiting, diarrhea and lack of appetite and seek advice from your vet.

Chrysanthemum Daisy Mum
photo: Adobe Digital Media
6) Clematis –  are also poisonous to cats and kittens, as they will sometimes chew on the leaves or flowers. The plant is toxic to felines and side effects are typically vomiting and diarrhea in some rare instances.

7)  Cyclamen – Also known as sowbread, the cyclamen is a common flowering houseplant that contains compounds (terpenoid saponins) that are poisonous to cats. They cause oral irritation, vomiting and diarrhea, and in large amounts, heart abnormalities, seizures and death.

8)  Daffodils, Narcissus (Narcissus spp.) – Although the entire plant is considered toxic to cats, it is the bulb that is the most toxic. Ingestion of any portion of a daffodil can cause oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, arrhythmias, convulsions and a serious drop in blood pressure.

Toxic to Cats
photo: Adobe Digital Media
9)  Elephant ear – If elephant ear is ingested by your cat, it will cause increased salivation, difficulty swallowing, oral irritation, and vomiting.

10) English Ivy – While the toxicity of this plant is mild, it can cause discomfort in the mouth and throat if the berries and leaves are eaten by cats.

11)  Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)  – Even just a little bit of foxglove can kill a cat. The cardiac glycosides in foxglove can cause vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness and heart failure. Even the water from a vase of cut foxglove flowers will be poisonous to pets.

Toxic to Cats Foxglove
photo: Adobe Digital Media
12)  Holly & Mistletoe – Holly contains harmful chemicals that are toxic to cats. If ingested holly can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and drooling. This spiny leaved, berry-producing plant can be lethal to cats and should not deck the halls of your home during the holidays.  Like holly, avoid using mistletoe if you own cats. Mistletoe contains phoratoxins and lectins, which can cause similar reactions to holly. In larger amounts, severe reactions may occur, including a drop in blood pressure and heart rate, breathing problems, seizures and death.

13) Hydrangea – Cats will become poisoned by eating any part of the hydrangea plant. The toxic component of the hydrangea is called cyanogenic glycoside. The flowers, leaves, buds, and stalks all contain the poison, but the buds and leaves contain the most toxin.

14) Iris (Gladiola) – The gladiola comes from the Iridaceae, or iris family and is highly toxic to cats. The bulb or corm is considered to be the most toxic part of this plant, posing a potential risk of death to your cat.

Toxic to Cats Iris
photo: Adobe Digital Media
15)  Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata) — causes tremors, difficulty breathing, vomiting, seizures, death.  This is an evergreen plant that is toxic to many animals, including dogs, cats, and horses.

16)  Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum) — causes vomiting, seizures, depression, trouble breathing.  All parts of the Jerusalem Cherry are toxic with the highest toxicity being found in the berries.  It is also non palatable as the leaves and berries produce irritant effect on the mouth and throat.

17) Kalanchoe – Also known as the mother-in-law plant, the kalanchoe is a common houseplant with small, dense flowers. All of the parts of this plant are toxic to cats. When ingested, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea. In rare cases, heart arrhythmias can occur.

18)  Lillies – while these are beautiful, fragrant plants with flowers, they are very dangerous to cats.  Lillies typically bloom outside from late May to August.   They are also a popular flower for florists to including in bouquets and floral arrangements.  The lilium plant family contains around 100 potentially toxic species and many hybrids. The more common lily species that are known to be toxic to cats are the Easter lily, Tiger lily, Asiatic lily, Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis), and Stargazer lily.  Day lilies, Japanese show lilies, Rubrum lilies, Red lilies, Western lilies, and Wood lilies.  It remains unknown what makes lilies poisonous to cats, but is known that the toxin is water soluble and can be deadly.

All parts of Lilly plants are toxic to cats (especially the flower). The orange-yellow pollen is toxic and a Lilly can produce and drop large amounts of pollen under the plant.  Pollen can get on a cat’s paw and then be ingested while grooming.  Even a single bite of a flower or leaf of the plant can be deadly for your cat.

Cats can suffer from kidney failure after ingesting even tiny amounts of the plant and flower or drinking water from the plant. Cats are very sensitive to poisoning from Easter lilies. The kidney is the primary organ affected, and cats can die of kidney failure 3-5 days after exposure.  Initial symptoms usually develop 6-12 hours after ingestion and include vomiting, salivation, anorexia and depression. Kidney failure typically follows, and the signs are increased thirst and urination, dehydration and lethargy. Toxins build up in the blood as the kidney failure rapidly progresses, and there may be a recurrence of vomiting, decreased urine production or even absence of urine production, weakness, recumbency, hypothermia and death.

Toxic to Cats Lillies
photo: Adobe Digital Media
19)  Marijuana – This recreational drug can cause profound effects in cats including hallucination, muscle tremors, depression and difficulty breathing.

Toxic to Cats Marijuana
photo: Adobe Digital Media
20) Pine Trees as Holiday Trees – While artificial trees are gaining popularity, many people still prefer getting a real tree for the holidays. If you’re one of those people and you own a cat, opt for a fir or spruce tree over a pine tree.  The oils in pine trees can be harmful to cats, potentially leading to liver damage and even death. Meanwhile, pine needles are sharp and can damage a cat’s internal organs if ingested. They also pose a hazard to paws if stepped on.  Cover the tree stand so your cat won’t drink the water. The water inside the plant stand could contain harmful bacteria and other pathogens.  Regardless of which tree you choose, be aware of the potential for the tree to tip over. Cats often get curious about decorations and will climb the tree to get a closer look.  To prevent an accident, secure the tree to the ceiling or wall using some fishing line to prevent the tree from falling over. Otherwise, try putting the tree in a location that can be closed off so your cat can’t get to it when you’re not home.

