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Curiosity (and other things) that Killed the Cat

Cat eating plants

Hot on the pawprints of our last blog, "Pets & Poisons", we're scratching deeper into the specifics of what's deadly to our domesticated animals, otherwise known as "The Loves of Our Lives". And we're doing this not because we're trying to upset you, of course, but because we're fundamentally a morbid bunch here at DKC. What can we say?

So to start, let's look at what's harmful to cats.

First-up: they're very sensitive to toxins. As fastidious groomers, there's the danger of any poison on their fur being swallowed and, what's more, cats also absorb toxins through their skin.

While our feline friends are prone to nocturnal wandering (is that why they can be a little batty?), it's not when they're out and about that they're most prone to poisoning. We recently had a cat brought in to our clinic with acute renal failure; we discovered this was caused by her having ingested part of a lily houseplant. Yes, something not many people know: some lilies are highly toxic to cats. The type of lily does make a difference, although in all honesty we don't really know our Peruvian from our Asiatic lilies if we had a bunch of each sitting right front of us. These are the non-deadly, but not-good kind which will irritate the top of kitty's gastrointestinal tract:

  • Calla
  • Peace
  • Peruvian

And these are lilies which are from the Lilium or Hemerocallis species and are indeed toxic:

  • Tiger
  • Asiatic
  • Stargazer Casablanca
  • Rubrum
  • Day
  • Japanese Show
  • Easter lily

Now, there aren't many of us who can claim to be THAT knowledgeable about lilies, of course, but if you love lilies in or around your home, you might just want to get a little more familiar with the subject. Right? Right! You see, kidney failure can occur if your cat ingests a small amount of any of these. Even the pollen is harmful, so nothing to sneeze at here. Unless you're a botanical boffin, best to forgo having any lily plants at all in your home or garden. And watch out for those beautiful (but now-banned by us!) lilies in gift bouquets.

As you might guess, household cleaners can present a problem too as they often contain concoctions of bleach, ammonia, chlorine, glycol ethers and formaldehyde, and can put your pets at risk of cancer, anaemia, liver and kidney damage. Not great for us humans either, by the way, so try to keep your cleaning products as "green" and pet-friendly as possible. And put all bleaches, toilet cleaners, etc. in a contained storage space into which kitty (and puppypoo and baby, for that matter!) cannot clamber.

Now... toilets! Keep both the seat (our pleasure, ladies) and the toilet lid down. Sounds like overkill? Well, first ask your wife what SHE thinks and then also consider that if there's treated water in your toilet bowl, it can be toxic if your cat drinks it. Also remember that your floor/carpet-cleaning products will end up on tabby's paws and then in her system when she grooms, so ensure doors and windows are closed during a spring clean (and that kitty is put outside for a while), and then rinse the floors as thoroughly as reasonably possible after using a cleaning product on them. We're not trying to push for over-the-top anxiety on this front, but if heavy cleaning is on the agenda, not a bad idea to keep all this in mind. By extension, exercise discretion and caution when considering your garden insecticide and pesticide products, too. On the plus side, you'll find going "green" in the garden easier as there are more of the right kind of products available.

Would you put your dog's flea or tick remover on your cat? Nope, we didn't think so, but some well-meaning people do. So, just to be sure we've covered the bases, never use a canine product on your feline (or vice versa). Dog-specific parasiticides containing pyrethrins or pyrethroids are highly toxic to cats. Your best plan of action is to ask your vet about the right topical flea and tick medication for kitty, and you'll both be safely sorted.

Oh, and by the way, it's important to note, too, that household flea and pest repellent products labelled as "natural" may still be dangerous. For example, the chemical called d'Limonene from citrus peel (which is found in many natural anti-flea products) can be highly toxic to cats. has some good, non-toxic, alternative flea and pest control suggestions (if you decide to let this blog inspire you into obsessiveness).

Now, when it comes to our human medications, while we're trying to heal ourselves we could be putting our pets at risk. Curiosity may well kill the cat here as they seem drawn to popping (or at least playing with) pills in particular. These are the top culprits to keep locked away at all times:

  • Antidepressants - can cause severe neurologic and cardiac effects
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. ibuprofen and naproxen)
  • ADD/ADHD meds - can cause tremors, heart problems and deadly seizures
  • Cough, cold and allergy medications, especially with acetaminophen (a painkiller) - this harms red blood cells, can result in liver failure, and is particularly deadly to cats.

Food! Glorious food!... except for cats - none of these please:

  • Grapes or raisins
  • Avocado
  • Onions, garlic, leeks or chives
  • Chewing gum (and other foods with xylitol)
  • Chocolate is a no-no for cats (and dogs) as it contains methylxanthines which cause toxic side-effects in our pets

Lastly (as if that's not enough to have you dashing to your pet's rescue ) look-out for these lurkers:

  • Liquid potpourri, air fresheners, and other aerosolized products are not great for cats - try something natural like lavender or, failing that, plug-in air fresheners are quite safe and effective.
  • Batteries - dangerous because of potential leakage.
  • Coins - the zinc on these is harmful.
  • Mothballs - time to move on; very 1980's!
  • Tobacco (as above!)
  • Glow sticks (you raver, you!) - these contain a chemical called dibutyl phthalate and when kitty gnaws on the pretty stick, it can leak out and burn her tongue and fur.
  • Rubber bands, tinsel, plastic bags, string, mini-blinds, dental floss: Yup, although not toxins, they're dangerous to your inquisitive and playful kitty because they often end up in her intestines, and that ain't fun for anyone, believe us!

If your cat shows any signs of potential poisoning - no appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, halitosis, dehydration or unusual urination or thirst - to a vet with the two of you!

Look, a bazillion know-it-alls have written a gazillion articles and blogs and books about stuff like this which should be in your attention. And yes, they really should be in your attention because they really do present risk. OK, true. But reading this kind of information can leave some people feeling like they can't move left or right without being guilty in some way of harming those they love, and that's definitely not what we're trying to do to you here. So go ahead, live your life, clean your floors and flush that toilet before or after leaving the seat up (bad boy!), but if you've got this far in reading this one particular know-it-all blog, maybe you can keep a few of these things in your mind. Cats (and all of us) will find ways to do harm to themselves no matter how much we plan ahead and against it, soooooo... just do your bestest for your mostest wonderfulest pet.

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