Top 10 Cat Toxins

Important List to Review – Common Cat Toxins

According to Pet Poison Helpline

Cat physiology, behavior, and metabolism makes them uniquely sensitive or resistant to toxins. It is important to review the common toxins that put cats at risk, such as human medications, plants, essential oils, and rodenticides. Similarly, according to the Pet Poison Helpline there are some toxins that cats can tolerate particularly well, such as anticoagulant rodenticides and xylitol. However, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian immediately when your pet may have come in contact with a potential toxin.

Number 1 Household Cleaners

Household cleaner covers a broad range of product concerns for cats. Cats are a curious bunch and they like to taste a lot of things, they like to climb shelves and knock containers over and spill them out. Cats will jump up on the kitchen sink after it has been sprayed with a cleaning product and licked it or groom their paws covered in cleaning product. This may result in a cat immediately starting to drool with a minor irritation or something that is much more concerning like burns to the cat’s tongue and mouth, and serious toxicity with some of the cleaning products, laundry detergents, and household disinfectants that we all use daily in our homes. The best course of action is to keep containers of cleaning products covered so they cannot be lapped out of and even better yet, keep the cat out of the area you are cleaning until you are done and the products you have used have had ample time to dry completely to prevent exposure.  Keep products in closed cabinets to prevent the cat from knocking them down and spilling them over, keep caps in place just like you would for your human kids. And, even better, use pet safe cleaning products.

Number 2Pyrethroid-based Insecticides

These are tough calls for the Pet Poison Helpline staff! Why you ask, because this is one of the most preventable exposures that they get calls about. High dose pyrethroids and permethrins are just not tolerated by cats – at all! These are the most common ingredient in dog flea and tick preventative products. When applied to cats, it affects their central nervous system with clinical signs of dilated pupils, facial twitching, full-body muscle tremors and seizures. How do we prevent theses exposures, very simply put, read the label! If it is labeled for dogs only, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT apply it to your cat. And when you apply it to your dog, keep your dog and cat separated until it has completely dried. We have seen secondary exposures with pyrethroids from the family dog when the cat grooms, sleeps with or has close contact with the family dog immediately following application. If you live in an area where flea and tick prevention is not required, then by all means to not use this product.

Number 3Rodenticides

It always surprises Pet Poison Helpline when they see the number of cats that will actually eat mouse and rat poison. The most concerning rodenticide these days is Bromethalin. Bromethalin cause brain swelling with even small doses and there is no antidote for it. Don’t take a chance that your cat will leave it alone. Make sure to use bait boxes to keep pets and kids out of all rodenticides.

The two other main types of bait commonly seen today are anticoagulant rodenticides (cause severe bleeding and death) and the cholecaliferol/vitamin D type rodenticides (cause elevated calcium and phosphorous levels in the blood and kidney failure).

Asiatic Lily

Asiatic Lily

Number 4Lilies

In a nutshell – lilies KILL cats! True lilies, Day lilies, Stargazer lilies, and Easter lilies, are a few of the common lilies where Pet Poison Helpline sees exposures to cats. Lily exposure results in acute renal failure in cats. We can see cats suffer renal failure from chewing on the flowers and leaves, drinking the water from the vase of a lily bouquet or even rubbing up against them and getting pollen on their fur that is then later ingested during grooming.  If you have a cat, do not have lilies in your home.

Number 5Antidepressant class of drugs, especially Effexor (Venlafaxine)

Pet Poison Helpline cannot explain why cats eat Effexor more often than any other antidepressant, but according to the 2014 statistics, that would be the case. The helpline sees cats develop agitation, hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), ataxia (walking like they are drunk), tremors, crying, mydriasis (dilated pupils), vomiting and diarrhea, cardiac arrhythmias, panting, weakness, and possibly seizures. These can be really bad and it takes less than one pill to result in serious concerns.

Number 6 – Dewormers

Again these include the ivermectins (just like dogs) and pyrantel dewormers that are not labeled for cats. Again, we say to the cat owning public, if it does not give you a cat dose on the label and it is not specifically labeled for cats, do not use it in or on your cat!  Reading the labeling and dosing as prescribed is the best way to keep your cat happy and healthy.

Number 7 ADD and ADHD Human Medications

These human ADD and ADHD medications include Adderall, Vyvanse, Methamphetamine HCL and amphetamine combination drugs. The helpline will many times see parents crush and mix these medications in a spoon of ice cream or yogurt to give to a small child and the cats lap it up like a tasty treat. Even partial pills or small amounts of these medications can have serious signs such as agitation, head-bobbing, panting, hyperactivity, increases i



n heart rate and blood pressure, tremors, seizures.

Number 8 – Insoluble Oxalate Plants

Philodendron, Dumbcane, Pothos, Elephant Ears and Peace Lilies are a few of the frequent offenders in this class of plants. Again, cats eat plants! Before you introduce a plant to your cat’s environment, find a good reliable website and do some research to keep your kitty safe like It is FREE and it is GOOD! It is written by the Pet Poison Helpline staff veterinarians and technicians and is constantly being updated with new and/or improved materials and information.

Number 9 – Essential Oils

Cats are so, so very sensitive to essential oils. Many oils, including liquid potpourri (very common exposure around the holidays), Tea Tree Oil or Melaleuca, Oil of Wintergreen, Citrus Oils, Pine Oils, Peppermint Oils and Cinnamon Oils are a few, but the list is a long when it comes to the oils that the helpline has seen concerns with in cats. The clinical signs can range from corrosive burns to the tongue and gastro intestinal tract along with drooling, vomiting, ataxia (walking like they are drunk), coma, respiratory distress, and acute liver failure. Bad stuff for cats! And again, cats will take a lick out of that liquid potpourri even when it is on a shelf over your head. Cats are that one species that the harder you work to keep it out of their reach, the harder they work to get at it!

Number 10Glow Sticks

Glow Sticks are not terribly toxic but they really do seem to be a cat magnet. Cats chew them and the liquid leaks out causing some very dramatic foaming and drooling.  They are best kept out of reach of the kitties, especially around Halloween!

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Pet Poison Helpline

24/7 Pet Poison Helpline: (855) 764-7661

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

24/7 ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435

By Jo Marshall, CVT
Senior Veterinary Information Specialist
Pet Poison Helpline
professional pet sitting software

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