Speaking of Pets: Keep these toxic household items away from your cats

By Joan Merriam
Speaking of Pets

We all know the dangers of antifreeze to our pets, but in terms of your cat, there are things you may have never thought of that will end up in a trip to the emergency vet.

Cats aren't just miniature dogs. While there are some similarities in toxic substances for each species, their different anatomy presents unique challenges for each.
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Flea and Tick Medications

Because they’re inveterate groomers, cats are especially susceptible to flea and tick medicine poisoning. The biggest culprit is permethrin, found in many canine spot-on flea and tick preventatives.

Remember: a cat is not just a small dog. Never use a flea or tick product designed for dogs on your cat: unlike dogs, a cat’s liver lacks certain enzymes that can break down permethrin, so the chemical accumulates in its body and can lead to overdose.


Your cat isn’t as likely to get into your medicine cabinet as a child could, but even common over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen can be extremely toxic for cats. As with permethrin, a cat’s liver is unable to process ibuprofen, and it recycles and builds up in the body. Even a small dose—that one pill that fell on the floor—can cause severe liver and gastrointestinal damage.


That get-well bouquet may lighten your spirits, but it could also poison your cat. Many plants poisonous to cats appear in bouquets, like baby’s breath, ivy, chrysanthemum and primrose. In addition, many common houseplants plants themselves are toxic to cats. Dieffenbachia, Amaryllis, azalea, philodendron, Easter lily, begonia, and jade plant are just a few.

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Onions, Garlic, and Chocolate

Certain vegetables—onions, garlic, scallions, leeks and chives in particular—are highly toxic to all cats. These members of the allium family can cause gastroenteritis and in more serious cases, red blood cell damage.

We all know chocolate is a problem for dogs. So too it can be a problem for cats: as little as 0.2 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate is enough to cause toxicity in your cat.

Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever Joey and Maine coon cat Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at

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