household dangers for cats

Common Dangers, Poisons at Home
Learn to Protect Your Cat

Homes can be a dangerous place for kittens, with risks from cat poisonous plants, car accidents, spider bites and common items like dental floss. Read below to protect your cat.

Cat Poisoning...Learn to Prevent

Dear Simba,
Two years ago our old tom cat passed away of kidney failure.
Last year my 12-year-old female started having the same symptoms. I took her to the vet and they said she just had a virus and it would run its course. They put her on antibiotics. She rallied back. About a month ago she started to have the same symptoms, the vet said the same thing. She was better for about a week then she got worse and before I could get her back to see the vet. She died. This happened while I was at work. She had foamed at the mouth and looked like it was very violent I took her to the toxicology lab and they said the died of Cardio-Respiratory-Failure (CRF).
Why did my vet not catch on to it??? I am afraid she was poisoned. We try to keep her in but sometimes she gets out and we have several people who are real animal haters in our neighborhood. Could anti-freeze or rat poison cause such an immediate death if she was already having problems and would they always show up in an autopsy? Any help would be appreciated. I am very upset plus I have another cat to protect. Tracey

Dear Tracey,
So sorry to hear of your loss. It is possible that kitty died of poisoning although at 12, she was also at risk of dying from more natural causes. Below is some information on poisoning that you may find of help.

SIGNS OF POISONING can develop within 1 to 2 hours and include:

  • Foaming, Excessive salivation
  • Paw and facial swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Ash-gray gums
  • Vomiting

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Abdominal distension
  • Shivering
  • Shock
  • Collapse or Death


  • Coolants since these contain ethylene glycol, which causes permanent kidney damage even in small quantities (6 milliliters of antifreeze are fatal). The danger is that kitty will walk through an antifreeze puddle and may ingest it while it cleans its paws.
  • Rat Poison

  • Cats that eat it or eat poisoned mice can bleed to death. If you find an empty box, look for heavy breathing, anorexia, nosebleeds, bloody urine or feces, and pinpoint hemorrhages on the gums.
  • Tobacco

  • Dangerous to cats. It causes excitement, foaming/salivation, vomiting, muscle weakness, coma or death
  • Marijuana

  • Can be quite dangerous to kitties. Signs to look for include involuntary muscle movements or trembling, depression or excitability, foaming/salivation, death
  • Aspirin / other human pain relievers

  • These are very TOXIC to cats. Signs to look for include anemia, gastric hemorrhage, and blood oxygen changes (acetaminophen drugs like Tylenol(
  • If kitty has consumed enough of a neurological toxin, sudden death may be the only sign.


    Below are some quick tips for preventing the worst:

    • Use cords or locking lids for garbage cans. Use a heavy frame to prevent knock-downs.
    • Keep kitty off lawns sprayed with chemicals (wash his/her feet if they are exposed). -Avoid vegetable and flower gardens.
    • Encase compost piles or use commercially made containers.
    • Never give human drugs unless your vet says to.
    If you suspect deliberate poisoning, I recommend that you proceed with the toxicology tests and contact the police. They will investigate this and even if they are unable to prove any crime, their investigation will remain on their records and will serve as a reminder and a deterrent to the responsible person. I hope this is of help to you. Simba

    Dear Simba,
    I have a 2-year-old tabby named Turbo, who was not feeling well today. He threw up some frothy spit-like substance with blood in it. I took him to the vet and asked that he be tested for poisoning since our next door neighbor does not like him. The test results came back positive for rat poison. The vet gave him a vitamin K shot and gave us vitamin K pills to help Turbo's blood coagulate. I was just wondering if you know the survival rate for cats that have been poisoned. Thanks.

    A cat's survival rate is dependent on many factors, such as health, the type and quantity of the poison ingested and the time to treatment from consumption. Your vet is much better able to give you an assessment on Turbo's chances given the information he has on hand.

    If you have good reason to suspect your neighbor (i.e. Turbo has been on his property, your neighbor has made threats, etc.), please contact the police, because this is a crime. The authorities will investigate this and even if they are unable to prove any crime, their investigation will remain on their records and as a deterrent on your neighbor's mind. Your best long term bet for Turbo's health is to make yours a cat friendly home and keep him indoors. Simba

    Dear Simba,
    We found a stray kitten about a month ago in a corn field. She was in good health , very active and very hungry. She is been like that since we brought her home. Yesterday we noticed a change in her. She is not eating, she is very lethargic and she threw up a yellow thin liquid. She is just barely drinking a little water. She did urinate the same yellow coloring as she threw up. She does spend time both outside and inside our home. - Mary T.

