HEALTH & CARE

What Houseplants are Poisonous to Cats: The Danger Behind Beautiful Disguise

cat and plants
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Having a few plants in your home is a nice way of adding color to your life. Think of the beautiful roses that just light up your living room, and then the fragrance that fills your home. But consider that you have a curious furry friend in the house. That’s right; your cat is just as mesmerized by your bouquets as you are. And it just happens that she won’t mind chewing on the minty and tasty leaves. Are these safe for your cat? Some are while others are not. So, what houseplants are poisonous to cats?

Some common houseplants can be poisonous to cats. This is especially if they chew on those that release toxins into their bodies. These include medicinal plants such as Aloe Vera and common dinner flower centerpieces like dahlias and lilies. Ingestion of some of these plants can lead to mild conditions such as diarrhea and vomiting while others are more toxic and can even cause tremors, kidney failure, and even death. It is important for you to be aware so you can actively prevent potential disasters.

In this article, we are going to look at some common houseplants that your cat should not have access to. We have given brief descriptions of each, the symptoms that your cat may exhibit after eating them, and what you can do to keep your cat far from the danger. We also explain what you can do to help your cat if they have accidentally ingested some poisonous plants.

Top 35 Most Dangerous Houseplants to Cats

Cats are obligate carnivores, and they are not supposed to ingest plants to begin with, but there are 35 seemingly harmless houseplants that are not just unhealthy for your cat, but even dangerous.

#1: Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

This is an evergreen perennial crop that originated from the Arabian Peninsula. The plant is usually grown for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. It is toxic to cats and ingestion will cause vomiting, diarrhea, and change in urine color. If a cat eats the plant frequently, she can suffer from anorexia and tremors.

#2: Amaryllis

Amaryllis

The plant is closely related to lilies. The name Amaryllis means ‘pride.’ It goes by several names including Amaryllis Belladonna, Saint Joseph Lily, and Naked Lady. It’s toxic to cats and can cause irritation on the tongue, mouth, and lips. Be on the lookout for other symptoms like abdominal pains, vomiting, and diarrhea. Adverse effects include anorexia and tremors.

#3: Calla Lily

Calla Lily

This is a colorful flower which is valued as an ornamental blossom. Common names include Arum Lily, Calla, Trumpet Lily, and Garden Calla. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous. If the plant touches your skin, it can cause inflammation.

It’s toxic to cats and causes a host of symptoms if ingested. These include difficulty when swallowing food, vomiting, and excessive drooling. The plant is also toxic to dogs so keep them off of it too.

#4: Asiatic Lily

Asiatic Lily

This is one of the most toxic plants and can lead to death if ingested by your cat. There are symptoms that precede death that you should be on the lookout for. These include loss of appetite, long durations of inactivity, and lack of energy. Kidney failure, as well as frequent vomiting, are also possible.

#5: Plumosa Fern

Plumosa Fern

This is a type of flowering plant that is grown for ornamental purposes. It also goes by other names such as Asparagus Fern, Lace Fern, Shatavari, or Sprengeri Fern. In the wild, it grows under canopies or as a climbing plant.

If your cat comes into contact with it, her skin can become inflamed. Ingestion will cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pains.

#6: Azalea

Azalea

Azalea is a flowering shrub that is highly toxic to humans, pets, and even horses. The plant is also known as Rosebay or Rhododendron. Its nectar causes bees to produce neurotoxin or ‘mad’ honey.

When ingested, it causes vomiting, diarrhea, and hypersalivation. More severe symptoms include lethargy, physiological depression, and coma; possibly even leading to death.

#7: Gypsophila

Gypsophila

The naming is Greek-inspired, meaning ‘gypsum loving.’ This is in reference to gypsum laden substrates that the flowering plant grows on. The plant is also known as Baby’s Breath. It’s toxic to both cats and dogs with vomiting and diarrhea being common after ingestion.

#8: Easter Lily

Easter Lily

This is a bulbous flowering plant that is also known as Amaryllis, Fire Lily, or Lily of the Palace. It is not a true lily or a species of Amaryllis, so don’t let the name confuse you.

The plant is highly toxic and can lead to death if your cat consumes it in large quantities. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, tremors, and convulsions. The most poisonous part of the plant is the bulb.

