Keeping your cat indoors is one of the best ways to keep him or her safe, but closing the door doesn’t eliminate all the risks to your favorite feline. Read on to learn about some of the most common household hazards for cats, and what you can do to minimize their risk.
1. Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications
While many people are aware of the dangers human medications pose to dogs, cats are also at risk for toxicity due to human medications ingested accidentally or administered by an owner who didn’t check with his or her veterinarian. Cats have systems quite unlike a human’s and do not process medications the same way.
Cold medications, antidepressants, and pain relievers are some of the most common causes of pet poisoning. Even one dose of Tylenol can be fatal to cats, who cannot metabolize the drug the same way people do. Never give your cat a human medication without talking to your veterinarian first.
2. Household plants
Poinsettias usually top owner lists of plants to avoid, but these holiday plants are generally benign, causing no more than a transient gastrointestinal upset. Lilies are much more dangerous to cats. These very common flowers cause kidney failure in cats when ingested in even small amounts. Even worse, all the parts of the plant, leaves included, are toxic.
Most of us have seen greeting cards with a playful kitten tumbling around with a ball of yarn, but the feline love of string has led to many emergency surgeries. When cats swallow the end of the string, one end can lodge near the base of the tongue while the rest works its way down the intestine, bunching it up as it moves along. This can lead to a sawing action that requires emergency surgery to fix.
Any string-like substance can cause this problem: thread, ribbon, yarn, even holiday tinsel.
4. Flea medications
While there are many safe and effective flea medications on the market specifically designated for cats, certain products made for dogs can be toxic to our feline friends. Permethrin, a synthetic form of the pyrethrins derived from the chrysanthemum plant, can cause vomiting, excessive salivation, seizures, and even death.
Most of these products are clearly labelled “not for use on cats”, but whether or not the warning is present, don’t share your dog’s flea medications with Fluffy. Stick to products specifically labelled for cats.
Antifreeze toxicity is common in colder areas of the world. The sweet taste of the liquid makes it very tempting for felines. When ingested, antifreeze containing ethylene glycol causes calcium oxalate crystals to form in the kidneys, resulting in rapid and usually irreversible kidney damage. Antifreeze containing the agent propylene glycol is considerably less toxic, though you should still be cautious.
6. Rat bait
Rodenticides, commonly used in households to eliminate a mouse or rat problem, contain a variety of toxic agents that cause symtoms ranging from bleeding to seizures and death. While most dogs who suffer from rodenticide poison do so through ingesting the poison directly, many cats are affected by eating a rodent that has been killed with the bait.
Because the type of bait used dictates the treatment needed, make sure to keep your packaging and let your veterinarian know immediately if you suspect your cat has ingested rat bait. Better yet, consult a professional pest service for pet-safe control methods.
7. Liquid potpourri
Many cat owners turn to liquid potpourri as an air freshener instead of candles, correctly concerned about the possibility of a pet knocking over a lit candle. However, liquid potpourri can be very toxic to cats. They may ingest it due to its sweet smell, and suffer painful ulcerations as the caustic liquid travels down the throat into the stomach.
This list covers some of the more common dangers to cats in the house. If you suspect your cat has ingested a toxic substance, make sure to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for guidance. Many pets’ lives are saved through quick intervention in these cases when time may be of the essence.