Accidental Ways to Harm or Kill your Cat

Hazards for Cats
Hazards for Cats
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Note: I don’t want to find out that people who dislike cats are using this page for ideas on how to kill cats. This page is to warn cat owners about the hazards that might endanger a cat companion.

This is a follow-up article to one I did on accidental ways to kill a cat, which PoC published Christmas 2011. At the time, I thought I knew of all the ways a cat caretaker could accidentally kill a cat. We all know the dangers of certain foods, plants and of course, antifreeze.

A full list of articles on ‘dangers to cats’ can be found by clicking this link. You might be surprised at the number of ways a cat can be harmed inadvertently in and around the home.

In that first article, I had intended to expand on other household dangers, but the biggest benefit came from the readers who commented on that article. We all learned to be careful doing laundry because cats like to climb inside the clothes dryer. We learned the danger of cats getting trapped inside the refrigerator or being killed by a reclining chair mechanism. Indoors or out, the world can be a dangerous place for your cat.

Unfortunately, “curiosity killed the cat” is a very accurate phrase, and has left many owners to suffer unimaginable guilt after inadvertently allowing the family cat to get into something lethal. Here are some of the modern dangers cats face, both inside and outside the home. After reading these, please feel free to list any other dangers you’ve experienced or read about that cat owners should know to keep their cat safe.


Mothballs have been around for ages, and I always associated them with the pungent odor they gave off whenever I’d open my elderly grandmothers closet. Originally invented to prevent “moths” from eating through precious fabrics, mothballs also became known as a deterrent to snakes. For this reason, many people use it in their gardens and under their homes.

The danger comes when either your outdoor cat finds one of the balls and decides to toss it around like a toy, or if your cat actually eats the mothball. I learned just how deadly they were back in the late 1980’s when I lost four cats to mothball poisoning in one week. They died after drinking from a puddle where the mothballs placed under a neighbors home dissolved. The neighbors had placed the mothballs there to keep snakes away from the home, as we lived in a wooded area.

Tom and Booger, two community cats I cared for, were found dead in my yard. About the same time, my indoor/outdoor cats Scrappy and Whiskers became seriously ill. The vet misdiagnosed them when I rushed them in for emergency treatment, but they likely would have died anyway, because you must act within an hour to prevent death.

Mothballs contain the chemicals: naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Napthalene can cause: headaches, restlessness, methemoglobinemia, hyperkalemia, fever, anemia, lethargy, vomiting, anorexia, hemolysis, acute renal failure, seizures, and coma. Paradichlorobenzene is linked to kidney and liver disease 1. Moth ball poisoning in cats and dogs causes: vomiting, seizures and possibly smell of moth balls on breath. Increased heart rate. Liver inflammation (possible) and lethargy. Anemia, liver disease. Gastric lavage should be administered if within 30-60 mins of ingestion.

To be safe, don’t use mothballs in your home, and warn your neighbors of how deadly these can be. Note: regrettably, there are some people who I suspect put them down deliberately. Cat guardians might wish to be vigilant on this.


You wouldn’t expect something as beautiful as a snow globe to be deadly. Let’s face it, many of us have an addiction to snow globes, and they rank high among collectibles. The danger comes when a snow globe leaks or gets broken. According to an article by

“Decorative snow globes also contain 2% antifreeze — enough to be toxic should the snow globe shatter and leak.”

The general rule on snow globes is to keep them safe from curious paws inside a curio or other such enclosed cabinet. Do not leave these potentially deadly collectibles exposed on a shelf, where a cat may jump up and send a globe crashing to the floor. Since antifreeze is sweet and attractive to cats, we must also assume the liquid inside the globe would be just as appealing. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can kill a cat.

My two cats broke a snowglobe and both died within days from ethylene glycol (antifreeze) poisoning


Reed diffusers are sticks inserted into a liquid used to make a room smell good. In other words, it would likely cover any lingering cat odors. Cinnamon is a popular choice for use in reed diffusers. It gives your home a baked-cookie-feel-good atmosphere. The danger of cinnamon comes in the form of cinnamaldehyde, which gives cinnamon its flavor and odor. If you Google the term, you’ll find plenty of information on this seemingly innocent natural deodorizer. Cinnamaldehyde is also used as a fungicide. One bit of advice I found helpful came from the I Love Dogs forum and stated

“As far as other non-cinnamon scents, many oils, synthetic and essentials are very skin safe, but you need to know what the base oils are in the reed kits.”

For those who enjoy the aroma of cinnamon, there are many homemade recipes on how to make a safe product to use in a diffuser. Be sure that whatever your scent of choice, you do your homework and know what oils you’re dealing with.


You wouldn’t think hormone creams would pose a danger to your cat. After all, cats don’t make it a habit of chewing up prescription tubes as a dog would. As it turns out, if you have a cat and are using hormone cream, the danger comes from your cat rubbing up against your inner arm, where most women apply the cream. Your cat will get small amounts of the cream transferred either by licking or rubbing against you, then ingesting it internally through normal grooming.

Symptoms of hormonal poisoning in female cats mimic heat. Engorged genitals, bloody discharge and behavioral issues. Many cat owners have taken their spayed cats back to the veterinarian and at first everyone was stumped. A few cats underwent additional needless surgery by uninformed veterinarians to ensure the spaying was done properly. Many male cats were seen with engorged breasts and hair loss.

Anemia and diarrhea are the most immediate reactions when a cat is exposed to hormone cream. Cats can recover from the initial symptoms, but the long term effects are unknown. Problems may include aplastic anemia, mammary tumors and a higher percentage of developing breast cancer.


Using the wrong treatment or giving too much of the right one can harm and even kill a cat. I believe this is not uncommon. Flea treatments are very widely used in dogs and cats. Many people care for dogs and cats which presents a hazard because the treatments are not interchangeable.


Warnings on the above products aren’t just to protect your cat from injury or death. The same holds true with small children. Toddlers are hand-to-mouth with anything new they find. Ingesting mothballs can be just as toxic for a child as for a cat. Reed diffusers can cause chemical burns that may take several days to show up after coming in contact with diffuser oils. And women who hold their children or grandchildren after using hormone cream should make sure the application spot isn’t rubbing up against the child, and be sure to wash your hands after applying the cream.

Readers, do any of you have any dangerous cat situations we need to be made aware of? Please leave a comment. You may be saving the life of a precious cat by warning others.

Note 1: (source:

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