#9: Begonia

Begonia

Begonias are grown as indoor ornamental plants. They are poisonous to cats with their tubers being the most toxic parts of the plants. Ingestion causes irritation of the mouth and lips, and hypersalivation. If taken in large quantities, it can lead to vomiting and difficulty in swallowing.

#10: Strelitzia

Strelitzia

The name refers to a group of perennial plants whose flowers blossom into a bird-like shape. These flowers are aptly also known as Crane Flowers, Bird’s Tongue Flowers, or Birds of Paradise Flowers/Plants.

Its fruits and seeds are the most toxic parts of the plant. Ingestion causes mild nausea followed by vomiting. Your cat may also appear drowsy and tired.

#11: Hedera Helix

Hedera Helix

This is an evergreen flowering plant which goes by many names including Common Ivy, English Ivy, European Ivy, or simply Ivy. It’s a common feature in flower gardens and house walls.

The plant’s leaves are more poisonous than its berries. Once toxins are released into the body, they cause abdominal pains, excessive drooling, diarrhea, and vomiting.

#12: Caladium

Caladium

This flower is native to South and Central America and goes by several names: Heart of Jesus, Angel Wings, Elephant Ears, Stoplight, Malanga, Seagull, and Pink Cloud.

This common house plant contains an abrasive compound, calcium oxalate, which can cause abrasive injuries on the skin. If chewed on, it can lead to injuries in the mouth and lips, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, and hypersalivation.

#13: Clove Pink

Clove Pink

This is a herbaceous flowering plant that is also known as Carnation, Sweet William, and Wild Carnation. Although the toxin that is released by the plant is unknown, the symptoms are quite evident. Symptoms include redness of mucous membranes, mild dermatitis, and gastrointestinal distress.

#14: Cycads

Cycads

These are woody and evergreen plants that grow into huge palm-like trees. When they are young, the plants are usually kept as house or garden plants. They are also known as cardboard Palms or Zamias.

The plants are toxic to cats, dogs, and even horses. The toxin is mostly concentrated on the seeds. Ingestion causes vomiting, liver damage and failure, bloody diarrhea (hemorrhagic gastroenteritis), and death.

#15: Swiss Cheese Plant

Swiss Cheese Plant

This is a flowering plant that is native to Panama and Mexico but has been introduced to most parts of the world. It goes by the scientific name Monstera deliciosa. Other common names include Ceriman, Hurricane Plant, and Fruit Salad Plant.

Signs of Swiss Cheese Plant poisoning in cats include excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, oral irritation, and vomiting.

#16: Exotica Perfection

Exotica Perfection

The plant is toxic to both cats and dogs with symptoms ranging from oral irritation to vomiting and difficulty swallowing. These stem from the phytotoxin calcium oxalate which is insoluble and abrasive to the gastrointestinal tract.

#17: Silver Jade Plant

Silver Jade Plant

The plant is also known as Silver Jade, Silver Dollar Plant, Chinese Jade, or Money Plant. It’s a succulent shrub that has pink or white flowers that bloom during winter. It’s a common container-garden plant.

It’s unclear which toxins of the plant are harmful to cats, but ingestion causes nausea and retching. Eating even a small portion of the plant will leave your cat dry heaving in an attempt to get rid of it. This happens within 15 minutes or so with depression following thereafter.

#18: Clivia Lily

Clivia Lily

This is a common houseplant which goes by many names such as Kaffir Lily, Cape Clivia, Caffre Lily, or Klivia. The plant has lycorine and other alkaloids which are toxic.

When ingested by cats, clinical signs like vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling occurs. If ingested in large quantities, the toxins can lead to bloody diarrhea, anorexia, and low blood pressure.

#19: Dracaena

Dracaena

This plant is commonly known as Corn Plant. Other names include Cornstalk Plant, Dragon Tree, and Ribbon Plant. The exact toxins the plant has have not yet been identified. However, when ingested by cats, it causes them to vomit and drool excessively. If taken in large quantities, it can lead to anorexia.

#20: Sowbread

Sowbread

This houseplant also goes by the name Cyclamen or Swinebread. The plant contains terpenoid saponins, which are toxins that are deadly to cats, dogs, and horses. Clinical signs include salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea. If consumed in large quantities, it can lead to seizures, heart rhythm abnormalities, and possibly death.

#21: Paper White

Paper White

This is a common perennial plant which has white or yellow flowers. It goes by other names like Daffodil, Jonquil, or Narcissus. It contains lycorine and other alkaloids which are toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.

