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What is most harmful to cats?

17 Plants Poisonous to Pets

Do you know the household plants most likely to endanger pets? The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center explains what they are and what they can do. Share this potentially lifesaving information with patients, adopters, and the general public.


Members of the Lilium spp. family are considered to be highly toxic to cats. Even ingestions of very small amounts of the plant can cause severe kidney damage.


Ingestion of Cannabis sativa by companion animals can result in depression of the central nervous system and coordination problems, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate and even seizures and coma.

Sago Palm

All parts of Cycas Revoluta are poisonous, but the seeds or «nuts» contain the largest amount of toxin. The ingestion of just one or two seeds can result in very serious effects, which include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures, and liver failure.

Tulip/Narcissus Bulbs

The bulb portions of Tulipa/Narcissus spp. contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions, and cardiac abnormalities.


Members of the Rhododenron spp. contain substances known as grayantoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness, and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.


All parts of Nerium oleander are considered to be toxic, as they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects that include gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia, and even death.

Castor Bean

The poisonous principle in Ricinus communis is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. Severe cases of poisoning can result in dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma, and death.


Cylamen species contain cyclamine, but the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the root portion of the plant. If consumed, Cylamen can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.


This plant contains components that can produce gastrointestinal irritation, as well as those that are toxic to the heart, and can seriously affect cardiac rhythm and rate.


Taxus spp. contains a toxic component known as taxine, which causes central nervous system effects such as trembling, coordination problems, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.


Common garden plants popular around Easter, Amaryllis species contain toxins that can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia, and tremors.

Autumn Crocus

Ingestion of Colchicum autumnale by pets can result in oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage, and bone marrow suppression.


These popular blooms are part of the Compositae family, which contain pyrethrins. If ingested they may produce gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. In certain cases, depression and loss of coordination may also develop if enough of any part of the plant is consumed.

English Ivy

Also called branching ivy, glacier ivy, needlepoint ivy, sweetheart ivy, and California ivy, Hedera helix contains triterpenoid saponins that, if ingested by pets, can result in vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, and diarrhea.

Peace Lily (aka Mauna Loa Peace Lily)

Spathiphyllum contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips, and tongue in pets who ingest.


Pothos (both Scindapsus and Epipremnum) belongs to the Araceae family. If chewed or ingested, this popular household plant can cause significant irritation and swelling of the oral tissues and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.


Schefflera and Brassaia actinophylla contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips, and tongue in pets who ingest.

15 Toxic Human Foods You Should Never Feed Your Cat

It’s understandable wanting to share a snack with your cat—but before you do, it’s important to know what foods are toxic for cats, since many popular human foods are poisonous to our feline friends.

By Sarah Mouton Dowdy August 24, 2020
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Cats are full-fledged members of the family, and as such, it often seems only natural to share everything with them—including meals. But depending on the food, sharing your plate can harm your cat’s health. Before you share that snack, be sure to know the difference between foods that are toxic to cats and the ones that are safe.

Should You Feed a Cat Human Food?

It’s important to note that despite your cat’s whining, treats and snacks suited for people just aren’t an essential part of his diet. We teamed up with the University of Missouri Small Animal Clinical Nutrition Service in Columbia, Mo., to find out what your cat needs to eat to be healthy. As it turns out, not much (outside of their regular cat food, that is).

man feeding cat a piece of candy
Credit: Chalabala / Getty

«Cats have specific nutrient requirements that must be met by their diet,» the Clinical Nutrition Service says. «The simplest and most convenient way to meet a cat’s nutrient requirements is to provide them with a complete and balanced commercial diet formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist or an individual with a PhD in animal nutrition.»

This means that any vitamins and minerals provided by treats—even things like fruits and vegetables that us humans would consider healthy snacks—would exceed what a cat eating a complete and balanced diet needs. And when it comes to nutrients, more isn’t always merrier. In some cases, it can even be harmful.

What Kinds of Human Foods are Safe for Cats to Eat?

But if you still want to treat your cat, the Clinical Nutrition Service says there are several human foods that are generally considered to be safe for cats, as long as they don’t account for more than 10 percent of a cat’s daily intake. «For example,» the Clinical Nutrition Service explains, «if a cat is consuming 250 calories per day, no more than 25 of those calories should come from any unbalanced food sources.»

However, the Clinical Nutrition Service also cautions that cats must be considered for their individual needs, since some cats may consume a particular food item with no issue and another cat may consume the same item and develop vomiting, diarrhea, or other adverse signs. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to talk to your veterinarian before adding any new human foods to your pet’s diet—even ones that are typically considered to be safe.

Which Human Foods are Toxic to Cats?

