Poisonous to cats

Do you know what you can and cannot have around your pet cats?

This post will explore some common things that you should avoid having around your cats. I won’t try to list all the potential poisons out there, but I will deal with as many as I can, while also explaining WHY they are so bad for our pet cats.

Lilies – inside or around the house

My mum adores lilies and we always had them in the house growing up. They are stunning plants, but do you know how dangerous they are to your cat? ‘Day lilies’, in particular, are highly toxic to cats. They are ‘nephrotoxic’, meaning they can cause kidney failure! The whole plant is toxic: petals, stamen, leaves, and pollen. If your cat eats even a small amount of these they can quickly show signs such as: salivation, vomiting, loss of appetite, and depression. But if they are seen quickly by a veterinarian, fluid therapy directly into their veins can help.

What can you do? I would recommend not keeping lilies in or around (including outside) the house if you have cats. If you do have lilies, keep them away from your cats as much as possible! This includes the pollen. If the pollen drops onto the floor or other surfaces, your cat may pick it up on their coat and then ingest the toxic pollen when they groom themselves.

Cats spend a lot of time grooming themselves
A hazard in the garage; antifreeze

Another common toxin that can affect a cat’s kidneys is antifreeze. Antifreeze and coolants that contain ‘ethylene glycol’ can be fatal in even the smallest amount. Cats can be exposed by drinking the toxin (it is sweet-tasting!) or by indirectly licking it from their feet if they walk through it. Dangerous areas are in and around the garage or where cars may be parked and leak antifreeze-containing coolant. The toxin causes kidney failure very quickly. Cats may be seen vomiting or acting drunk, but usually it is picked up in the later stages when they are already having urination issues. If it is caught early enough your veterinarian can treat with medical ethanol intravenously, but most times it is too late. This poisoning has a very poor prognosis.

Please keep car products away from your cats! When doing anything with your car at home hose down the area afterwards. Or better yet, do ‘car things’ somewhere your cat cannot access. If you notice your car leaking ANYTHING, get it seen to ASAP.

Human medications are not for cats

Cats lack some of the enzymes that we have to break down and use our ‘human’ medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are examples of these. If a cat is given these medications, their liver cannot break them down in the same way that ours can. Toxic products form instead and have disastrous effects on cats’ kidneys. Please keep these products away from cats and do not be tempted to give them when you think they are in pain. See a vet instead who will prescribe a medication designed with cats in mind.

Flea & tick products designed for dogs

Cats are also sensitive to certain products used to treat fleas and ticks in dogs. If a product is recommended for dog use ONLY please do not use it on cats – even in a smaller dose. Dog products contain a different active ingredient to those used in cat products. This ingredient is toxic to cats. It can cause neurological signs such as head tremors and even death. If you have both cats and dogs in your home and you use a flea/tick product on your dog, keep them apart to prevent accidental contact until the medication has had time to dry on the dog’s body.


Rat or mouse poison is potentially life-threatening if your cat ingests it. Most cats dislike the taste (unlike dogs). However, it is best to be on the safe side and keep these poisons in areas that your cat cannot access. Similarly, keep them away from mice and rats that may eat the poison. Your cat can get ‘secondary’ poisoning by eating a rodent just after they have eaten the poison.

These poisons work by causing haemorrhages. They work against products in the body needed for blood clotting and can thereby cause death from generalised bleeding.

Cleaning products

Many of these are safe to use around pets. However, please be careful. Avoid letting your cat walk on still-wet surfaces, as they may be tempted to lick their paws and ingest the product afterwards. Also store them in a secure cabinet – cats love to rub things with their face so it is best to keep the products away from this behaviour.


Some things that we eat cannot be eaten by cats. Unlike dogs, cats are a little pickier with their food and will usually turn their nose up at foods they recognise as poisonous. But some may not have this innate ability, so it is best to keep these things away from them:

  • Onions and garlic
  • Coffee grounds and tea
  • Fatty foods
  • Chocolate
  • Avocado
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Yeast dough
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Alcohol
  • Anything containing the artificial sweetener ‘xylitol’

Onions and garlic are particularly toxic to pets and fatty foods can cause pancreatitis – a very painful condition for your pets!

This is a simplified summary of some poisons you may not have realised were dangerous to your cats. Please think twice before letting your cats near things that you aren’t sure about. Ask your veterinarian or consult a reputable website, e.g. AVMA, International Cat Care, for more information.