Five Common Feline Toxins


Pet Poison Helpline Advises Cat Owners to be Aware of These Dangerous Toxins

How to keep your cat safe this upcoming year

It is no surprise that dogs and cats are, by far, the most common pets in U.S. households today. The cat population in the U.S. outnumbers dogs by more than 10 million, making them the most populous pet species. This is due, in large part, to apartment dwellers in urban environments, the ease of cat maintenance, and the potentially lower financial cost of ownership.

Dogs tend to be prone to mischief and account for a large percentage of calls to Pet Poison Helpline, a 24/7 animal poison control based out of Minneapolis. That said, cats still comprise a significant number of calls to Pet Poison Helpline. The top five most common cat toxins include:

  1. Human or veterinary drugs
  2. Poisonous plants
  3. Insecticides
  4. Household cleaners
  5. Other poisons, such as glow sticks and liquid potpourri

Human and Veterinary Medications

Sleep AidsApproximately 40% of calls to Pet Poison Helpline are due to cats inappropriately ingesting human or veterinary drugs. Cats have difficulty metabolizing certain drugs due to their altered liver metabolism, especially as compared to dogs and humans. Common drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) are some of the most deadly to cats. When ingested, NSAIDS can result in severe, acute kidney failure (ARF) and gastrointestinal injury/ulcers. Likewise, one Tylenol (e.g., acetaminophen) tablet can be fatal to a cat. Untreated, it can cause severe anemia (low red blood cell count), difficulty breathing, a swollen face, liver failure and death. Cats also seem to like the taste of certain antidepressants (e.g., Effexor), which may contain an attractive smell or flavor in the coating. With any accidental medication ingestion, immediate veterinary care is imperative.


Easter LilyPoisonous plants are the second most common toxin that cats get into, and represent approximately 14% of feline-related calls to Pet Poison Helpline. True lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis spp.), including the Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter, Oriental, and Japanese Show lilies, are among the most deadly, as ingestion can cause severe, acute kidney failure in cats. Because these flowers are fragrant, inexpensive and long-lasting, florists often include them in bouquets. Small ingestions of two or three petals or leaves – even the pollen – can result in potentially irreversible kidney failure. Even the water in the vase can be potentially poisonous to cats.  Immediate veterinary care is imperative. Despite their name, other plants such as the Peace and Calla lily are not true lilies and do not cause kidney failure. Instead, these plants contain insoluble oxalate crystals that can cause minor symptoms, such as irritation in the mouth, tongue, pharynx and esophagus.


FertilizerInsecticides comprise approximately 9% of feline-related poisonings at Pet Poison Helpline. Exposure to household insecticides can occur when a cat walks through an area that was treated with lawn and garden products, sprays, powders, or granules. Cats are also typically accidentally exposed to household insecticides when pet owners inappropriately apply a canine topical flea and tick medication onto a cat. Dog-specific insecticides containing pyrethrins or pyrethroids are highly toxic to cats. Severe drooling, tremors and life-threatening seizures can occur. Always read labels carefully before using any kind of insecticide and ask your veterinarian about appropriate topical flea and tick medications for your cat. Even more “natural” or “holistic” flea medication can be very dangerous to cats.

Household Cleaners

DetergentsExposure to household cleaners accounted for approximately 6% of feline-related calls to Pet Poison Helpline. Many cat owners don’t realize that some common household cleaners like kitchen and bath surface cleaners, carpet cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and even laundry detergents can be toxic to cats. Symptoms can include profuse drooling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and even organ damage. After cleaning your home, make sure all excess liquid or residue is wiped up or eliminated as soon as possible. Only allow your cat back into the cleaned areas after the products have completely dried. When storing cleaning products, keep them out of your cat’s reach.

Other Poisons

Glow SticksThe remainder of feline-related calls to Pet Poison Helpline involve less obvious poisons, such as glow sticks. Glow sticks and jewelry contain a very bitter tasting liquid called dibutyl phthalate. While rarely deadly, just one bite into glow sticks can cause your cat to drool profusely. Most of these exposures can be managed at home. Offer (but do not force) your cat to drink some chicken broth or canned tuna (in water, not oil); this will help remove the bitter taste from the mouth. Remove the glow sticks and clean up any remaining liquid to prevent re-exposure as cats may continue to groom the bitter dibutyl phthalate off their fur. A bath may be in order to remove any “glowing” liquid from his or her skin. If you see signs of redness to the eyes, squinting, continued drooling, or not eating, a trip to the veterinarian may be necessary.

Keep your four-legged felines safe by protecting them from these common feline toxins. If you think your pet may have ingested something harmful, take action immediately. Contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680.

Published on April 18, 2012
Categorized under: Media Releases,Pet Safety Tips,Uncategorized

8 Responses to “Five Common Feline Toxins”

  1. Thank you for all of the info you have posted here!! I believe I was aware of all of these dangers except for the glow stick/jewelery part – again, whether I knew it or not, thank you very much – I hope many animal owners will become aware. I know I will be sharing your web address with all I come across who own animals.

  2. [...] > Share this:FacebookShareEmailStumbleUponRedditDiggPrint This entry was posted in Poisons, Uncategorized by HousecallVetCARE. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  3. [...] the greatest risk to them both indoors and in your backyard. A great start is to read about the “Top Five Feline Toxins” on the Pet Poison Hotline blog, which include human or veterinary drugs, poisonous plants, [...]

  4. Robert says:

    Great info, thanks. I believe the whole garlic/onion family is toxic to cats too, which can be a problem when people want to feed their cats human food that might have been prepared with these foods.

    • Albert Yost says:

      I was surprised by this because I feed them “treats” after I have my meal even though they have their own cat food. I have started cutting off a little of the meat or fish when I cook and cooking it without spices, for the cats, when I prepare food. this way I can still keep the little buggers happy.

  5. Albert Yost says:

    If you are using “dental fresh” in your cat water, to help keep plaque off the cats teeth you might want to be aware that it contains Sodium Benzoate which is on a list of harmful items to cats. This is a product that I bought at Petco and is also sold elsewhere. I researched the label and found this out after using it for a few months.

  6. Julie says:

    Also beware of ESSENTIAL OILS. Two in particular that I know are extremely dangerous & potentially fatal to felines are EUCALYPTUS OIL and TEA TREE OIL. They contain terpenes (think turpentine–just as caustic), that cats’ livers cannot metabolize. The damage is cumulative & irreversible, eventually leading to liver failure & death. Even breathing the fumes (vs. actual ingestion) can cause permanent damage. Also peppermint oil, pine tree extracts (in many household cleaners), & various others are poisonous to cats. When in doubt, do your research first–”natural” doesn’t always mean safe. Our little fur babies deserve our utmost vigilence!

  7. J.Lee says:

    Thanks so much!

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