«There are human foods that are dangerous and should never be fed to cats,» the Clinical Nutrition Service says. The ASPCA has a lengthy list of human foods to avoid feeding your cat, but it’s probably not an exhaustive list since many food items have not undergone peer-reviewed studies that have determined how toxic they are.

Here are a few no-gos from the ASPCA’s list of human foods that cats should avoid:

  1. Alcohol. Drinks and foods containing alcohol can cause serious problems in pets, including vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, coma, and death.
  2. Bread dough containing yeast. Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to build up in your cat’s digestive system. This can lead to stomach bloating and even twisting, which is a potentially fatal condition. Moreover, yeast produces alcohol as a byproduct, which has its own set of problems (see above). Baked bread, however, is considered safe for healthy cats.
  3. Chocolate.Chocolate contains substances called methylxanthines (specifically, theobromine and caffeine) that are toxic to pets and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and death. The concentration of methylxanthines varies among different types of chocolate. Cocoa powder is the most dangerous, while white chocolate is the least.
  4. Coffee. Like chocolate, coffee contains the methylxanthine caffeine and can thus have the same effects listed above.
  5. Citrus fruits. Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, clementines, and grapefruits contain citric acid and essential oils that can cause problems in cats. The stems, leaves, peels, fruit, and seeds should all be avoided. While small amounts will likely cause only an upset stomach, large amounts can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and central nervous system depression.
  6. Coconut flesh and coconut water. Fresh coconut milk and flesh can cause digestive issues in pets, though small amounts aren’t likely to cause serious harm. Coconut water is too high in potassium to be safe for pets, though coconut oil might be helpful for some cat skin issues. Talk to your vet before using this as a holistic remedy or including it in your cat’s diet.
  7. Dairy. Feeding your cat dairy products can cause digestive problems, since many cats are lactose intolerant and can’t process dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt) appropriately. The safest approach is to avoid them altogether, but you can ask your vet if a lactose-free alternative is an acceptable treat.
  8. Grapes and raisins. While the exact reason why these are poisonous to pets remains unknown, there’s evidence that feeding cats (and dogs!) grapes and raisins can lead to kidney failure.
  9. Nuts. Macadamia nuts are toxic to pets, and like grapes, the exact mechanism of toxicity is unknown. Other types of nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, are rich in oils and fats that can cause digestive upset and potentially even pancreatitis in cats.
  10. Raw eggs.Raw eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Signs of infection include vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Raw eggs also contain avidin, an enzyme that hinders cats from absorbing biotin, a vitamin that’s important for skin and fur health.
  11. Raw or undercooked meat. Similar to raw eggs, raw or undercooked meat can be contaminated with Salmonella and E. coli bacteria. The Clinical Nutrition Service says that it often sees gastrointestinal signs (typically diarrhea) in pets consuming raw meat-based diets.
  12. Raw fish. Like raw meat and eggs, raw fish can carry bacteria that cause food poisoning.
  13. Salt. In large amounts, salt and salty foods can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and death in pets.
  14. Some vegetables and herbs. Though cats can eat some vegetables, onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, shallots, and chives are particularly harmful to cats, causing gastrointestinal problems and even damage to red blood cells. Foods containing these vegetables and herbs, such as garlic bread, should be avoided, as well.
  15. Xylitol. Xylitol is a common sweetener in packaged goods like gum and candy that can lead to vomiting, lethargy, and liver failure in pets.

What Should You Do if Your Cat Eats Something Toxic?

If you know or suspect that your cat has eaten a food item from the toxic list, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 as soon as possible. You don’t need to wait until your cat shows any signs of illness to seek help. The sooner you address any problems or potential problems, the better.

Thankfully, the Clinical Nutrition Service says that it rarely sees cats with food-related toxicosis. It’s typically more of a problem with dogs, who are more adventurous and undiscriminating with regards to what they eat. And just like your cat, who is more than likely apprehensive about trying new foods, it also pays for you to be picky in what you feed them. Before making any changes to your cat’s diet, talk to your veterinarian about which ingredients are safe, and what amounts are OK for your cat to try. No question (or treat) is too small for you to discuss.

22 Household Items That Can Poison Your Cat

One of the most enjoyable traits of cats is their curiosity. They love to explore and investigate, poking their cute little noses into things at every turn. And while the old saying “curiosity killed the cat” is usually used to warn people to mind their own business, a cat’s curiosity can be life-threatening.

Naturally nosy kitties are exposed to many things that are toxic at home. Contact with poisons is commonly by mouth, but some things are absorbed through their skin or, once on their fur, ingested through grooming. Cats are especially at risk, because they lack some of the built-in protections other species have, such as glucuronyl transferase, an important liver enzyme.

