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Poison Prevention Week: How to Spot Hidden Cat Poisons in the Home

Est. read time: 4 min.

This year, March 18-24 is Poison Prevention Week. Although its original purpose was to prevent accidental poisoning in children, it’s also the purrfect time to think about taking steps to protect our feline family members from hidden cat poisons. Cats are famously curious, and if we’re not careful, that curiosity that we love so much in our kitties can get them into some serious trouble.

Unless we take the time to learn about it, we may not be aware of the hidden cat poisons that are lurking in our own homes. Here are five of the most common causes of feline poisoning.

Beware of These 5 Hidden Cat Poisons

1. Medications

Keep all medications out of the reach of curious kitties. Even over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements can be dangerous to your cat’s health. Never leave pills sitting out on a counter or nightstand, and make sure to pick up any that fall on the floor. If you use a weekly pill organizer, avoid leaving it out where kitty could accidentally pop it open and help himself to the contents.

Keep veterinary medicines safely out of reach as well. It would be easy for a cat to ingest far more than his recommended dosage (especially if he was helping himself to the yummy chewy kind). And, even if you’ve heard that some human medications are safe for animals, never give your cat any medication unless it’s been approved by his veterinarian.

2. Human Food

Many foods that are harmless, or even healthy, for humans are potentially lethal to our feline friends (even in small doses). Cats have such a discriminating palate, it's typically unlikely that they'll ingest poisonous foods like chocolate, raisins, alcohol, and caffeine, but to be safe, keep them out of reach—these are more of a dog poisoning problem! Cats should never eat onions or garlic. No matter how hard kitty tries to convince you to share, resist the urge to give him even a tiny bite of something that could put his health at risk. Also, avoid leaving food unattended on tables or countertops where he could jump up and help himself to a snack.

3. Plants

We appreciate plants for their beauty, but to a cat on the prowl they may look more like a snack than an ornament! Although some plants (like cat grass or catnip) are perfectly safe, others are potentially lethal even in small doses. Beware of the following common house and garden plants:

  • Lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis)
  • Foxglove
  • Philodendron
  • Azalea and Rhododendron

Many cats will also nibble on bouquets, so be careful where you leave that vase of flowers!

4. Chemicals

Laundry detergent, liquid potpourri, and surface cleaners are a few of the harmful household liquids your cat might be apt to investigate. Keep in mind that antifreeze can cause kidney failure and gastrointestinal or respiratory difficulties. And many garden products, like fertilizers and herbicides, are also harmful to cats.

Be sure to store household chemicals out of reach, and clean up any spills before kitty has a chance to investigate. When possible, opt for pet-friendly lawn and garden products.

5. Pest Control Products

Many pest control products designed to rid your home of mice or rats are also deadly to cats. Unfortunately, some of the substances designed to poison unwanted rodents act as cat poisons as well. Even if poisons are placed in an inaccessible location, they may be tracked into other parts of the home by wandering rodents. The best way to keep kitty safe is to opt for a non-poisonous method of rodent control.

Insecticides (even the kind used on dogs to kill fleas and ticks) aren't likely to be ingested by your cat, but they can be harmful if accidentally rubbed on your cat. Never treat a cat with a flea product designed for use only on dogs. Garden insecticides are another common cause of feline poisoning. If you use one of these products, follow the directions closely, or look for an option made with cat-safe ingredients.

Even with careful prevention, accidents can still happen. If you think your cat has ingested a poisonous substance, you can reach the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Being aware of the dangers and taking the time to cat-proof your home can protect your kitty from becoming a victim of his own curiosity. A little poison prevention will go a long way towards helping him lead a long, healthy, happy life!

Guest post by Kristen Levine Pet Living, the place for stories, science & advice for living happier and healthier with pets.


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