10 Common Household Hazards for Cats

Hanie Elfenbein, DVM
By Hanie Elfenbein, DVM on Nov. 2, 2017

10 Common Household Hazards for Cats

Curious cats will play with anything. If you dropped it, chances are they will find it and think it’s the greatest toy ever. Usually, that’s really entertaining to watch—as long as they don’t eat it. 

Luckily, cats are pickier than dogs about the things they swallow. But, that doesn’t mean they won’t chew on something dangerous. From electrical cords to rubber bands to plants, there are hazards lurking all over your house. In general, keep all potentially dangerous items out of your cat’s reach, and safely store lotions, soaps, cleaners, and chemicals. If you think your cat has swallowed a non-food item, call your veterinarian immediately.

Here are 10 common household hazards for cats, as well as steps you can take to keep your cat safe. 

Table Foods

Everyone knows about the dangers of chocolate for pets, but there are other common foods that can be dangerous to cats. Grapes, raisins, onions, and garlic can all make your cat sick. Fortunately, cats rarely find these foods appetizing. However, if a grape falls on the floor, it’s best to pick it up rather than let your cat play with it. 


Meat bones may seem like a delicacy for cats, but they can get stuck in your cat’s mouth, throat, or intestines. Cooked bones can bend, while raw or partially cooked bones can break. Broken bones can cut into the esophagus or intestines, and big pieces can get stuck. In both cases, your cat will get very sick and may require hospitalization or even surgery. 

Rubber Bands and Bag Ties

Rubber bands and bag ties may look like toys to cats, but they can cause serious damage to the intestines if swallowed.

Toxic Plants

Flowers beautify a room. Unfortunately, many common flowers and houseplants are poisonous to cats. Curious cats like to chew on leaves, and by doing so, they can ingest toxins. Cats can die of kidney failure if they eat any part of the lily plant, and leaves from the sago palm can cause severe damage to the liver. Morning glory seeds can cause hallucinations when ingested, while wandering jew can cause a rash. Yesterday, today, tomorrow plants flower beautifully but contain a neurotoxin and can be deadly to cats. This is by no means an exhaustive list of plants that can be hazardous to cats; these are just some of the more popular ones. Before you bring a plant into the house, do your own research to make sure your cat is safe.

Liquid Potpourri

Liquid potpourri can be used as a substitute for the smell of fresh flowers, but it’s also a hazard to cats. When ingested, liquid potpourri can damage the esophagus. 

Electrical Cords

Electrical cords are a hazard in every room of the house. Cats, especially kittens, find them irresistible to chew on. Cats can be electrocuted if they chew through the outer protective coating while the electronic is plugged in. Use cord keepers to cover power cords or otherwise store all loose cords to make it less enticing for your cat. 

Dental Floss and Hair Ties

The bathroom contains many hazards for cats. Just like rubber bands and bag ties, dental floss and hair ties can cause deadly intestinal obstructions. 

Household Medications

Many common medications are hazardous to cats. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are highly toxic to cats. Weight loss supplements often contain high levels of caffeine and related compounds that can cause seizures, heart problems, and difficulty breathing.

In general, all household supplements and medications should be stored in cat-proof cabinets or drawers. Doses of medication that help you function at your best may cause serious harm to your cat. If you think your cat ingested anything from the medicine cabinet, immediately bring her and the suspect bottle to your veterinarian.

*Important note: Veterinarians do not care whose name is on the prescription bottle. They will not judge you, and they will not report you. They only care about saving your cat. 

Lotions and Sprays

Sunscreens containing zinc oxide can be toxic to cats if ingested. Keep bottles sealed and out of reach of cats. Bug sprays, especially those containing permethrins, are also hazardous to cats. (Some flea protection for dogs should not be used around cats! Read the package insert carefully.)

Lotions and sprays that contain essential oils may also be dangerous. Even those that we apply directly onto ourselves may not be safe for cats. This includes tea tree oil and citronella. 

Cleaning Products

Concentrated cleaners can be hazardous to cats. Be sure to store cleaning products in cat-proof cabinets, and clean up any spills. If possible, keep cats away from any surfaces that you clean until they are dry. If your cat does run across the floor or counter as you clean, wipe off his paws.