Pet poisoning is almost always preventable. Cat proofing your home is just as important as baby proofing – they’re exploring and they don’t know any better. It’s our job to help keep them safe.

Common Poisoning Risks for Cats

1 – Houseplants

Like baking bread and the rush on puzzles, houseplants became a hot new trend during the 2020 quarantine. If you’re one of the huge number of people who embraced plant parenthood, or if you’ve always had a green thumb, it’s important to know which plants are poisonous. This list from the ASPCA can help you ensure the plants you’ve chosen are safe for your kitties. Ingesting even a small amount of some plants may be fatal.

With some plants, your cat doesn’t necessarily have to chew or lick the plant itself. Plants like Easter (and other) lilies have pollen that is easily transferred to your cat’s fur, which they then lick off.

2 – Cleaning Products

Never allow a cat access to cleaning agents. This includes storing them where your kitty cannot access them, never leaving your cat unattended while you are using the products, and being sure to clean up any spills or residue. Some have ingredients that can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, while others are corrosive and can cause chemical burns in your cat’s mouth, esophagus and stomach. Always follow the label of any product you use and properly dispose of dirty washing liquid or excess product.

3 – Medication

Never give any medication unless you have been directed to do so by your veterinarian. Many that are used safely in humans can be deadly to your cat. Even a tiny amount of acetaminophen can kill a cat. Don’t let your cat lick or contact any of your skin that you treat with medicated creams and ointments. Makeup and cosmetics can make your cat sick as well.

4 – Flea Treatments

Before using flea products on your cat or in your household, talk to your veterinarian about what types they recommend. Always follow label instructions. Anything labelled “for use in dogs only” should NEVER be given or applied to cats.

5 – Chocolate

We know it can be hard to resist that adorable face when they’re trying to figure out if the snack you have is yummy, but never share chocolate treats with your cat and never leave chocolate unattended. One half ounce (14g) of baking chocolate per pound body weight or less can be toxic.

6 – Grapes and Raisins

While most cats aren’t interested in eating grapes or raisins, some find the stems interesting or like to chase them on the floor, which can lead to ingestion. Grapes and raisins can cause acute kidney failure in cats (and dogs) and should be kept out of reach.

7 – Pest Control Products

Most people only want to live with the pets they’ve chosen – and we don’t blame you. However, if you need to use rat or mouse baits, ant or roach traps, or snail and slug baits, place them in areas that are inaccessible to your cat.

8 – Cannabis

Similar to cigarette smoke, cats should not be exposed to smoke from cannabis use. Any cannabis products (dried or in edible forms) can cause toxicity in cats, and should be safely stored to prevent your cat from eating them.

9 – Nicotine

Ingesting nicotine is toxic to cats, especially in the highly-concentrated liquid form used in e-cigarettes and vape pens. Also, cats inhaling smoke have a 3.2 times greater risk for developing malignant lymphoma. Ask your friends to smoke or vape outside, and keep your supplies out of reach of your kitty.

Other Common Items

Many other common household items can be lethal. These include:

  • Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)
  • Pennies (zinc)
  • Mothballs (naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene)
  • Potpourri
  • Essential oils
  • Fabric softener sheets
  • Dishwasher and laundry detergents
  • Batteries (acids or alkali)
  • Home-made playdough (salt)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Alcoholic drinks

Signs of Poisoning in Cats

While you may catch your cat in the act of licking or eating the items above, or find evidence that they have (for example, high-risk items that have been spilled or knocked over or staining on your cat’s paws, coat, or face), you might not always know that your cat has been poisoned. Indoor cats may not always make a mess or leave a trail, and cats who venture outdoors can come into a variety of substances in your neighbourhood. It’s important to understand the signs of poisoning in your cat so you can get them help.

Changes in how kitty is acting (energy, appetite, drinking, urinating, defecating, etc.) are non-specific signs of illness that may be a result of poisoning or other problems. However, there are some signs that should alert you to a serious problem. They include:

  • Sudden, intense vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy or collapse
  • Drooling
  • Ulcers on the tongue, skin, or paw pads
  • Pale inner cheeks or gums
  • Difficulty breathing

Whether you witness your cat actually ingesting poisonous substances, or your cat begins to display signs of possible poisoning, it’s important to take your cat to an emergency clinic or your veterinarian’s office right away. Before you leave, rinse off anything on their fur with body temperature water. Do not try to make them throw up unless the veterinarian tells you to. Ensure they are secured in a pet carrier, and drive safely.

Keeping our curious companions safe and healthy can be challenging, especially if you have very determined kitties in your life. But of course, the extra effort is more than worth it. Every cat owner wants as many years of cute cuddles and pounce-filled playtimes as possible!

This article was written by feline specialist Dr. Margie Scherk DVM, DABVP.

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