Some plants are toxic to cats: make sure you don’t have any of these plants in your home if you have a four-legged friend.
Plants and your cat
Plants are nice in the house. If you’re a pet owner, it’s important to check if a plant is toxic to cats before putting it in your home – or to make sure they’re not already there. Mild consequences of a cat ingesting toxic plants would include gastrointestinal upset or skin irritation, while more serious cases would result in organ failure, seizures and even death.
Like humans, cats nibble on plants to get more nutrients and fiber. Unfortunately, felines don’t always know the difference between good and bad plants. (The question then arises: Can cats see color?) So it’s your responsibility to make sure your feline doesn’t have access to toxic indoor plants. With the help of experts, we’ve compiled a list of common houseplants that every good cat owner should avoid – plus suggestions for safe alternatives.
Peace Lily (spathiphyllum)
Toxic components: calcium oxalate crystals
This houseplant is beautiful, but can be highly toxic – even deadly – to cats, says veterinarian Shelly Zacharias. “If your cat eats peace lilies, urine and blood tests will need to be done several times over a period of days,” Dr. Zacharias says. “Depending on the results, the veterinarian may suggest a plan to observe kidney function, or long-term therapy.”
Substitute: instead of lilies, opt for a white orchid. It’s beautiful, non-toxic to pets and surprisingly easy to care for.
Toxic component: Eucalyptol
Popular for its soothingly fragrant leaves, eucalyptus should not be put near a cat. “When a cat eats enough eucalyptus leaves to become ill, salivation, vomiting, decreased appetite and diarrhea may be observed,” says Jo Myers, veterinarian for JustAnswer. “These symptoms are minor and should subside without treatment within 24 hours.” She adds that a higher concentration of eucalyptol is found in essential oils, and they should be used sparingly if a cat is in the house.
Substitute with: rosemary, also known for its wonderful fragrance, is ideal for replacing eucalyptus. (By the way, here are 13 vegetables that grow easily at home).
Japanese cycas (cycas revoluta)
Toxic component: Cycasin
While palms instantly add a tropical vibe to a room, not all palms are safe for Kitty. Japanese cycas contain cycasin, which is extremely toxic to cats, notes the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Cycasin should be avoided at all costs as it can cause gastrointestinal and liver damage, sometimes resulting in death. The smaller the animal, the more it will be affected.
Substitute: For a similar tropical look, try dwarf palm. This bright green plant is also known as a mountain palm.
Elephant ear (alocasia amazonica)
Toxic components: Calcium oxalate crystals
With its exotic-looking leaves, it’s no wonder alocasia is such a popular plant. Unfortunately, this plant contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause kidney failure, according to the ASPCA. Watch for these symptoms that show your cat is sick.
Substitute: calathea veitchiana, in addition to offering the same exotic look and lush green foliage, is perfectly safe for your cat. It’s an easy-to-care-for plant perfect for gardening novices.
Garlic (allium sativum)
Toxic components: Allyl disulfide
Almost every home hides garlic in a cupboard at one time or another. While we don’t advise you to give up this tasty ingredient, you should make sure you don’t leave it around your pet feline. Dr. Myers explains, “The chemicals that give garlic its pungent smell could also damage a cat’s red blood cells.
In addition to keeping your garlic in an airtight container, be careful when sharing food containing garlic with your cat. In fact, if you offer your cat table food, it should always be unseasoned and approved by your veterinarian.
Substitute: Rather than replacing garlic, be conscientious about where you keep it and how you use it.
Onions (allium cepa)
Toxic components: Allyl disulfide
The components responsible for garlic’s odor are also found in onions. “If a cat eats a small amount once, the damage to the red blood cells will be too small to notice the effect,” says Dr. Myers. However, if a cat eats a large amount of onions, it could become anemic. That’s when you’ll notice symptoms.”
Substitute: like garlic, you don’t have to get rid of onions completely in your recipes. Just stay mindful of how you use it, and where you store it.
Onions are also among the foods that are potentially toxic to your dog!
