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Common Foods & Plants Poisonous to Cats

Updated on December 8, 2010

It often surprises people how many common household foods and plants are poisonous to cats. Every responsible cat owner should familiarize themselves with a basic list of items that are toxic to their pets. Even something as innocent as a common houseplant could kill your cat. 

This hub includes a list of common foods and plants that are poisonous to cats. It also includes instructions for home care in case of a pet poisoning emergency. 

Photo by cobalt123 on Flickr
Photo by cobalt123 on Flickr

Foods Poisonous to Cats

Foods your cat should never eat:

  • Onions, garlic, and related root vegetables - They contain a substance that damages red blood cells.
  • Green tomatoes, green (raw) potatoes - Can cause violent gastrointestinal symptoms. Leaves and stems are particularly toxic.
  • Chocolate - Chocolate is toxic in relatively small amounts, and can lead to death in larger amounts. Symptoms include vomiting, trembling, muscle spasms, seizures, increased thirst and urination.
  • Grapes and raisins - Although these are mainly toxic for dogs, the ASPCA advises that "there are still many unknowns with the toxic potential of grapes and raisins." They recommend that grapes and raisins should not be fed to any pet, in any amount.
  • Milk - Not deadly, but causes stomach upset.
  • Mushrooms - Can contain toxins that affect multiple systems in the body.
  • Apple seeds & apricot pits
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Anything containing caffeine (incl. coffee and tea)
  • Tobacco

From HSUS and Pet Education

Easter Lilies are highly toxic to cats. Photo by mocheeks on Flickr.
Easter Lilies are highly toxic to cats. Photo by mocheeks on Flickr.

Plants Poisonous to Cats

Common outdoor and houseplants that are poisonous to cats:

  • Lily - Even ingesting very small amounts of the plant can cause severe kidney damage and death.
  • Sago Palm - All parts are poisonous, but the seeds or “nuts” contain the largest amount of toxin. Ingesting just one or two seeds can result in very serious effects, including vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and liver failure.
  • Tulip/Narcissus bulbs - The bulb contains toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.
  • Azalea/Rhododendron - 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.
  • Oleander - All parts are toxic and can have serious effects, such as gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia and even death.
  • Castor Bean - Can lead to abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. Severe cases can result in dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma and death.
  • Cyclamen - The highest concentration of toxin is located in the root portion of the plant. Consumption can lead to gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.
  • Kalanchoe - Can produce gastrointestinal irritation and can damage the heart.
  • Yew - Causes central nervous system effects such as trembling, incoordination, and difficulty breathing. Also, gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.
  • Amaryllis - Contain toxins that can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia and tremors.
  • Autumn Crocus - Can cause oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage and bone marrow suppression.
  • Chrysanthemum - Can cause gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. High doses can lead to depression and loss of coordination.
  • English Ivy - Can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation and diarrhea.
  • Peace Lily - Oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue.
  • Pothos - A popular household plant that can cause significant mechanical irritation and swelling of the oral tissues and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Schefflera - Can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue.

From ASPCA. Check out their complete list of toxic and non-toxic plants for more information.

Lots of cats enjoy chewing and eating plants. The safest bet is to get some cat grass so they can chew all they want, without any danger to their health.

First Aid for a Poisoned Cat

  1. Call your vet or the Animal Poison Control Center to decide if immediate treatment is required. 
  2. Induce vomiting to remove the toxin from your cat's system. The safest way is to administer hydrogen peroxide (3%). Give 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds body weight. Walk the cat around and gently massage the stomach area. Vomiting should occur within 15-20 minutes. Repeat only once, if necessary. (From PetPlace) Ipecac is generally not safe for pets.
  3. Slow down the absorption of the poison. Administer activated charcoal, if you can. In this case, you can give the cat some milk because it coats the stomach and intestinal lining. (From DoctorDog

Note: I am not a vet. Follow self-care instructions at your own risk. 


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    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Excellent hub, many people are not aware of these dangers. A plant that I would avoid having around cats and dogs is the Delphinium or Aconite. This is always sold in garden centers without any warning about its toxicity and it can be deadly. Thank you

    • ManekiNeko profile image

      ManekiNeko 8 years ago from USA

      Thanks Gypsy Willow. One of our cats ate bits of a lily last week and we had the fright of our lives. He's fine now (got a few days of IV fluids and regular kidney tests at the vet) but we were really kicking ourselves for not knowing more about some of the common items that can poison cats.

    • profile image

      Ashley 8 years ago

      Hi my cat was drooling, would not eat, felt really tense, wouldn't move, and used the bathroom on himself, shortly after that he died! youthink maybe a plant killed him?, we have tulips around te house.

    • ManekiNeko profile image

      ManekiNeko 8 years ago from USA

      Ashley - I'm so sorry for your loss. It's hard to say after the fact why your cat died. Some species of tulips are poisonous to cats and the symptoms are vomiting, depression, diarrhea, and hypersalivation (drooling). Whether your cat died from eating tulips depends on how much he ate and if he had any other health conditions. I didn't list every poisonous plant here -- there are just too many. I recommend you check out the ASPCA's complete list of toxic and non-toxic plants for more information:

    • profile image

      victoria 6 years ago

      are peacock feathers ok to have around cats?

    • profile image

      franky 6 years ago

      my cat graham crackers died last night after i fed him a big bowl of raisins because he was conspitated. i wish I would have seen this sooner. its all my fault.

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