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Black cat sitting on the kitchen counter.

Cat care: Common dangers on the counter

As cat owners, we all want to provide a safe and healthy environment for our pets. Yet even the most thorough cat-proofing can leave behind some everyday household items that pose significant health risks to our feline friends. In this blog, we’ll look at common household hazards to cats and some simple ways you can keep these items out of paw’s reach.

Human Medications

Cats are curious by nature, and a pill bottle—whether prescription or over-the-counter medication—is often too great a temptation to resist. If containers are not properly sealed, innocent feline play can turn into a life-threatening toxic exposure. The ASPCA receives tens of thousands of calls annually from owners whose cats have ingested human medications. The easiest preventive measure is to store all medications in properly sealed containers and keep them out of the reach of curious cats.

Human Foods

Some human foods that we take for granted as safe are actually toxic to cats: Grapes, raisins, and avocados, for example, are poisonous if ingested by felines. As with dogs, chocolate is a major “don’t” for cats as well. The naturally occurring methylxanthines (like caffeine) contained in chocolate can cause gastrointestinal distress (vomiting and diarrhea), and in more severe exposures, may result in arrhythmia, tremors, and seizures in cats. So keep the bonbons out of reach and toss the wrappers (a tempting play item for cats) safely in the trash. 

Cleansers

While not as attractive to cats as some other household hazards mentioned here, exposure to cleaning products should be avoided. Many can cause severe gastrointestinal and respiratory irritation in cats—and remember that cats groom themselves by licking—so a cat that walks on a freshly mopped or waxed floor is likely to carry some of the toxins on its paws and may ingest them the next time it grooms itself. Your best bet is to secure all cleaning products and to isolate your cats from rooms where these products are in use.

Rodenticides and Insecticides

Chemicals designed to kill household pests can harm pets as well. Many of the inactive ingredients in common rat and mouse baits are tempting to cats, and exposure to even small amounts can result in internal bleeding, kidney damage, and seizures. If your cat is a mouser, avoid using these sorts of bait traps altogether—a cat that eats a poisoned mouse will ingest the toxins too. Insecticides can harm cats too. Garden insecticides should always be kept in a secure cabinet or shelf inaccessible to pets. Even the flea and tick products we use to keep our felines parasite-free can be harmful if used in the wrong dose. It’s recommended that you check with your veterinarian before beginning a flea or tick program. 

Miscellaneous Household Items: Rubber Bands, Tinsel, Dental Floss

Gastrointestinal blockages from threadlike objects ingested by cats can be extremely dangerous. As the natural motility of the intestine is to attempt to pass the foreign object, it can collapse portions of the bowel like a squeezebox. This is a life-threatening condition that requires surgical intervention by a veterinarian. Special care should be taken around the holidays, as tinsel and other decorations are coated with metal-based chemicals that can be very toxic to both cats and dogs. 

These tips should help you keep your feline friends out of harm’s way and provide them with a safe, fun, and healthy environment.


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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