March is Pet Poison Prevention Month, and you may be hearing a lot of warnings about plants and other items that are poisonous to your cat. Chances are you probably already know about a lot of them. It is pretty common knowledge that plants such as lilies (most bulb plants, in fact), mistletoe, oleander and cyclamen are toxic to kitties. (For a full list, you can check out the ASPCA’s website.) And it’s common sense to keep cats far away from household items and food such as tobacco, aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), chocolate, onions and garlic, and antifreeze. So I’m not going to write about them today.
What I am going tell you about are household items that don’t immediately come to mind as toxic to cats, but are. They are items you may be using in your house, or on yourself, completely unaware that they may be wreaking havoc on your cat’s health. A couple of them are really dangerous. I know my human was shocked when she read about them.
This isn’t a complete list, of course, but I hope it is helpful.
- Medicinal Creams. Whether you are trying to stop itching, relieve muscle soreness or cure a nail fungus, you do not want to touch your cat after rubbing one of these creams on your skin. The medicine in these creams can make your cat very ill, and it’s really easy to get it on her fur, which she will ingest the next time she grooms.
- Products Containing Zinc. My human never holds me in her arms right after applying her sunscreen, which contains zinc oxide. She cleans her hands off before putting me in the carrier for our outings. But zinc is in a lot more things than just sunscreen (and yes, there are pet safe sunscreens). It’s in diaper rash creams, many cold remedies, and of course in pennies. (Dogs are more likely to eat pennies than cats, but in any case, pennies are extremely toxic for either of us.) Most of these topical creams can potentially give your cat a stomach upset, but especially beware of prescribed creams with zinc, such as skin cancer or psoriasis treatments. Those can be extremely harmful.
- Minoxidil, or Rogaine. Did you know this hair regrowth treatment can kill your cat? If ingested, it can damage our hearts and cause cardiac failure! If you have a cat who loves to lick your hair or sleep on your pillow, never, ever use this application in any form. My human says she would rather go bald and have to wear a wig than put me at risk.
- Hair Mousse. Here is another hair product to keep away from your cat. Anything with ingredients like aluminum sulfate, hydrochloric acid or acetic acid can make your cat develop oral ulcers, nervous system issues and a host of other problems, if she ingests it. Always read the ingredients of any skin or hair product you use, and don’t let your cat lick it once you’ve applied it.
- Peppermint Essential Oil. One of the treatments my human tried for congestion when she was sick was putting a few drops of peppermint essential oil into lotion and rubbing it on her chest. It worked great — but there was no way she could let me near her! That’s because this essential oil — and several others, including wintergreen, ylang ylang, and tea tree oil — are toxic to cats. So when you are using an essential oil, check to see if it is safe around your cats.
- Mothballs. They are toxic to us kitties. I have seen a recommended use to keep stray cats out of gardens, but I think it is a potentially cruel solution. It’s better to scatter citrus peels — cats hate the smell, and it won’t harm them.
Not all of these items will kill your cat right away, but they could make her sick over a period of time. Some, like minoxidil, can affect a cat over just a few days. Keep track of any potentially toxic items in your house, and if your cat shows signs of being ill — lethargy, vomiting, shaking, or any other signs that something isn’t right — take her to the vet immediately. Try to discern anything toxic she may have ingested so the vet can give the proper treatment.
I hope I haven’t scared you too much! Just be cautious and careful around your kitties, and be safe always.