Flowers and plants are beautiful and bring color to your home. However, there are some common plants that are very toxic to your cats and can cause illness or death. The Pet Poison Helpline (2021) states that every day they receive dozens of phone calls from cat owners saying “My cat ate a lily!” There are thousands of species of plants and flowers, but only a small percentage of plants are truly dangerous and poisonous to your cat.
Many toxic plants are irritants and cause localized inflammation of the skin, mouth, stomach, etc. However, the toxicity in some plants may have a systemic effect and can damage or alter the function of a cat’s organs. The Pet Poison Helpline lists the top 10 plants that are poisonous to pets. They are
- Lilies – Many different species of flowering plants are commonly referred to as lilies. Those included in the genus Lilium, like Easter lilies, Asiatic lilies, and tiger lilies, cause severe kidney failure in cats that ingest even a small amount of the plant. Day lilies fall into another genus (Hemerocallis) but have similar effects. All parts of the plant are toxic to cats, but the flowers are especially dangerous. In fact, just the pollen from one of these lilies has been known to be lethally poisonous to cats. Veterinarians aren’t sure which toxin in lilies causes poisoning in cats, but exposure to the plant’s leaves, flowers, pollen, or even water from the vase may result in acute kidney failure.
- Autumn Crocus – The Autumn Crocus can cause an intense burning sensation in the mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, liver and kidney damage, heart arrhythmias, and death. Although the entire plant is considered toxic to cats, the toxicity is highest in the bulbs, seeds and flowers.
- Azalea – Even ingesting just a few azalea leaves can cause oral irritation with subsequent vomiting and diarrhea in cats. In severe cases, ingestion can cause a drop in blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, coma and death.
- Cyclamen – Also known as sowbread, the cyclamen is a common flowering houseplant that contains compounds (terpenoid saponins) that are poisonous to cats. They cause oral irritation, vomiting and diarrhea, and in large amounts, heart abnormalities, seizures and death.
- Kalanchoe – Also known as the mother-in-law plant, the kalanchoe is a common houseplant with small, dense flowers. All of the parts of this plant are toxic to cats. When ingested, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea. In rare cases, heart arrhythmias can occur.
- Oleander – Oleander is a popular ornamental flowering shrub commonly found in the Southern United States and California. Its cardiac glycosides, similar to digoxin, are very toxic to cats and can cause fatal heart abnormalities, muscle tremors, incoordination, seizures, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
- Dieffenbachia – Dieffenbachia, also known as dumb cane, is a common houseplant that can cause a burning sensation in the lips, tongue and mouth; vomiting; and difficulty swallowing in cats. Ingestion of dieffenbachia is rarely fatal but very unpleasant for cats.
- Daffodils – Although the entire plant is considered toxic to cats, it is the bulb that is the most toxic. Ingestion of any portion of a daffodil can cause oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, arrhythmias, convulsions and a serious drop in blood pressure.
- Sago Palm – Also known as the coontie palm, or the cardboard palm, the sago palm is an extremely poisonous plant to cats. When ingested, it can cause bloody vomiting and diarrhea, bleeding disorders, liver failure, and death.
- Tulips and Hyacinths – The whole tulip plant is considered toxic, but the bulb is the most poisonous to cats. Ingestion can cause significant oral irritation, excessive drooling, burns to the mouth, and nausea. Unless large quantities of the bulb are eaten, which is unlikely in cats, tulip ingestion should not be fatal.
If a plant is poisonous to cats, one should assume all parts of the plant are poisonous, though some parts of the plant may have a higher concentration of toxicity. The level of ingestion that may cause a toxic reaction varies from plant to plant.
Other common household plants that are toxic to cats are Aloe Vera (vomiting, lethargic, diarrhea), Tomato (stems leaves, and unripe tomatoes can cause gastrointestinal problems), Eucalyptus (dried or fresh can cause salivation, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion), Christmas Tree (pine needles and sap can cause mild stomach upset. Pine needles can become chocking hazards), Philodendron (contain high levels of calcium oxalate crystals and can cause burns to the mouth, excessive drooling, and vomiting), Chrysanthemum (vomiting and incoordination).
Brulee, as a kitten, playing in the silk plant. She was closely monitored.
Symptoms to Watch For
- Drooling or difficulty swallowing
- Excessive drinking and urinating
- Fast, slow, or irregular heart beat and weakness
Care and Treatment
If you see your eat eating a plant and you don’t know if it is poisonous, you should do the following prior to taking her to the veterinarian.1Remove any plant material from your cat’s hair, skin, and mouth if you can safely do so.
- Keep your cat confined in a safe environment for close monitoring.
- Call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661 or Animal Poison Control at 1-888-426-4435.
- Take your cat to the veterinarian
Try to identify the plant so the Poison helplines and the veterinarian can assist with appropriate treatment. The veterinarian may give your cat medications to encourage vomiting and/or activated charcoal to absorb any of the toxic principle that may be in the gut. Medication, such as sucralfate, may be administered to help protect the damaged areas of the stomach.
|Brulee and Truffle playing with the silk plant. They were closely monitored during this play.|
Cats are curious by nature and the moving leaves and flowers of a plant are tempting. Make sure you research the types of plants and flowers that are toxic or poisonous to cats and only bring in those that are considered safe. Even with non-toxic plants, you need to monitor how much your cat may be chewing because safe plants can cause upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, or a gastrointestinal obstruction from eating too much.
Consider bringing in silk plants only into your home! You will still need to monitor your cats around silk or fake plants and flowers.
Grow cat grass for your cat to eat and chew. Cat grass comes from a seed comprised of wheat, barley, or rye.
You can find a complete list of plants that are toxic and non-toxic on the ASPCA website.
Pet Poison Helpline. 2021. Top 10 Plants Poisonous to Pets. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-owners/basics/top-10-plants-poisonous-to-pets/