Nutrition

Poisonous Plants For Cats – Which Houseplants To Avoid

Poisonous plants to cats
Written by Amy Wallace

Plants complete the look of any home, in my opinion. They make a house feel more homely and welcoming. A touch of greenery and possibly even some flowers in the spring add the perfect finishing touch to most decor. Having a cat snoozing on a cushion is also the ideal addition for making a house into a home, but did you know that the plant and the cat may not be sympatico? Many of the plants that we love to decorate our homes with are actually poisonous plants to cats. Sometimes it’s just one part of the plant that is toxic for cats, such as the flowers or the bark, but others have cat-toxic chemicals throughout the entire plant, leaves and all. It’s usually best to just avoid the whole plant to be safe.

While some plants are irritants and will cause inflammation, like itching or swelling around the mouth or diarrhoea, others are more dangerous. Lilies, for example, are fatal to cats even if they receive quick medical attention. Some plant toxins will target specific organs like the kidneys or heart and may not show visible signs until your cat is very sick. If you do have houseplants that may be harmful for your cat, keep them out of reach as far as is possible and don’t let your cat chew on them.

Plants Poisonous To Cats

Below are listed the most common houseplants that are poisonous to cats. I’ve selected the ones that are most likely to turn up in a home as either a plant or as flowers. If you want to check out which other poisonous plants for cats you should avoid, you can find a rather extensive list of plants poisonous to cats at ASPCA. While it may seem like every plant you ever heard of and then a whole bunch more are on that list, there is also an equally extensive list of plants that are non-poisonous for cats. So if you’re looking to add to your pot plant collection without harming your puss, this could be a good place to look for inspiration.

Lilies

In cat terms, there are some lilies that are more toxic than others, but my advice would be to just avoid lilies altogether. Peace lilies, Peruvian lilies and Calla lilies will cause mild irritation to your cat if chewed on.

This is caused by oxalate crystals. These occur in plants when carbohydrates are not fully oxidised and usually form salt crystals with metals such as magnesium and calcium. For humans, these oxalate crystals are found in lots of common foods such as black pepper, spinach, chocolate, nuts and beans. We usually excrete it through our urine, but an excess of it causes kidney stones and in more severe cases, gout, arthritis and kidney disorders. For cats, you’ll see them drooling as the crystals cause irritation around the mouth and to the oesophagus and tongue.

Other lilies, those considered true lilies, e.g. Tiger lilies, Easter lilies and Japanese show lilies are incredibly poisonous plants to cats.

Eating just 2 leaves or petals from these lilies can cause severe kidney failure. If you see your cat eating any part of these plants, even just chewing on a leaf, take it immediately to the vet. Ideally take the plant too (although kept away from the cat!) so that your vet knows what he is treating or a photo of the plant. Quick treatment will be trying to remove the toxin from the digestive tract. Your vet may make your cat vomit or give it charcoal to absorb the toxin. Getting to the vet as quickly as possible is essential in saving your cat’s life.

Daffodils

poisonous plants to cats

Daffodils are one of my favourite flowers. The let everyone know that spring has truly arrived, following the crocuses in covering the previously grey and brown land with bright colours and the hope of better weather at last. It’s very tempting to to collect these little bundles of amazing smelling hope and bring them into your home, to fill it with spring and happiness. However, if your curious kitty should find them and chew on any part of the plant of flower or even the bulb, it can cause severe digestive issues like vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach pain. In extreme cases, it can even cause heart irregularities.

This is because of a chemical called lycorine, which is an alkaloid that forms crystals in the outer cell layers of the daffodils and hyacinths. As well as digestive abnormalities, it’s also been known to cause excessive drooling and tremors in cats. If you see your cat chewing on a daffodil, especially the bulb, or see these symptoms around spring time, take it to the vet immediately.

Tulips and Hyacinths

Tulips and hyacinths are commonly planted for their bright colours and, especially hyacinths, their fragrant smell. However, like daffodils, the bulbs are high in alkaloid toxins such as lycorine and calcium oxalate crystals. While these are mostly concentrated in the bulb, they do spread throughout the plant so eating the flowers of chewing the leaves will cause irritation to your cat’s mouth and throat.

If your cat has consumed part of a hyacinth of tulip bulb, you could see symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting; irritation around the mouth, so pawing at it because it’s itchy or red marks caused by inflammation; depression and anxiety; tremors; difficulty breathing; irregular heartbeat and excessive drooling. In this case, take your cat to your vet immediately. Treatment is just to manage the symptoms, keep your cat hydrated and get through the time it takes for the toxin to leave its system.

Aloe Vera

This common plant is renowned for its healing properties, especially for burns. But for cats (and dogs, lizards and birds), it’s a different story. The layer between the outer cuticle of the plant and the magical gel inner layer contains amphipathic glycosides, which are a type of detergent chemical that empties out the digestive tract by causing the bacteria there to produce extra mucus and water. This causes diarrhoea and vomiting, but aloe poisoning can also present as a loss of appetite, tremors, a change in urine colour and depression in your cat. These symptoms may not appear for a few hours after your cat has chewed on your aloe vera plant, so it’s best to take it to the vet straight away if you see it eating aloe.

Ivy

While this is not a common house plant, if you have an outdoor cat then it’s worth knowing that ingesting ivy will cause digestive issues for your feline. If it’s eaten ivy, your cat will have vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain and will also be making excess saliva. Unlike some of the other plants, ivy isn’t fatal for cats to eat, but it won’t be much fun. Keep an eye on your kitty and make sure it gets lots of water. If any other symptoms show up or it gets worse / doesn’t get better, then take it to the vet immediately.

Marijuana

Some people might think that it’ll be funny to get their cat stoned, some people seem to think it’s also funny to get their dog stoned or drunk, but getting a cat high on marijuana is not at all like giving it catnip. Cats have very different metabolisms than humans and are not able to process some of the things we are. Even cellulose, the sugar that makes up plant cell walls, is indigestible by 98% of cats. They just don’t have the enzyme needed to break it down. If your cat eats marijuana, it causes vomiting and diarrhoea as well as affecting the nervous system. It affects your cat’s coordination, increases its heart rate and can cause seizures and even put your cat into a coma. If your cat does get into your stash, take it to the vet straight away.

Conclusion

These are some of the most common plants that you are likely to find in most homes that are poisonous plants to cats. Before you bring your new cat home, or any pet for that matter, it’s important to make sure your home is safe for the new member. There are extensive lists of plants that have some kind of toxicity to cats and it may seem overwhelming to keep your cat away from them all. Most cats will probably ignore your plants and if you really, really want an aloe vera plant or a peace lily in your house, make an effort to put it somewhere that is out of your cat’s way.

However, certain weirdo cats (looking at you, Oliver!) will become obsessive about chewing literally every green thing they come across. He even once dug his way into a sealed backpack and ate his way through a plastic bag to steal lettuce! Like, seriously, what cat eats lettuce?? If you end up with one of these oddities, it is extra important that you re-home your peace lily with someone who will care for it and be more vigilant about what plants you let into your house.

Cat of the Week

poisonous plants for cats
Oliver digging in the bin, as if he has been chronically starved! I have never met a cat who eats literally anything and as many vegetables as this one. Nothing was safe.

About the author

Amy Wallace

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