By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
Cats don't tend to get into as much trouble around the house as dogs do, primarily because dogs are indiscriminate eaters, and kitties are much more selective about what they put in their mouths. However, this doesn't mean there aren't some genuine hazards to your cat lurking around your home, including the following list offered by PetMD.1
10 Common Household Hazards for Cats
1. Certain people foods
These include chocolate, plants containing allium (e.g., onions, chives, an overdose of garlic and leeks), macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins and alcohol. Fortunately, it's unlikely your kitty will find these foods appealing, but there's always a chance she might decide to sample a raisin she finds between the couch cushions or a grape she finds while patrolling your kitchen counter.
2. Cooked bones
Cooked bones are dangerous to cats (and dogs). If your cat should try to chew or swallow a cooked bone, he may wind up needing surgery to remove bone shards, splinters and blockages, and it can also be fatal. Never feed cooked bones to your pet, and dispose of any bones left over from your own meal safely and securely.
3. Rubber bands and bag ties
These items can look like toys to your cat, but if she swallows them they can cause serious damage to her intestines.
4. Toxic plants
Some of the most common plants that pose a poisoning risk to cats include the castor bean, caladium, lilies, dumb cane, rosary pea, larkspur, foxglove, autumn crocus, sago palm, black locust, yew and oleander. The ASPCA's database of toxic and nontoxic plants allows you to search to find out if the plant your pet consumed warrants a trip to the emergency vet.
5. Liquid potpourri
The wonderful scent of warm potpourri is sure to attract the attention of your kitty, but unfortunately, these heated oils pose significant health risks. Your cat might be burned or develop a serious skin irritation from these substances. If she comes in contact with liquid potpourri, be sure to wash her fur thoroughly to remove all traces of oily residue.
Liquid potpourri contains components called cationic detergents, which are especially dangerous for cats. If ingested, these detergents can result in severe burns to the mouth, esophagus and stomach.
6. Electrical cords and salt lamps
Cats, especially kittens, seem to enjoy chewing on electrical cords. However, they can be electrocuted if they chew through the outer protective coating while the cord is plugged into the wall. Use cord keepers to cover power cords or store all loose cords to make them less enticing for your cat.
Salt lamps are healthy and pretty, but can become lethal if your kitten obsessively licks one. If you find your feline attracted to your salt lamp, remove it from their space to prevent a salt overdose.
7. Dental floss and hair ties
Just like rubber bands and bag ties, dental floss and hair ties can be attractive to your cat, and they, too, can cause a life-threatening intestinal obstruction.
8. Household medications
Cats have a very unique physiology that makes them exceptionally sensitive to a number of substances that don't cause problems for other animals. This is because there is a significant difference in the liver metabolism of felines as compared to other animals.
It is this difference that causes foreign chemical substances that are (relatively) safe in other species to be deadly in cats, and typically at much lower doses. Four common toxic substances to watch out for if you have a kitty include acetaminophen, phosphate enema preparations, Kaopectate (an antidiarrheal) and antidepressants.
9. Lotions and sprays
Some cats enjoy licking lotions and other types of topical products off their human's skin, which can be cause for concern depending on the ingredients. Many personal care products contain potentially toxic chemicals. And then there are creams containing hydrocortisone, antibiotics or antifungals.
Products containing zinc oxide can be toxic for your cat, along with muscle rub creams. Prescription topicals you don't want kitty sampling include steroid-based creams, hormone creams, anti-inflammatory pain medications and vitamin A compounds.
10. Cleaning products
If you use chemical cleaning agents in your home, be sure not to use them around your cat. Concentrated products like drain or toilet bowl cleaners can cause chemical burns. It's best to put kitty in another room while you clean, and make sure all surfaces are dry before letting her loose.
Also consider switching to safe, nontoxic household cleaners, which are healthier for you and your cat. Research shows almost all the chemical cleaners you use in your home end up inside your cat, so choose products wisely.
5 Common Cat Supplies That Need To Be Tossed and Replaced
1. Toss this: Well-used litterbox
If you're like most people, your cat's litterbox is plastic. Plastic litterboxes can be purchased almost anywhere, are inexpensive, lightweight and easy to clean. But there's also lots of downsides to plastic — including the fact that it scratches.
When Fluffy digs down through the litter to cover her "deposit," her sharp claws scrape the bottom and sides of the box. After awhile, these nicks and scuffs attract germs and odor that can remain even after you disinfect the box. It's a good idea after cleanings to check your litterbox for scratched or abraded plastic. Budgeting for a new box each year is a good idea.
Replace with this: A brand new litterbox
2. Toss this: Plastic food and water bowl
Plastic food and water bowls are inexpensive and convenient. Unfortunately, not only are they impossible to thoroughly sanitize, but as the plastic begins to break down, it can leach into your cat's food and water.
In addition, bacteria and oils can get trapped in the peeling plastic, which can cause skin irritation or worse. Kitties can develop feline acne, also called chin acne, and plastic bowls have been linked to the condition. In addition, some cats can develop an allergy to the materials and dyes in plastic bowls, and they've also been linked to tear staining.
Replace with this: Stainless steel, lead-free porcelain or glass food and water bowls
3. Toss this: Grubby or damaged toys, and toys covered with fur
Old, dirty cat toys can harbor bacteria, and broken or damaged toys can be a choking hazard for your cat. And then there are those tiny, furry mice that so many cats love to bat around. Unfortunately, they can present a major health hazard for your kitty. According to dvm360:
"Cats are motivated by their strong prey instincts to chase and hunt the toy, and it's not a large leap to eat the toy if it is covered in real rabbit or mouse fur. Many cats have ended up on a surgery table because of these 'harmless' fake mice."2
Replace with this: New or homemade toys (minus anything tiny and fur-covered)
4. Toss this: Dull nail trimmers
Nail trims are never the highlight of a cat's day, but one thing that can make a bad situation worse is a pair of dull clippers. If the cutting surface isn't sharp, instead of a quick clean snip, the trimmers can crush and split the nail. Not only is this uncomfortable or even painful for kitty, but it tends to make you — the human at the other end of the clippers — tense up. Your cat, in turn, picks up on your stress, which increases hers.
In a worst-case scenario, a nail trim marred by dull trimmers can make your cat dive under the bed every time they come out. Soon, your feline pal has talons instead of nails.
Replace with this: Freshly sharpened or new nail trimmers, or a battery-operated rotary tool (e.g., a Dremel)
5. Toss this: Expired or inappropriate medications
Hopefully your cat hasn't and won't need veterinary medications, but just in case she does, it's important not to hang onto out-of-date or unsuitable drugs.
When your vet prescribes a medicine for your kitty, it's only for her, and only for the specific condition being treated at that time. It's a really bad idea to give a cat medication intended for another cat, and it's also risky to hang onto an old prescription so you'll have it on hand "just in case."
In addition, many substances that are safe for humans and dogs are highly toxic for cats, so you should never give a drug intended for your dog or yourself to your cat. When in doubt, call your veterinarian.
Replace with this: Fresh prescriptions as required