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Most of us allow our cats the run of the house, and don't worry too much about them. And most cats come to no harm when they are at home. But there are a number of household items which are dangerous if cats get hold of them, and we need to know what they are. Here is a list of the ones which could cause problems. But bear in mind that it is by no means comprehensive, and you need to be careful, particularly if you have a rather curious or nosy cat.
In general, it is not a good idea to give any human food to cats, as it can often cause stomach upsets, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Having said that, the odd little meaty titbit or treat is unlikely to do much harm. But there are certain foods which are actually harmful to cats, even in small amounts. Alcohol is extremely poisonous to cats, and can cause liver and brain damage; even as little as a tablespoonful could cause problems. Chocolate is dangerous for cats, as are coffee and tea. Some cats are lactose intolerant, and dairy products can cause them to vomit and have diarrhoea – so don't give them milk to drink. Contrary to what many people think, raw meat, raw fish and raw eggs are not a good idea, as there is a risk of E. Coli or Salmonella associated with these foods. Grapes and raisins are not as poisonous to cats as they are to dogs, but giving them to cats is probably not a good idea. Onions and garlic are a problem if eaten in large amounts, but a little in, for example some stolen sauce, is unlikely to harm them.
If you suspect your cat has eaten something she shouldn't have, it is a good idea to contact your vet for advice. Try to ascertain exactly how much of the substance has been eaten, and be ready to describe the cat's symptoms, if any. In many case small quantities will not be a problem, but it is best to make sure. And in general, keep human food well away from your cat, apart from the odd titbit for a treat.
In general, all medicines should be kept in closed drawers well away from cats. And don't underestimate their ability to get into packaged medicines. My Maine Coon opened a packet of antibiotics intended for another cat, and stole both blister packs out of it! I couldn't find the blister packs, and was worried both that he'd eaten the tablets, and that the sick cat wouldn't get them. Eventually I found them, damaged but not ingested – but I never left pills out again. I learned something from that!
Some medicines in particular should be kept away from cats. Common human painkillers such as paracetamol, aspirin, and ibuprofen, are all toxic for cats. Don't leave them out, and don't be tempted to give them to your cat. If your cat needs a painkiller, there are other drugs which are safe for them. A number of antidepressants seem to taste good to cats, but are dangerous. Drugs commonly used for anxiety and sleep problems may have the opposite effect in cats, and also cause other problems. And keep all prescription medicine well away from your cat; some of them will not be harmful, but many will.
As for foods, if you suspect your cat has ingested any human medicines, contact your vet for advice.
A number of common house plants are highly toxic to cats. Lilies are the worst, as all parts of the plant are poisonous to cats. Even just one bite of a lillies leaf or the pollen could cause vomiting and lethargy, and left untreated the cat could get kidney failure and even die. Let your friends know this; I once had to give away a bunch of expensive flowers I received as a present, since a number of them were lilies. Make it a rule: do not allow lilies into your home.
There are a number of other poisonous plants. Most are exotic plants which are not often found, so if you want to have house plants, it might be safer to buy common native varieties. Some poisonous plants which your cat might accidentally ingest include Aloe Vera, Amaryllis, Carnation, Chrysanthemum, Poinsettia, and Primrose. In general, try to keep houseplants out of reach of your cat, and again, if the cat eats a quantity of a plant, contact your vet for advice.
Car antifreeze is highly poisonous to cats, and they seem to like the taste. If you use it, keep it in the garage rather than the house, and mop up any spills immediately.
Dog flea treatments are poisonous to cats, so if you have both types of animal in your household, ensure you keep flea treatments separate.
General household cleaners, including bleach, drain cleaners and toilet/bathroom cleaners, which can cause gastrointestinal ulcers and other problems in cats. Detergents and fabric softener can also be harmful. So keep all these items locked away, keep bottles well closed, and keep the toilet seat down after you clean it.
As stated earlier, this list is not exhaustive. In fact, after reading this, you might feel that the home is a dangerous place for your cat, and wonder how she survived so long! But don't worry. In general, cats are fastidious animals, and they don't eat strange items as commonly as dogs, for example. But nevertheless, it is wise to be careful, particularly if you have kittens or highly curious cats. In general, try to put all items away in their proper places, and train your cat not to climb on to kitchen counters or drink from the loo...often easier said than done I know. And if your cat does eat or drink something it shouldn't, don't panic, but do contact your vet for advice.
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