Toxic to Cats Pine Trees
photo: Adobe Digital Media
 21)  Poinsettias  – These beautiful red holiday favorites have gained a bad reputation amongst cat owners as poinsettias are toxic to cats.  These festive plants contain a sap inside their leaves that can irritate a cat’s mouth and esophagus. If ingested, cats may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or excessive drooling.  The good news is a cat would have to eat a large amount of poinsettia to get seriously ill. So, while poinsettias aren’t as toxic as some other plants, cat owners should leave them out of their holiday celebrations.

22)  Pothos, Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) –  Pothos plant, also famous by the names of golden pothos, devil’s ivy taro vine and ivy arum, are quite toxic to cats

23) Sago Palm – This southwest desert ornamental palm is extremely toxic to cats and dogs. Ingesting even a small amount can cause liver failure, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and death.  Also known as the coontie palm, or the cardboard palm, the sago palm is an extremely poisonous plant to cats.

24)  Spanish Thyme (Coleus ampoinicus) – Spanish thyme contains essential oils that are toxic to cats. This plant is also known as coleus, Indian borage, country borage, bread and butter plant, stinging thyme and East Indian thyme, as well as other names.

25) Tulip (Tulipa spp.) – The whole tulip plant is considered toxic, but the bulb is the most poisonous to cats. Ingestion can cause significant oral irritation, excessive drooling and nausea. Unless large quantities of the bulb are eaten, which is unlikely in cats, tulip ingestion should not be fatal.

Toxic to Cats Tulips
photo: Adobe Digital Media
The above list covers the more popular plants that are toxic to cats.  Before you bring any plants indoors or around you cats, make sure you research the plant species and confirm that the plant is not toxic or hazardous to your feline friends.

10 Common Household Items that are Toxic to Cats

1)  Rat Poison – Also known as Rodenticide, this toxic substance inhibits Vitamin K and causes severe and potentially fatal internal bleeding if not treated.   Make sure you keep rat poison locked up and far away from your cat(s).

 Toxic to Cats Rat PoisonAdobe Digital Media

2)  Chocolate or items with Caffeine – chocolate contains caffeine which is toxic to cats. Cats are more sensitive to caffeine (also found in coffee, tea, caffeine pills and energy drinks) than dogs. Cats may have tremors, seizures, coma and death from consumption of chocolate and other caffeine containing products.

Toxic to Cats Chocolate Coffee and Tea
photo: Adobe Digital Media
 3)  Aspirin – This anti-inflammatory can cause the same kidney and stomach problems as Ibuprofen. However, it is an anti-coagulant which means that it prevents platelets from clotting. This can cause internal bleeding in cats. There are rare circumstances in which Aspirin may be useful in ultra-low doses, but do not give Aspirin to your cat unless specifically prescribed by your veterinarian.

4)  Ibuprofen – This human anti-inflammatory (i.e. Advil) can cause severe damage to the kidneys, liver and GI tract of cats. Ibuprofen can cause severe bleeding ulcers which can make cats anemic and these cats may require a blood transfusion. Cats are especially sensitive to Ibuprofen and should never be given this drug.

5) Acetaminophen – Cats lack the ability to metabolize acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) well which leads to severe and potentially fatal anemia. When this happens, cats experience respiratory distress, swelling the face and paws, vomiting and hypothermia followed by death.

Toxic to Cats Aspirin Advil and Tylenol
photo: Adobe Digital Media
6) Xylitol (an artificial sweetener) – used in sugar-free gum, baked goods and other items, causes a rapid, dangerous drop in pets’ blood sugar levels and, if left untreated, can result in liver failure in less than 36 hours after ingestion, writes veterinarian Dana Brooks. Symptoms that develop 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion of xylitol include lethargy and seizures, while vomiting can occur sooner. The condition may be treatable with emergency interventions, but signs of liver failure, such as skin and intestinal bleeding, carry a poor prognosis,

7)  Laundry detergent, drain cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, and other household cleaners – Keep your cat out of the room while you’re scrubbing toilets or doing laundry. Some household cleaning products, when ingested by a cat, can cause profuse drooling, chemical burns, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.

8)  Human antidepressants – Human antidepressants are like catnip to cats. They love the smell of common antidepressants such as Effexor, Prozac, Cymbalta, and Zoloft and can’t resist eating the pill. However, instead of improving their mood and energy level, human antidepressants can cause lethargy, tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and hyperthermia in cats.

Toxic to Cats Human Pills

9)  Flea and tick topical medications for dogs – Never apply an insecticide intended for dogs (even small dogs) to your cat. These medications often contain high concentrations of a chemical derived from the Chrysanthemum flower – a chemical that is highly toxic to cats. Don’t allow your cat to lick the medication off your dog, either.

10) Onions, Garlic, Chives, Raisins and Grapes – The gastrointestinal irritation humans feel when indulging in copious amounts of onions, garlic, or chives is compounded in cats, and can lead to red blood cell damage.  Raisins and Grapes should also be avoided by cats.  Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure.

Toxic to Cats Garlic Onions Grapes
photo: Adobe Digital Media
If you suspect your cat has been exposed to, or ingested, any of the above items, call your veterinarian immediately. If your veterinarian’s office is closed, call the nearest emergency vet clinic. They will help you determine the next best steps, which may include bringing your cat or kitten in for emergency treatment.  You may also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661 or Animal Poison Control at 1-888-426-4435.

Identifying the plant is very important for determining treatment for your cat. If you are unsure of the name of the poisonous plant that your cat was exposed to, bring a sample of the plant or plant material that your cat has vomited with you to the veterinary office.

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