What Human Medications Can I Give My Cat?

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You may have a medicine chest filled with over-the-counter medications that you call on once in a while to help you with a headache or a stuffy nose. There are many human medications you should not give your cat because they are dangerous. Always consult a vet before giving your medicine to your cat.


Human Medications Useful for Cats

Your cat may have a medical condition that can be treated with over-the-counter medication picked up at your local drugstore. Some of the human medications veterinarians occasionally recommend for cats include:

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  • Famotidine, Ranitidine, Cimetidine to relieve gastric acid
  • Loperamide, or Imodium, used for diarrhea
  • Diphenhydramine, or Benadryl, for allergic reactions
  • Hydrocortisone, for skin itching
  • Dimenhydrinate, or Dramamine, for motion sickness
  • Glucosamine, for joint pain


Additionally, antibiotic ointments can promote healing in minor wounds and antibacterial soap is useful for cleaning a superficial wound. Saline and pediatric nasal sprays may help with nasal congestion, however no other human nasal sprays should be used on your cat without a vet's prescription.


Though some human medication is safe for cats, never use it without a vet's direction to ensure your cat's safety.

Human Medications to Avoid

Though people and cats share similar organs and body parts, your cat's body processes things differently than yours does, which is why you can ingest some things she can't. For example, cats aren't able to properly metabolize acetaminophen because they lack the necessary proteins, meaning Tylenol and other acetaminophen products are extremely dangerous for them. Other dangerous over-the-counter human medications include:


  • Ibuprofen
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Aspirin
  • Kaopectate


Pet Poison Helpline puts nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDs, at the top of its list of Top 10 Poisonous Human Medications to Pets. NSAIDs include Naproxen, such as Aleve, ibuprofen, such as Advil and Motrin, and acetaminophen, or Tylenol.

Other Potentially Harmful Human Medication

Many prescription human medication is off-limits unless used as prescribed by a veterinarian. Prescription medication to avoid includes:

  • Antidepressants, such as Prozac, Lexapro and Cymbalta
  • Attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall
  • Sleep aids and benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Lunesta and Ambien
  • Cholesterol medication, such as Crestor and Lipitor
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme, or ACE, inhibitors, such as Altace
  • Beta-blockers, such as Toprol
  • Thyroid hormones, such as Synthroid
  • Birth control, such as estrogen


Keeping Your Cat Safe

Cats are sometimes compared to toddlers because they are busy, curious little creatures. Pill bottles are enticing to play with because they roll and make noise when batted about by a playful cat. If you haven't child-proofed your home, consider cat-proofing it and keeping all medication -- prescription or not -- out of your cat's grasp, tucked away in a cabinet she can't access. If you have guests, warn them to keep their medication packed away as well, and if you carry medication in a purse, keep it secured so your nosy cat won't discover it.


If your cat takes medication of her own, don't store it with yours because it's easy to mix up medication; it's not unusual for a pet owner to give human medication to a cat by mistake because the pill bottles were confused.


If your cat ingests human medication, call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline hotline at 855-764-7661 immediately.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.