Jade tree (crassula ovata)
Toxic component: Unknown
Also known as a symbol of good luck or wealth, the Jade Tree could cause vomiting, neurological symptoms like disorientation, and even sometimes depression, says Dr. Zacharias. Because the toxic component is still unknown at this time, it’s still important to seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect your cat has eaten this plant. “Treatment will consist of inducing vomiting only if the animal is not neurologically impaired, i.e., if it does not appear to lack coordination. Treatments also include activated charcoal, intravenous fluids as well as close monitoring,” says Dr. Zacharias.
Substitute: haworthia retusa offers the same thick, juicy leaf as the Jade tree, but is not toxic to cats.
Toxic components: Saponins, anthraquinones
While aloe vera is often a plant found in most homes – especially in the kitchen, where its medicinal benefits may be at hand – it can be toxic to cats. The gel in aloe is considered edible when extracted, but the thick substance on top can cause gastrointestinal distress (such as vomiting), lethargy and diarrhea, says the ASPCA.
Substitute: Zebra haworthia is smaller, but offers the same kind of look as aloe vera. Available in many different sizes and colors, these succulents are easy to care for.
Scindapsus (epipremnum aureum)
Toxic components: Calcium oxalate crystals
This plant is known by many names such as pothos and golden pothos. Dr. Zacharias explains, “It contains calcium oxalate crystals that cause irritation to the mouth, throat, tongue and lip, in addition to intense burning, excessive salivation, vomiting and difficulty swallowing.”
Substitute: Chinese coin plant from the Pileas family is not toxic to cats and offers the same allure as ivy. As a bonus, these types of plants could bring good feng shui to the home.
Toxic component: Cyanogenic glycoside
Hydrangeas are popular for their bright colors, but could make your cat sick if he eats them. “When a cat eats enough hydrangeas to become ill, symptoms appear within a few hours of consumption,” says Dr. Myers. Many cats may become nauseated, vomit or salivate profusely. Diarrhea may follow, and the stool may contain a lot of blood.”
Substitute: available in a wide variety of colors, zinnias are a great non-toxic alternative to hydrangeas.
Toxic components: calcium oxalate crystals, proteolytic enzymes
There are several types of dieffenbachia. Unfortunately, these plants are all toxic to cats. According to the ASPCA, ingestion of dieffenbachia canes could cause oral irritation, intense burning of the mouth, tongue and lips, intense salivation, difficulty swallowing and vomiting. If you suspect your cat has consumed this plant, call a poison control center and/or your veterinarian for immediate assistance.
Substitute: maranta looks a lot like mute cane, but it is safe and veterinarian approved.
Mother-in-law’s tongue (sansevieria trifasciata)
Toxic components: Saponins
Mother-in-law’s tongue is a very popular and easy to care for plant. However, these plants contain chemical compounds called saponins. Ingestion of these can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea in cats. If you suspect that your cat has chewed or ingested stepmother’s tongue leaves, call your veterinarian, or a counseling center immediately. You will be given instructions on what to do, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Substitute: With its pretty, pointed leaves, calathea lancifolia is a non-toxic plant that looks very similar to mother-in-law’s tongue. It is sometimes called the rattlesnake plant.
Toxic components: Lectin, glycoside
Although Japanese wisteria is known for its beauty and fragrance, cat owners should refrain when it comes to this pretty plant with purple flowers. Although the effects after ingestion are not as severe as other plants, cats will experience gastrointestinal distress that may lead to vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes bloody), or even depression.
Substitute: petunias, which you can also find in a beautiful shade of purple, are safe for your kitties.
Toxic component: Lycorine
These beautiful flowers don’t just attract humans; cats can also take an interest in these huge, vibrantly colored flowers, often found in floral arrangements or planted in gardens. According to the ASPCA, when your felines chew these types of lilies, they may experience stomach aches, intense salivation, tremors, diarrhea, vomiting and decreased appetite.
Substitute: Orchids offer a refreshing dose of color and are safe for cats. If you buy a potted orchid, it will last even longer.
