5 Substances that are Toxic to Cats

Q. Jenny from NSW writes: I have recently adopted two gorgeous kittens during COVID-19. I love watching them play and explore around their home, but I am worried about what can make them sick. Are there some substances that are more toxic to cats than dogs?


A. Just when you thought your feline friends were way smarter than their canine counterparts – there are cats that just get curious and like to smell and taste everything around your home. Interestingly enough, there are some substances that are toxic only to cats. Due to the fact that your cat can lick themselves clean, they can be more susceptible to environmental toxins that can cause damage to their liver, kidneys or create blockages from eating small toys. Keeping your cat safe and healthy can be quite easy if you avoid and substitute these common household hazards:


Caffeine & Chocolate

Just like dogs, tiny amounts cannot do major damage to your cat, although if they eat coffee grounds or large amounts of chocolate, the high dose can cause major damage to their liver, kidneys and nervous system. If you have caffeine and chocolate in your home, it is best to keep it hidden away in a cupboard that your cat cannot access.


Conventional Medications

Again, as cats have a different metabolism and body to dogs and humans, if they ingest any human medications such as acetaminophen, naproxen sodium, ibuprofen and heart medications, it can be deadly for your cat. Antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and ADD/ADHD medications can also be fatal to your cat as well as dogs. Human medications should never been given to animals without a specific script and instructions from a veterinarian. Human dosage doesn’t match to an animal’s dosage.


Essential Oils

This one is a little tricky, as most people would believe if the oils are natural, then our animals should benefit from their scent and absorption. Unfortunately, there are at least 20 different essential oils that humans use that are toxic to dogs and cats. Toxicosis from essential oils can lead to nausea, vomiting, stumbling and more. More so for cats, any oils put on their fur can increase toxicity when they groom themselves. What about air diffusers? There has been a lot of research into these, however the general agreement between veterinarians is if it is a low concentrated oil, it should be safe for your animals. However, your animals must always have a place to go to escape the scent of the oil diffuser – they will also know when a toxin doesn’t make them feel good.



Many cat owners know that lillies are poisonous to cats. Ingesting or breathing in the lily can cause toxicity and is extremely deadly to cats. Some plants seem so innocent when you go to the plant nursery, but it is important to have your list on hand so your cat can lounge safely around the plants in your home. Autumn crocus, amaryllis, azaleas, chrysanthemums, daisies, mums, cyclamen, oleander, daffodils, dieffenbachia (dumb canes), hyacinths, kalanchoe (mother-in-law plants), lilies, lilies of the valley, peace lilies, pothos, devil’s ivy, Spanish thyme, marijuana, narcissus, English ivy, mistletoe, poinsettias, yew, castor beans, rhododendrons, sago palms, tulip plants and other plants and herbs can all be unsafe or toxic to a cat.


Breakable Toys and String

Christmas tinsel, string, fake grass and even bathing suit strings have been known to cut up your cat’s tongue and even cause blockages in their gut when their curiosity has piqued. A lot of cat toys are safe for cats – they don’t break easily and fall apart. Be careful of items around your home and children’s toys that can cause your cat to chew too.


Toxic Foods

Onions, garlic and grapes and raisins seem to be the guilty foods that can be toxic to cats as well as dogs too. Both food groups can cause a lot of damage in high amounts. Onions/garlic can cause damage to red blood cells & grapes and raisins are dangerous to your cat’s kidneys. Be careful when cooking with these foods and avoid leaving them where your cat can find them.

There are many other household hazards to your animals, but taking precaution with these top substances will protect your cat and give you ease of mind when leaving them alone at home.

About the author 

Trisha Mc Cagh

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