March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month, so now is the time to think about keeping your four-footed babies safe around the home.

First, take a look at the houseplants that are within reach. (And what is truly out of reach for our feline friends?) Cats enjoy chewing on plants, both real and artificial. Houseplants that are poisonous to cats but commonly found indoors include azaleas, kalanchoes, aloe vera, English ivy, dieffenbachia and sago palms.

Other plants detrimental to cats that often are brought into the house include lilies, tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. A couple of bites of the flowers or a small amount of pollen ingestion can cause liver or kidney failure in a cat. This doesn't mean that you can't have houseplants or flowers. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are more than 200 other indoor species that are safe for kitties, including African violets, Boston ferns and bamboo palms. Daisies, roses, most orchids and begonias are safe as well.

Other sources of toxins are found in the kitchen. Caffeine can be harmful to cats, so be mindful of your morning coffee, tea or energy drink if it's made with a cat's favorite thing, milk. Remember that cats shouldn't drink and don't need cow's milk. The ASPCA website explains that cats do not have "significant amounts of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk. Feeding milk and milk-based products to cats can actually cause them to vomit or have diarrhea."

Other foods to keep clear of your cat include avocados, onions, garlic, raisins, chocolate, raw eggs and sushi.

Try your best to keep ashtrays and smoking-cessation products such as nicotine chewing gum or patches out of reach. Cigarette butts still contain enough nicotine to cause acute poisoning. The sweetener substitute Xylitol found in sugarless gums and mints also is attractive but toxic to cats.

Many common household cleaners used in kitchens and bathrooms are toxic. But there are nontoxic choices available such as those made by Simply Green and Seventh Generation. Homemade cleansers made with vinegar and/or baking soda also work well. If you must use cleansers that contain bleach and harsh solvents, it is best to place baby locks on storage cupboards.

Beware of glues, especially Gorilla Glue, that expand when ingested. Store medications such as Tylenol and Advil (or any acetaminophens and ibuprofen products) can be dangerous to cats, as can antidepressants such as Prozac and Effexor, the latter containing an odor and flavor seemingly appealing to cats.

If you know or suspect that your cat has ingested a poisonous plant, food or household cleanser, call your veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately to ask if you should induce vomiting before taking them to the hospital. You also can call for help 24/7 at the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 or find fast, reliable help online at The Pet Poison Helpline also offers a smartphone app that contains safety tips.


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