Purslane (portulaca grandiflora)
Toxic components: Calcium oxalate crystals
This flowering plant is also known as market purslane or porcelain purslane, so be careful when shopping. Despite its beauty, this houseplant is extremely toxic to cats – even deadly – and should be avoided at all costs. It can cause tremors, kidney failure and hypersalivation. If your cat ingests it, you should seek medical attention immediately. “Treatments will include forced vomiting, gastrointestinal decontamination, injection of intravenous fluid for a minimum of one to three days and other supportive treatments,” says Dr. Zacharias.
Substitute: if you want a colorful plant, try African daisy instead. It’s also known as African daisy or rainy marigold.
Parsley (petroselinum crispum)
Toxic components: Furocoumarins
Often used as a garnish in meals and incredibly easy to grow in small spaces, parsley is unfortunately not an ideal plant if you are a cat owner. Like other plants on this list, its toxicity is not as pronounced as others. It could, however, when consumed in large quantities, cause photosensitivity which would make your cat more vulnerable to sunburn, according to the ASPCA.
Substitute: Sometimes mistaken for parsley, cilantro is an alternative you may not have to worry about.
Toxic components: Sesquiterpenes, lactones, pyrethrins, and other potential irritants
Here is another colorful flowering plant that should be kept away from cats because of their toxic components. Their consumption could cause vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, incoordination and dermatitis (a skin reaction). “Immediate veterinary treatment will be required,” says Dr. Zacharias. Treatments consist of controlling symptoms with medication, bathing if the skin is infected and possibly intravenous fluid therapy.”
Substitute: with their brightly colored flowers and rich foliage, African violets are a great and safe alternative to chrysanthemums.
Tomato plants (Solanum Lycopersicum)
Toxic component: Solanins
From the Solanaceae family, tomato plants contain a substance called solanin, which is toxic to animals. Green vines and fruit that are not ripened are toxic and, when ingested, can cause salivation, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal problems, decreased heart rate and dilated pupils, notes the ASPCA.
Substitute: it’s best to keep your tomato plants on the patio or in the garden – that is, away from your pets.
If you want to grow a fruit vine plant indoors, try butternut squash instead. While many squashes require a large space, butternut squash prefers narrower indoor locations when planted in a deep pot with direct access to sunlight and moist soil.
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Toxic component: Grayanotoxin
Azaleas are usually planted as outdoor ornamental foliage, but they are also found in floral arrangements or indoors in a pot. If your cat takes a bite of this plant, it may suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and possibly heart failure.
Substitute: for a similar dose of color and a safe alternative, opt for a red camellia!
Toxic component: Tulipalin A and B
Tulips – a springtime classic, are among the most toxic plants to cats. According to Dr. Zacharias, even though the bulbs have a high concentration of toxins, the plant is still toxic. Ingestion may cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea and hypersalivation. Consult your veterinarian immediately to control the symptoms.
Substitute: Replace your tulips with another springtime favorite: peonies. This delicate flower, also known as Japanese camellia, will provide that dose of pastel we want to give our garden when the days get warmer.
What to do if your cat chews or eats poisonous plants
If you suspect your cat has taken a bite of a poisonous plant from your home or garden, Dr. Zacharias recommends taking a picture of the plant and specifically directing you to the vet. Regardless of the amount consumed, it is safest to do so to avoid serious repercussions. Also, the plant does not need to be ingested to be toxic. “The speed of treatment often makes a significant difference to the health of the patient,” she adds.
You should not attempt to force your cat to vomit by giving hydrogen peroxide or another emetic like Ipecac, despite what you may have read on the internet. Here, you will absolutely need the expertise of a veterinarian.
It’s also important to note that cats are very good at hiding their symptoms – it’s a defense mechanism that keeps them safe. Call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic if you suspect your cat has consumed one of these poisonous plants, even if it has no apparent symptoms. That said, symptoms such as diarrhea, lethargy and vomiting are difficult to hide. So be on the lookout for your pet’s signals.