    Dear Mary T.,
    Being near a corn field, I imagine that you have fertilizers and/or chemicals near you. I am concerned that your kitten has consumed some type product toxic to her that is causing her depression and water/food intake problems. The lack of water intake and intense yellow colored urine indicates dehydration. Give the little thing fluids via beaker or syringe and take her to a vet or animal hospital right away. Let me know how she does. Your Pal, Simba

    Hi Simba,
    We just found a stray kitten and with Halloween this last weekend, we had some candy out and the kitten got into it and decided he loved chocolate. He has since eaten 2 fairly big pieces of chocolate. We thought it was very strange, but that was about it. I have always heard that chocolate is dangerous for dogs. But since this happened some people have told us they heard it is also dangerous for cats, now we are worried. Will this hurt the cat? What should we do? Kelly

    Dear Kelly,
    Chocolate is dangerous because it has theobromine. This substance is toxic to dogs and cats. It can cause accelerated heart beats and cardiac arrest. These can lead to death. Young kittens, with their developing intestinal tracks and small hearts are at greater risk. Please call your local animal hospital or vet ASAP, before there are symptoms. They can walk you through the steps needed to induce vomiting. Simba

    Note: Please consult your vet or local animal hospital for all matters that require immediate attention. Also, do not ever feed your cat or kitten any food or drink containing chocolate and/or caffeine.

    Kitten Stung by Bees

    Hi, Simba,
    I occasionally take my kitten Lola outside in her harness and lead, and today she caught a big bumble bee! I do not think it stung her, but it frightened both of us quite a bit (ok, me more than her). If she ever does get stung, is there anything I can do, and what should I do to be prepared? Kit

    Dear Kit,
    Like people, cats can suffer from bee stings. Also, like people they can have mild to severe reactions. Some signs to look for after being stung include:

    • Unusual restlessness/excitement
    • Pawing and chewing at the area stung.
    It is very important that you monitor the symptoms, because a sting can cause respiratory distress which in turn can cause death, if not treated by a professional. The signs of respiratory distress include:

    • Facial swelling
    • Appearance of Welts throughout the body
    • Very rapid breathing/ panting
    • Blue coloration of the tongue.
    Should you see this you should take your cat to the Vet ASAP so they can provide cat-specific antihistamines and treat kitty for shock. If you can see the stinger, remove it with tweezers, and apply a cold compress. This will stop the swelling and relieve the pain. Simba

    Sever symptoms rare in single stings, it can happen, although most frequently with a multiple sting situation.

    Catnip Overdose

    Hi Simba,
    Is there a negative to giving a cat a mouse filled with catnip. We gave one to our 7-year-old cat this morning...she is now a wreck! She refuses to be picked up, she urinated on me this afternoon, then she clawed me very badly to get away. She is one of the most cuddly cats I have ever had. This evening I tried to pick her up and she bit me. I do feel she has lost some weight lately. Is this the catnip having a bad effect on her? Can a cat be allergic to catnip? She has never reacted this way to it before. Or do you feel there is an underlying problem? Please help! Becky

    Dear Becky,
    There are two issues in your question. One relates to a recent loss of weight and the other to a behavioral change. First, Here is a summary of Catnip.

    Catnip is a non-addictive "recreational drug" for cats of which there are 250 varieties. Cats usually go on a ten-minute "high", they rub and roll on the plant and then act "drunk/wild" for an hour or so. There are some that believe that catnip stimulates the same pleasure centers in the feline brain as sexual activity.

    A small percentage will become possessive of their catnip and may snap or hiss at you. All species of cats, although not every individual, will react to catnip. Catnip is regarded as safe, although vomiting and diarrhea can result if excessive amounts are ingested. But other than that there are no widespread side effects.

    Catnip does not affect a cat until they are at least 2-months-old. It is possible that your cat has become possessive of the catnip. Try picking her up while holding the catnip mouse or pick her up when she is not around the mouse. It is important that you not ignore the other issues here, mainly the loss of weight. Ask yourself the following questions: These all relate to symptoms related to disease or stress. Click on the section in blue next to the questions to which you answer yes for information on possible causes and on how to treat these. Keep me posted. Simba

    Plants Dangerous to Cats

    Dear Simba,
    I was recently told that the Ficus tree I have is poisonous to my two kittens, who adore climbing it. I do not want them to ingest the leaves if they are poisonous. Is there an alternative to getting rid of the tree if the tree is indeed poisonous? Concerned

    Dear Concerned,
    I checked the FDA database for ficus and found some species listed as having some toxicity. However, they made no note of whether these are harmful to cats. I snooped around various sites and engines and found nothing that would indicate that ficus trees are poisonous to cats. This is inconclusive and probably does nothing to ease your worries. If you want to keep the little tikes away from the tree anyway, place it in a to which your kittens do not have access. You may also want to try spraying cat & kitten repellent in the area surrounding the tree.

    Here is the FDA List of dangerous plants where you can search for toxic plants by name:

    • Ficus altissima Blume Moraceae
    • Ficus anthelmintica Martius Moraceae
    • Ficus atrox C. Martius & Miq. Moraceae
    • Ficus auriculata Lour. Moraceae
    • Ficus carica L. Moraceae

    • Ficus hispida L. f. Moraceae
    • Ficus hypogaea Pharm
    • Ficus leucantatoma Poiret Moraceae
    • Ficus mutisii Dugand Moraceae
    • Ficus pumila L. Moraceae
    • Ficus roxburghii Moraceae
    I hope this helps. Simba

    PS Click on the following to find some reasons cats so love plants and grass.

