—Feline Behavior Specialist 🇺🇸
Hello, Elizabeth Italia here. 🙍♀️ I'm a cat behavior and fostering specialist.
Today, we are going to talk about cats and plants.
April showers bring May flowers—yay! But along with the season’s bright colors and beautiful landscape comes a risk you should be aware of.
While the majority of plants are safe for your cat or only cause mild GI irritation if ingested, there are some that can cause severe health issues or even death.
Learn what plants to steer clear of and what to do if your cat is exposed.
Why do cats chew on or eat plants?
Honestly, no one knows, but there are a handful of theories, including everything from aiding digestion if they have GI disease (there’s fiber in grass) to being an anxious habit. It could also have something to do with plants’ distinct texture. I’ve also seen blowing grass turn into a toy, where swatting and nibbling are just part of playtime.
How do I know if my cat ate a plant? What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms with ingestion of a plant (even a non-toxic one) are vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling. Other more serious symptoms include difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, excessive drinking and urination, and fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat. Do not ignore any symptoms, even if your cat is just drooling, and reach out to your vet immediately. A professional will advise you whether you should just monitor or if the cat needs to be seen ASAP. It could be a life or death situation.
How will my cat be treated?
Often, a vet will induce vomiting and administer subcutaneous fluids to combat dehydration. Your cat may also be given something to protect the lining of the stomach, as well as anti-nausea, pain, and anti-inflammatory meds. Additional treatments may be necessary depending on the plant, symptoms, and severity.
What are the most toxic plants for cats? 🙅♀️
The tricky thing about this plant is that symptoms can be immediate or appear a few days after consumption, so if you suspect your pet ate any part of the autumn crocus, call your vet. Symptoms include severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver damage, kidney damage, and respiratory failure.
Azaleas are extremely toxic. Even ingesting just a few leaves can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive drooling. Coma and death are possible without veterinary intervention.
Can cause severe vomiting and death.
Foxglove, Kalanchoe, Oleander, Lily of the Valley & Japanese Yew
These plants are considered cardiac glycosides (and the group includes more than the names listed above). When ingested, they can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drop in heart rate, and heart arrhythmias that lead to death. Lily of the valley can also cause seizures.
According to Pet Health Network contributor Dr. Justine A. Lee, all parts of lilies in the Lilium or Hemerocallis species are toxic (this includes Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter, and Japanese Show lilies). Even if ingested in amounts as low as 2-3 petals or if your cat drinks water from the vase, they could go into kidney failure. It’s crucial you get your cat veterinary care immediately, and bring the plant with you so the vets can confirm the exact type ingested.
Dieffenbachia & Philodendron
Typically cause drooling and frothing of the mouth.
Cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Cardiac arrhythmia and respiratory distress are also a possibility.
The leaves and seeds can cause bloody stools, damage to the stomach lining, vomiting, severe liver failure, and death.
Tulips & Hyacinths
Common symptoms include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea, but more severe symptoms are possible and include an increased heart rate and changes in respiration.
How do I keep my cat away from my plants?
To keep your cats away from your plants, Vetted suggests a few different things: 1) Put them in places they can’t get to (but let’s be honest, they can get almost everywhere). 2) Put citrus peels on the soil (cats hate the smell of citrus); you can also try cayenne pepper 3) Spray the leaves with a mixture of 1 part vinegar, three parts water.
So, what plants are considered safe for my cat? 💆♀️
There are plenty of safe plants! You can always buy cat grass at the pet store, but if you want to incorporate different types of plants into your garden and indoor decor, you can turn to these cat-friendly plants, according to Pure Wow:
Blue Globe Thistle
Part of the sunflower family, blue globe thistles, have beautiful prickly flowers.
Cacti have met their match when it comes to low-maintenance care with air plants. They don’t have soil, and all you have to do is water every two weeks. Easy peasy.
Poinsettias and some cacti aren’t safe for cats, but this beautiful red-flowered plant is the perfect complement to your holiday parties.
Coming in a variety of gorgeous colors, hibiscus flowers are a much better choice over the cat-toxic amaryllis. Plus, Gardens with Wings shares that the bright colors and trumpet shape will also attract butterflies and birds.
If you have limited light, potted impatiens are the way to go.
Ferns (Pteridophyta Varieties)
Not all ferns are safe, but according to Pure Wow, safe ferns include Boston, Maidenhair, Bird’s Nest, Staghorn, Asparagus, Ball, Blood Sword, Rabbit’s Foot, Duffii, Dwarf Feather, Verona, and Christmas.
To keep this fall and winter plant happy, make sure it gets a lot of sunlight.
It’s impossible not to smile when you look at a sunflower. Pure Wow warns to make sure you get a real sunflower and not a daisy made to look like one because daisies are toxic to cats.
Gardening Know How labels Swedish Ivy as easy to take care of a great for novices. It has noteworthy glossy and scalloped leaves and makes the perfect hanging houseplant.
This very common flower is part of nearly every bridesmaid’s bouquet. While it’s totally safe for cats, maiden’s breath, which looks similar but has larger flowers, is not.
Perfect for hanging planters and window sills.
Parlor Palm & Bamboo Palm
Low maintenance? Sign us up!
A little bit of sun and a little bit of water keep orchids happy and growing.
This big-leafed plant really makes a statement in any home. Get a humidifier to give it the humid environment it thrives in.
Although spider plants like cooler temperatures, they are easy to take care of and grow just about anywhere.
Most Succulents (Avoid Aloe, Jade, and Pencil Cactus)
The popularity of succulents has exploded over the past few years. Much like air plants, they are small, low maintenance, and can be put just about anywhere.
Purple Velvet Plant
This purple plant will add some color to all the green alternatives, and sometimes, it even blooms small orange flowers.
Sorry to disappoint you, but if you shake it, the money will not fall down. However, it has a unique twisted trunk and can grow up to 3 ft tall! Beware of the jade money tree, which is poisonous to cats and can be identified with succulent-type leaves.
Cast Iron Plant
Very easy to care for, the cast iron plant will need its leaves wiped down every now and then.
American Rubber Plant
A plant that’s good for humans too? We’ll take it. All you have to do is give the American rubber plant a little sunlight and regular watering, and it will remove toxins from the air.
This moss doesn’t need direct sunlight, which can make it an appealing choice.
Great in gardens or centerpieces.
Part of the sunflower family—not surprising since they look like teeny sunflowers.
While roses are safe, you just want to make sure your cat doesn’t swallow a thorn or injure their paw.
Carnations are bad for cats, but popular with people. You can strike a fair deal by using cornflowers instead.
Plants & Cats in Harmony
We hope you found this article useful in protecting your cats from toxic plants. If you suspect your cat has swallowed anything other than food, you need to call your vet immediately.
Remember, plants and cats can live happily ever after, just make sure they’re the right plants.
Article by Elizabeth Italia 🙋♀️
Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist