My cat has eaten something harmful


  • Keep anything that could be poisonous or cause a gut blockage in cats safely out of their reach.
  • Contact your vet straight away if your cat has eaten something they shouldn’t have.
  • Don’t try to make your cat sick at home unless your vet tells you to do so.
  • Treatment will depend on what your cat has eaten.

Toxins and poisons

There are many items found around the home and garden that can be poisonous to cats, causing serious illnesses and even death. These are toxic if eaten, and cats who get these products on their fur or feet may eat the toxins when they groom themselves. Household toxins include:

  • Antifreeze
  • Plants and flowers (especially lilies)
  • Medicines (especially paracetamol)
  • Permethrin (a type of flea treatment for dogs)
  • Foods (e.g. chocolate, onions and grapes)
  • Cleaning products
  • Garden chemicals
  • Essential oils (these can also be toxic when breathed in through a diffuser)

Blockage risks

Cats don’t often eat something they shouldn’t, but might accidentally swallow items, especially if they have been playing with them.  Common examples include string, elastic bands, tinsel, and thread attached to sewing needles. These items can cause blockages in the gut which can lead to serious illness and even death.



Symptoms might not appear straight away, so contact your vet as soon as possible if you think your cat has eaten something they shouldn’t. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Depending on what your cat has eaten, symptoms might include:


Should I try to make my cat vomit?

Never try to make your cat vomit unless your vet specifically tells you to do so. If your cat has swallowed something harmful, your vet may give them an injection to try and make them sick but they will only do this if they are confident that it’s safe to do so.



Treatment will depend on what your cat has eaten, but might include:

  • An injection to make them sick (given by your vet — never try to make your cat vomit unless your vet specifically tells you to)
  • Activated charcoal in a meal (this helps absorb any remaining toxins and gas)
  • An overnight stay on a fluid drip
  • Blood tests
  • Any medicines that may help reduce the effects of the substance they’ve eaten
  • X-rays
  • An ultrasound scan of their tummy
  • An emergency operation



Potentially poisonous products and foods should be kept shut away where your cat can’t reach them. Never give your cat any medication unless your vet tells you to, and make sure that you only use flea treatments that are suitable for cats. Check our pages on poisonous plants and flowers to see which ones you should avoid having in your house and garden.

Don’t allow your cat to play with items small enough for them to swallow and keep things such as thread, wool, string, hair bobbles, and Christmas decorations out of reach. Keep an eye on your cat’s toys to make sure nothing is coming loose that your cat might accidentally swallow.


When to contact your vet

Acting fast could save your cat's life. Contact your vet immediately for advice if you think your cat may have eaten something harmful. Never wait to see if a problem develops — your cat could become very ill or even die without treatment.

You know your cat best, even if you’re not quite sure whether they have eaten something harmful, if you’re concerned it’s always best to contact your vet.

Published: June 2023

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.