    Dear Simba,
    I have a 1-year-old domestic shorthair named Lexi. We live in Minnesota. I have read up on poisonous plants (for cats) and have yet to find mention of the ones I own (Yucca Elephantipes & Dracaena Marginata). Are these two safe to have? Jodi

    Dear Jodi, It looks like Dracaena Marginata is not good for you to have around the house. Although Dracaena Marginata is not on the list, that is just one of the many other names by which this plant goes by. Other names include dracaena palm, dragon tree and corn plant and those plants are known to be toxic to cats. It is probably better that the plants not be anywhere accessible by the cats.

    The ASPCA and the FDA both have great pages with where you can find information on toxic plants. Click ASPCA or the FDA. - Simba

    PS: Thanks to Katrina for sending some good information!

    Garage and Car Danger for Cats & Kittens

    Dear Simba,
    My kitten lives in our garage. I am afraid when my mom parks her car in there, he might get squashed!:( That has already happened before on accident. Anyway, he will just stand in the middle of the garage and sometimes move towards the wheel! Can you give me any tips to save him?? Lil Kit

    Dear Lil Kit,
    This sounds like the obvious thing to say, but the best thing you can do is get the kitten out of the garage. In addition to the risk of being run over, your little friend is at risk of anti-freeze or motor poisoning. This is in addition to the other, usually hazardous substances, found in garages. It is in the kitten's best interests that he is either brought inside to your home or that he is placed in a home where he can live inside. Keep me posted. Simba

    Cat Bitten by Spider

    Hi Simba,
    My 16-year-old female kitty was bitten by a spider, possibly a brown recluse. The vet gave her a cortisone shot and she had a course of antibiotics. The bite area turned brown and the skin started falling off. However, it is turning brown again, she has become lethargic and is losing weight. Although a little older, she routinely romped like a kitten until the bite. Lastly, she has grown sensitive to the sound of my hair dryer. It makes her cry. What information do you have re: cats and spider bites and why would her hearing be affected? Amy

    Dear Amy,
    The Brown Recluse is an awful creature, its bite kills tissue around the bite. The time to recovery can last a couple of months and at the end of it, kitty may have a deep puckered scar and some internal and/or neurological damage.

    The return of your cat's skin symptoms appear to indicate that there is still venom in the area and is active. While there is no anti-venom, secondary infections can be treated with antibiotics. However, the only treatment generally recognized involves a skin graft (cutting away of any flesh containing venom), this is dependent on the location of the bite and whether or not it poses an immediate hazard to your kitty.

    Your best bet is to monitor the bite area and if you see it expand, or if kitty develops a fever or has dark urine, go to the hospital. Here is a partial list of spider venom symptoms:

    • rashes
    • fevers
    • chills
    • nausea
    Because of this, it is important that you have kitty checked out for side effects. Take her to follow-up visits with your vet on a routine basis to ensure she is recovering ok.

    Your hair dryer is likely triggering a severe head ache in kitty. Like us, when we have headaches, kitty is much more sensitive to sounds and to her surroundings. Be gentle around her and take her to another room if you plan to vacuum or dry your hair. Keep me posted. Simba

    My kitten recently was put to sleep. One night very late his head began swelling. I could not find a 24 hour vet, so at 8:00 am I took him to the vet. He said that they would have to keep him for 48 hours to find the problem and that he probably would not make it. He said if he did he would probably not be an active cat and the medical bills would be extremely high.

    Instead of making my cat suffer through the weekend only to find out he would not live, I had him put to sleep. He was a very active 8-week-old kitten and when this happened he could not even lift his head because of the swelling.

    I want to know so badly what happened to him, I did not have the tests done, because I could not stand the thought of him suffering. His head was twice his normal size and he was drooling on himself. I wonder if you know why this happened. I watched him so closely and this happened within two hours. Erin

    By the way: I have a new cat that is simply a blessing. He is a lot like my last kitten, with a huge personality of his own.

    Dear Erin,
    So sorry to hear of your loss. I have done some research on what you described and there is not much out there on what your kitten went through. There are a couple of possibilities. These include a severe allergic reaction, accidental poisoning or perhaps a bee, wasp, scorpion or spider bite. It is possible that your kitten may have consumed a dangerous substance (the risk here is greater if he was an outdoor cat). The bites listed can also cause severe swelling in the affected area. While bites are not usually fatal, throat or neck bites can be deadly. I am happy for you with your new kitten. Please check out your home for any potential hazards and please keep him an indoor cat (it is a lot safer inside). Your Pal, Simba

    Dental Floss

    Hi Simba,
    My 8-month-old kitten was playing with a piece of dental floss the other day and we are afraid that he may have swallowed it. Is this serious matter or will the floss be digested over time? Jen

    Dear Jen,
    Dental floss can be dangerous to kitties. Your best bet is to monitor her more closely.

    Dental floss and other linear objects harm the lining a cat's intestines. In extreme cases, these objects can even cause perforation and death and must be surgically removed. Talk to your vet about this and keep me posted. Simba

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