The bulbs are the most poisonous part of the plant. Be on the lookout for clinical signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling. If the plant is consumed in large quantities, your cat can suffer from convulsions, low blood pressure, tremors, and cardiac arrhythmias.

#22: Dahlia

Dahlia

The name refers to a wide variety of perennial flowering plants. They contain an unknown toxin(s) that causes cats to exhibit mild gastrointestinal upsets as well as mild dermatitis. The plant is also toxic to dogs and horses.

#23: Desert Rose

Desert Rose

The plant is a flowering species native to the desert regions of Africa. Common names include Sabi Star, Kudu, Desert Azalea, Mock Azalea, and Impala Lily.

The plant contains cardiac glycosides which are deadly toxins. When ingested by cats, diarrhea, vomiting, and depression occur. However, if eaten in large quantities, your cat may suffer from anorexia, irregular heartbeat, and eventual death.

#24: Daisy

Daisy

This is a variety of flowering plants that are native to Asia and Europe. Daisies have several toxins that are harmful if digested by cats. These include Sesquiterpene, lactones, and pyrethrins among other potential irritants. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, skin inflammation, and incoordination.

#25: Daylily

Daylily

This refers to a variety of lilies whose flowers last for 24 hours only after which they wither—hence that naming ‘Daylily.’ Their toxins are not known, but ingestion by cats leads to vomiting, loss of appetite, and inactivity. They can also cause kidney failure and death when consumed in large quantities.

#26: Deadly Nightshade

Deadly Nightshade

This is a perennial herbaceous plant. It contains solanine and saponin which are toxic compounds that are harmful to cats, dogs, and horses.

When ingested, Deadly Nightshade causes hypersalivation, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and drowsiness. In severe cases, the toxins can lead to behavioral change, dilation of pupils, and slow heart rate.

#27: Garden Chamomile

Garden Chamomile

This is a daisy-like houseplant that is kept for its medicinal value. It’s also known as Chamomile, Ground Apple, or Roman Chamomile. It contains bisabolol, chamazulene, anthemic acid, and tannic acid which are toxic to cats and dogs. Clinical signs include contact dermatitis, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your cat overindulges on the plant for long he may become anorexic.

#28: Devils Ivy

Devils Ivy

This flowering plant contains insoluble calcium oxalates that can lead to oral irritation, abrasion of the mouth, and pain on the tongue and lips. The toxin also causes cats to drool excessively, vomit, and have difficulty when swallowing.

#29: Easter Rose

Easter Rose

This garden and houseplant goes by other names such as Hellebore, Christmas Rose, and Lenten Rose. It contains bufadienolides, glycosides, veratrin, and protoanemonin which are toxins. When ingested by cats, this plant causes drooling, abdominal pain, diarrhea, colic, and depression.

#30: Everlasting Pea

Everlasting Pea

This is a houseplant preferred for its lack of scent and beautiful purple flowers. It’s also known as Perennial Peavine, Perennial Pea, or Sweet Pea.

The plant contains aminopropionitrile, a toxin that is lethal to cats and dogs. When ingested, it leads to clinical signs such as weakness, pacing, and inactivity. If your cat eats large portions, she can suffer from seizures and tremors which can lead to death.

#31: Weeping Fig

Weeping Fig

The plant is sold in stores under the name Ficus. It’s also known as Weeping Fig, Indian Rubber Tree, or Benjamin Fig. It contains proteolytic enzyme and psoralen which are toxins that are harmful to cats, dogs, and horses. Ingestion leads to gastrointestinal problems while contact results in dermal irritation.

#32: Pigtail Plant

Pigtail Plant

The plant also goes by other names such as Flamingo Plant, Flamingo Lily, Tail Flower, Flamingo Flower, or Painter’s Pallet. Its sap contains insoluble calcium oxalates which are toxic to cats and dogs. Ingestion of the plant causes irritation of the mouth and the tongue. It can also cause excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, and vomiting.

#33: Tulip

Tulip

This is a perennial herbaceous plant that blooms in spring. The plant is toxic to cats and dogs with its toxins being concentrated on the bulbs. Common signs of tulip poisoning include depression, diarrhea, and excessive drooling.

#34: Primrose

Primrose

This is a flowering plant that is native to parts of Europe and Africa. Its toxins have not yet been identified. However, ingestion by cats and dogs leads to mild vomiting.

