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Cats are inquisitive animals that love to explore. Unfortunately, this means that great care needs to be taken to ‘cat proof’ your home, to ensure they cannot come into contact with anything that may cause problems to their health. There are a number of seemingly harmless items within the home that can pose serious health issues if eaten. We’ve compiled a list of our top 7 harmful household items to avoid.household items that are harmful to cats infographic

1. Tablets and medicines

Tablets are often covered in a sweet coating, which is inviting to cats. Over the counter medication such as painkillers, diet pills and anti depressants can cause a number of serious side effects such as kidney failure and stomach ulcers if eaten. Always store pills and medicines in sealed containers in a safe place that cannot be easily accessed.

2. Human foods

There are a number of foods that owners should take great care to keep out of reach of cats and kittens, due to the negative effects they can have on health and wellbeing.


Most people are aware that you shouldn’t give chocolate to dogs, but it is less well known that chocolate is poisonous to cats. Dark chocolate in particular can cause severe health issues, because it cannot be broken down and metabolised.

Onions, garlic and chives

Garlic and onions are harmful to cats and can cause damage to red blood cells, leading to anaemia. They can also cause gastrointestinal problems and painful stomach ulcers. It is best to store these food items in sealed food containers.

Grapes and raisins

Grapes and raisins are toxic and can cause kidney failure.


Despite common perception, most cats are lactose intolerant meaning that drinking milk can cause an upset stomach. Whilst branded formulas of cat milk provide a suitable alternative, they provide little nutritional benefit. Cats should be given fresh water to drink.


Bread dough contains a large amount of yeast, which produces ethanol. Even small amount of dough can causes serious health issues, including twisted stomach, ulcers and liver damage. This is because the dough will expand in the stomach once it has been eaten.


Caffeine is found in tea, coffee and energy drinks. These often taste sweet and are incredibly tempting to curious cats. Caffeine increases heart rate, which can lead to cardiac arrhythmia and problems such as high blood pressure and issues with the pancreas.


Whist chicken and fish are a great source of protein, care should be taken to remove any bones regardless of size before giving to your cat to eat. Bones can cause blockages if swallowed and can in severe cases splinter and cause the oesophagus or intestinal tract to be punctured.

It is also important to note that mould can be harmful. Make sure to remove mouldy food from a cat’s reach and keep the food waste bin outside.

3. Houseplants and flowers

Household plants and flowers can pose a problem to cats, if they choose to eat them. These include aloe, poinsettia, chrysanthemum and tulips. Many people are aware that lilies are poisonous to cats, however there is a common misconception that it is only the stamen that are harmful. In fact, all parts of the lilies, including the petals, leaves and even the vase water can be dangerous.

4. String

Cats love to play with string, however this should always be supervised. If they swallow wool, yarn or a needle and cotton this can cause a blockage in the intestinal tract.

5. Cleaning fluids

If cats walk over recently cleaned surfaces and then lick their paws they can come into contact with harmful chemicals and toxins. When cleaning floors and work surfaces try to keep your cat in another room until it completely dries. Cats are often drawn to antifreeze because it has a sweet taste, however it contains the chemical Ethylene Glycol, which is toxic to cats. Even a small amount of residue puddled on a driveway can be lethal. Caution should be taken when de-icing the car on cold days.

6. Dog flea treatments

 Some dog flea and tick treatments contain Permethrin, which is harmful to cats. Always make sure you carefully read the packaging of any medicines you administer and ensure that it is suitable for use on cats and kittens.

What should I do if I think my cat has been poisoned?

If you think that your cat has eaten something it shouldn’t, it is important to seek professional advice as soon as possible. Contact your local vets and carefully explain the symptoms they are experiencing. Please do not wait for symptoms to develop as with some toxins your cat may already have irreversible or fatal organ damage when they start showing external signs. Please call your local vets immediately if you think they might have consumed something dangerous.

In some instances it can be beneficial to collect a small stool or vomit sample, to help diagnose the cause.

What symptoms should I look out for?

Symptoms of poisoning can start almost immediately, however they can also take a while to develop. Symptoms include heavy breathing, diarrhoea, tremors, seizures, yellow gums, weakness and vomiting.