Posted on: February 19th, 2016 by Dr. Dale Rubenstein

Whatever it is, some cat will find and want to play with it–and frequently this will get him or her into big trouble! Some are obvious, but others you might never think of. Unfortunately, over the years we’ve seen many examples first-hand of various items cats will eat. Here are some common household dangers for cats to be aware of when trying to keep yours healthy and safe.

Physical dangers: rubber bands, dental floss, and yarn–oh my!

  • String, yarn, dental floss and drapery cords. While the stereotypical picture of a cat playing with a ball of yarn is cute, never let cats play with string unsupervised. I remember doing surgery to remove dental floss that “Harry” fished out of a bathroom trashcan, and the string from around meat that was causing severe abdominal pain and intestinal obstruction for “Tommy Tucker”.
  • Tinfoil, corks, cellophane – again, if your cat can swallow something, it’s not a safe toy for anytime your cat is unsupervised.
  • Rubber bands, paper clips and more. “Marvin” was lucky that the safety pin he swallowed was closed and while the metal was obvious on x-ray, he did not require surgery and it eventually passed. “Ella’s” mom dropped the back of an earring and before mom could retrieve the metal piece, Ella had swallowed it. Fortunately, a prompt trip to the referral hospital allowed this to be retrieved with an endoscope instead of major surgery (still a very expensive earring!). Coins are another danger, as the metal can be toxic as well as causing obstruction.
  • Electric cords or Christmas lights (such as Piper above!). Your cat can get burns in the mouth or electric shock if the cord is plugged in, and even if it’s not, pieces of plastic can cause intestinal problems.
  • Brooms – the bristles can also cause serious intestinal problems or obstruction.
  • Shopping bag handles – cats can get their head stuck, panic and cause trauma or falls.
  • Safe toys are sewn together not glued, so they can take a lot of tossing around and biting without coming apart. Cardboard tubes and boxes make fun, safe and inexpensive playthings. Soft toys with no sharp corners or decorations are also usually safe.

Household Poisons for Cats

  • Household cleaners and chemicals. We strongly recommend keeping the ASPCA Poison Control phone number handy, in hopes you will never need it. 888-426-4435. This is staffed 24/7 and while there is usually a charge, they will quickly get the information on the product and tell you what needs to be done. If your cat is lethargic or weak, the call should be made while you are headed to the local ER facility. And always have the bottle or package with you! Names of chemicals can be very difficult to remember, but it might be the difference between life and death to know exactly which one your cat ate.
  • Medications – cats lack a liver enzyme so many medications that are safe for people or even dogs can be fatal to cats (acetaminophen/Tylenol is one). Keep all human medications safely locked away.
  • Antifreeze – apparently it has a sweet taste, but it is so dangerous that even a teaspoon can kill a cat. Make sure this is stored properly and clean up any spills – even small ones.
  • Plants – to discourage your cat from eating decorative household plants that might be dangerous, plant “cat grass” without fertilizer. The ASPCA Poison Control website has an extensive list of toxic plants so you know which ones to avoid in your own house. One common plant to avoid is lilies, as most varieties are very toxic, including Easter Lilies, stargazer, and daylilies. See our previous blog post Lilies are a no-no for your kitty!

We all love to watch our cats exploring their environment, and with some “pet-proofing” and a little caution about what they can interact with, we can keep their curiosity from becoming dangerous.