#35: Yucca

Yucca

This is a perennial shrub which is notable for its long evergreen leaves and whitish flowers. The plant contains saponins, which are toxins that are harmful to cats, dogs, and horses. Once ingested, cats will suffer from vomiting and diarrhea.

Is Catnip Poisonous?

When it comes to cats and plants, one plant deserves a special mention: catnip. This is a herbaceous plant which is a member of the mint family. It is also known by other common names like Catswort and Catmint. The active compound in catnip is known as nepetalactone.

The plant is so named due to the fact that cats are particularly attracted to it. Two-thirds of cats are drawn to catnip with the appeal being hereditary. When cats take it in moderation, they experience a euphoria-like sensation that lasts anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Common behaviors when cats are ‘high’ include leaping, rolling on the ground, running about, and being generally jolly.

See Also: How to Give a Cat Catnip

This ‘feel good’ treat is not considered to be harmful to cats. However, it’s classified as a poisonous plant by some veterinarians. When cats consume large quantities of fresh catnip, they exhibit symptoms that are similar to poisoning. Such symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and dry heaving in an attempt to get rid of the plant material. Most cats also enter a spell of drowsiness and inactivity as the ‘high’ wears off.

How to Keep Cats Away From Poisonous Plants

prickly oyster shells

When it’s a choice between keeping plants in the house or your garden and keeping your furry friend, of course, the cat wins. But is there a way of enjoying what each has to offer without having to sacrifice one or the other? Let’s look at some tips on how to keep your kitty away from your houseplants.

  • Put plastic or wire screens around the plant bed. You can also use the mesh to cover potted plants. This will make it hard for your kitty to reach your precious plants.

  • Cover the pots with sticky stuff like a double-sided tape. Cats don’t like things sticking to their paws, and several attempts at reaching the plants will leave them frustrated.

  • Place prickly oyster shells on the soil around the garden or pots. Once a cat gets pricked, she will surely keep off your plants.

  • Placing rocks around the plants can also help. Cats love to dig in the soil, and if they are discouraged, they will pay less attention to the growing plants.

  • Cats hate lemon. Use this to your advantage and spray a mixture of water and lemon on the plants. This will discourage them from chewing on the leaves or other parts of the plant.

  • Keep plants that are known cat-repellants. There are plants whose fragrance cats find particularly offensive. If you don’t mind the smell, then keeping such plants would be ideal. Try Scaredy Cat, Common Rue, Curry Herb, and Lemon Balm plants.

  • You can also limit yourself to plants that are not harmful to your furbaby; try cat grass, spider plant, bamboo, and bromeliads.

See Also: How to Grow Cat Grass

Steps to Take If Your Cat Has Ingested a Poisonous Plant

cat visiting a vet

The best approach is to take your cat to the vet if you notice any of the common signs such as diarrhea and vomiting. Also, be on the lookout for a cat who is dry-heaving, which is a common way of getting rid of ingested plant material.

Before you take your cat to the vet, do the following;

  • Brush off any plant material that might be sticking to your kitty’s fur. This should reduce contact irritation. You can further wash the fur off with warm water and a feline-friendly soap.

  • Identify the plant that your cat has consumed. Carrying a piece of it will come in handy if you don’t recognize the plant. It would also help the vet if you can identify which part of the plant was consumed; in some plants, toxin levels vary with different parts.

Wrap Up

kitten with flowers

Some common household plants are poisonous to cats. These include medicinal plants like Aloe Vera and common flowering plants like lilies which are kept for their beauty.

Not all cats are in the habit of munching on plants, but if they do eat the poisonous ones, they can suffer from tummy upsets, excessive drooling, vomiting and diarrhea, and irritation of the tongue, mouth, and lips.

It’s also possible for cats to get skin inflammation from getting into contact with some of the toxins. In severe cases, especially when ingested in large quantities, some plant toxins cause cats to suffer from CNS depression, behavioral change, slow heart rate, kidney failure, and possible death.

While it would be best to avoid the toxic plants altogether, you can still keep both the plants and your cat as long as you ensure that the plants are beyond your cat’s reach. Always be on the lookout for any signs that could indicate poisoning in your cat.

Have you had any incident of cat poisoning? Let us know about any other measures that you have put in place to protect your cat from poisoning in the section below. For further help, try our article on how to treat a poisoned cat.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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