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How concerned should I be with these *toxic* items for cats?

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Joined: 1 month ago
Posts: 3
03/03/2024 12:16 am
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Over the past year I've come to learn how many common household items are either toxic or not good for cats. I'd love some more insight into whether there are real concerns surrounding things like Onions, Garlic, Onion/Garlic Powder, Lemons, Mint, or even things that contain oils such as Lavender. I live in a household with people who aren't always so great at cleaning up after themselves and/or being aware of their surroundings, and in turn have become a bit worried one of the above (or other items) could be left to be later found, eaten, or stepped on and accidentally ingested by my cat. I'd just love some light shined onto if these are real concerns, or if I have no real worry. Thank you!

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29/03/2024 11:37 am

Posted by: @jaketaylor

Over the past year I've come to learn how many common household items are either toxic or not good for cats. I'd love some more insight into whether there are real concerns surrounding things like Onions, Garlic, Onion/Garlic Powder, Lemons, Mint, or even things that contain oils such as Lavender. I live in a household with people who aren't always so great at cleaning up after themselves and/or being aware of their surroundings, and in turn have become a bit worried one of the above (or other items) could be left to be later found, eaten, or stepped on and accidentally ingested by my cat. I'd just love some light shined onto if these are real concerns, or if I have no real worry. Thank you!

  1. Onions and Garlic: Both onions and garlic can be toxic to cats. They contain compounds that can damage red blood cells and lead to anemia if ingested in sufficient quantities. It's best to keep these items out of reach of your cat and ensure they're not included in their food.

  2. Onion/Garlic Powder: These powdered forms of onions and garlic can be even more concentrated and thus pose a greater risk to cats if ingested. It's advisable to avoid using these seasonings altogether in areas accessible to your cat.

  3. Lemons: While lemons themselves are not toxic to cats, the essential oils and psoralens found in lemon peels and seeds can be harmful if ingested. It's best to keep lemons and any lemon-containing products away from your cat.

  4. Mint: Most varieties of mint are safe for cats in small amounts and can even be found in some cat toys or treats. However, large quantities of mint or certain varieties may cause gastrointestinal upset in cats. It's generally considered safe in moderation, but keep an eye on your cat's reaction if they come into contact with mint.

  5. Oils such as Lavender: Essential oils, including lavender oil, can be toxic to cats if ingested or applied topically. Cats lack certain enzymes in their liver that help metabolize these oils, leading to potential toxicity. It's crucial to store essential oils securely and keep them away from your cat.

 

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Joined: 3 years ago
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22/03/2024 2:11 am

Hi Jake,

The reality is that with many of these items, the concentration and dose defines the toxin. But cats are also the most susceptible to toxic effects compared to dogs, both because of their small size, and because of some metabolism differences. \

For garlic and onions, if a cat gets into a small amount that’s been added to food, it is very unlikely anything bad will happen. For onions specifically, 5g/kg will cause red blood cell toxicity in a cat. A cat would need to eat a little over ¼ of a small onion for toxicity. DVM360 has a case study of a cat that ingested 3 tablespoons of onion mixed with butter and developed toxicity. 

For garlic, we know that it is about 5 times more toxic to pets than onions. Less than ½ teaspoon (a little less than a clove) of garlic can be toxic. 

Garlic and onion powder you have to be even more careful with because it is very concentrated compared to actual onions and garlic, that have some moisture to them. I worry a lot more about onion/garlic powder ingestion.

Citrus like lemons will take a lot to cause significant toxicity. Digestive upset may occur with smaller amounts. The same might be said for mint and lavender. If a cat actually nibbles the plants, mild digestive upset may occur, but effects are likely limited to that. 

The real concern is when these are concentrated into essential oil diffusers in the home. The concentrated forms of these in oils or diffusers can be extremely toxic and must be closely monitored. I advise clients not to use them at all in homes with cats since they are such a high risk. 

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23/03/2024 1:46 am
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@chris-vanderhoof Can I follow up this explanation with another question? If all of these items are at some level toxic, how is it that they remain such common household items that for the most part no one takes extra actions and steps to keep them from accidentally being transferred, stepped on, or digested by cats, or pets in general? I think to people I know with cats, and not a single one does anything to 'prevent' these items from being consumed or given to their cats... and yet an issue never arises. I guess what I'm asking is, with them being a concern, why does it feel like no one has to take any precautions and ends up with no issues? (For the general most part).

I know they're bad, but I feel like I never actually see consequences caused by them, and it leaves me confused.

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Joined: 3 years ago
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24/03/2024 2:30 am

@jaketaylor, I think it boils down to while things may be toxic, what is the likelihood that a cat will actually ingest the things you listed? I don't personally think a cat finds anything appealing about garlic or onions. But in the link I shared with you, why do you think the cat ingested the 3 tablespoons of onions? Was it the onions or the butter they were mixed with? I'd bet on the butter and the onions just happened to be mixed in. I've never known my own cats to have much interest in citrus either. But the reason we harp on these things is because animals are unpredictable and so are outcomes. A cat might not eat a garlic clove but mix some garlic with butter and leave it on the counter and now you might have a problem.

Now, essential oils actually do cause a consistent problem as I have seen some cat patients myself who have developed toxicity due to either ingestion (usually from licking oil off of themselves) or from inhalation. 

Vets also see hundreds of patients a year and so while you may not have encountered anyone who has had a problem with one of these things, that doesn't mean such concerns don't occur. 

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Joined: 1 month ago
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25/03/2024 2:04 am
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@chris-vanderhoof I appreciate all of the insight and knowledge you've shared. The original reason I made this post was because I myself had started to develop OCD like symptoms, most of which surrounded the items I'd listed above and a fear of contaminating things my cat would eat or come in contact with, including myself. Is there any sort of info or advice you could give that might give some relief to such worries, I know that's quite a lot to ask with such limited info, but I would appreciate anything at all. I'm just on the long path of getting myself to go about life like a normal person again, not having to take extra precautions or avoid things that I never used to simply because they could/can be toxic to my cat.

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