Though most cat owners go to great lengths to create a warm and welcoming environment for their pets, few may realize that many common household items can be deadly for curious felines. Here are five of the most dangerous.
Many homeowners rely on flora to add freshness and a pop of color to their living spaces. Unfortunately, there are several varieties of popular ornamental plants that are extremely toxic to cats, including azaleas, poinsettia, mistletoe, dieffenbachia, palms and philodendron. Among flowers, the biggest danger is one that is especially prevalent in the spring: the lily (specifically those from the Lilium or Hemerocallis species). The reason this plant is so hazardous is because every single part — the stem, the pollen and the petals — is poisonous and can severely impair kidney function if eaten. Making matters worse is how quickly the poison acts; pets not treated within 24 hours of ingestion often die.
While pills containing acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen are a blessing for humans suffering from pain, they are not at all benign for your pet. In fact, according to the ASPCA, in 2015 over-the-counter medications were the most common toxin ingested by pets, resulting in more than 25,000 reported cases of poisoning. For cats, swallowing even just one pill can be fatal. As it's nearly impossible to keep track of which pills are harmful, it's imperative to ensure that medication is properly sealed in containers and out of reach.
Household Chemicals and Cleaning Products
As people have grown to depend on the consistent use of household cleaners, it can be easy to forget that many products contain harmful chemicals. While it is hard to imagine being drawn to such potent smells. Cats find these items appealing and even sweet tasting. If swallowed, items like bleach and ammonia can lead to painful ulcers in the mouth and stomach. Worse yet are insecticides and moth balls, which can often be deadly if even a tiny amount is consumed. To be safe, look for chemical-free or green cleaning product (some companies even list whether they are pet-safe on the label) or speak to your vet for their recommendations. Another option is to make your own.
Chocolate is a well-known poison for dogs, but did you know it can cause severe illness in cats as well? Furthermore, the darker the chocolate, the more serious the level of toxicity can be. And that's not all; coffee grounds, onions, alcohol and even artificial sweetener can be dangerous for your fur-ball. For a full list of potentially fatal foods, visit the Humane Society.
String and Yarn
Ironically, though cats and kittens are sometimes depicted playing with a ball of yarn, such a plaything could lead to serious illness. Items like string, yarn, gift-wrapping ribbon, dental floss and thread can easily become tangled on the tongue or in the throat and cause suffocation. If eaten, they can become ensnared in the stomach and cause diarrhea, vomiting and even death. Stick with larger balls and toys, such as catnip filled playthings that are large enough not to be swallowed. If you just can't resist letting your cat play with string, always so so under supervision and put the toy away when you are not around.
Luckily, most of the household hazards listed above can be safely stored out of reach or avoided completely. With just a bit of caution and forethought, conscientious cat lovers should have no trouble maintaining a safe environment for their beloved pet.