black cat playing with teaser toy

Warning! Toxic to Cats: Food and Household Dangers to Keep Away from Kitty

Last updated NOVEMBER 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian Dr Teagan Lever BVSc.

Did you know that you most likely have a number of items in your house right now that are toxic to cats? Although cats are less likely than dogs to gobble up things that they shouldn't, there are still some common household items that can cause them serious harm. These can include very unassuming, common items or human food that can lead to serious health complications.

Toxic & Dangerous Foods

Onions and garlic

Similar to dogs, excessive or concentrated amounts of onion and garlic can be damaging to your cat's red blood cells, which can ultimately lead to anemia. Although they're sometimes seen in cat food, when these two ingredients eaten in large quantities your cat may suffer from lethargy, weakness, pale gums, a reduced appetite or red or orange urine.


Chocolate contains substances called methylxanthines, which can also be found in caffeinated drinks. Methylxanthines can cause a number of symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea, high body temperature, muscle tremors, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and more.

Grapes and raisins

Even small amounts of grapes or raisins are very dangerous to cats, showing symptoms such as vomiting in as little as 12 hours and eventually leading to kidney failure. The weird thing? We aren't quite sure why.


Cats simply aren't built to ingest alcohol, which can cause cause vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, breathing difficulties, coma, and even death. This also goes for any food that contains alcohol, or can cause alcohol to form in the stomach, such as raw dough.

Raw eggs and raw meat

Feeding your cat raw meat and raw eggs will run the risk of salmonella or E. coli poisoning in your cat. The symptoms are similar to those seen in humans: vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy are common. Meanwhile, raw eggs can lead to skin and coat problems due to an enzyme that they contain. For more information, take a read through our article on Raw Food Safety.

Raw bones

While dogs can benefit from chewing on a bone, the same can't be said for cats, who may choke on them or injure their digestive tract.

Milk and dairy

It's true that some cats go crazy for milk - but sadly, it's not very good for them. The lactose in milk can lead to an upset stomach and diarrhea, since cats really only drink milk while nursing from their mother and therefore have not developed to properly digest it later in life. If you really want to treat your cat to some milk, there are lactose-reduced cat and kitten milks available.


image of a pink lily

It is a little known fact that cats and lilies do not mix. The most common culprit of lily toxicity in cats are the Lilium or Hermerocallis ('Daylily') species that are commonly found in gardens and floral arrangements. Even if a cat consumes a very small amount of any part of these lilies, it could result in kidney failure or death. If you have a cat at home it is best to avoid lilies altogether to be on the safe side.

Household Disinfectants

Although our feline friends are known for their cleanliness, they do not always mix well with common household cleaners. Benzalkonium chloride is a disinfectant added to many cleaning products, if your cat licks or walks over a surface that is wet with one of these products it can result in painful ulceration of the paws or tongue. This problem can be avoided by waiting for the area treated with the product to dry before allowing your cat to have access to it. Alternatively or by using an another product that does not contain Benzalkonium chloride.


As a general rule it is you should never give human medication to your pets. Paracetamol poses an especially serious threat to cats. Unlike humans, cats do not have an enzyme involved in the breakdown of paracetamol on the body. Because of this only very small doses of paracetamol may cause irreversible liver damage or death.

Permethrin Based Flea Prevention

Some flea and tick preventatives that are perfectly safe for dogs can cause serious harm to our feline friends. Products containing permethrin, including Advantix, cause seizures, tremors, twitching, fever and even death. The first signs of toxicity are often dilated pupils and drooling. Always check the package of flea preventatives to ensure they are safe for cats before you apply them. There are plenty of safe flea prevention options for cats available.


Although our fiesty felines love to frolic with string, wool and ribbons it is important that this play is supervised. If your cat ingests a piece of string it may catch on a piece of intestine or around the base of the tongue causing a the gut to 'concertina' up on itself, resulting in a life threatening bowel obstruction. Symptoms of an obstruction include retching, vomiting, drooling, lethargy and loss of appetite. Be especially careful with your sewing kit as cats have been known to swallow needle and string all in one go.

If you suspect that your cat may have been exposed to anything poisonous or eaten something they shouldn't, the best course of action is to reach out to our Vet Squad or call your veterinarian for further advice.

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out some of our other articles:

Are Hairballs Dangerous?

10 Must Have Cat Products When You're Away from Home

How to Reduce Anxiety in Cats

Fussy Cat Feeding Tips

Keeping Indoor Cats Happy

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