Are you a cat lover with a green thumb? Do you enjoy keeping plants indoors to freshen the air in your house and add a touch of nature to your home décor? It is possible for cats and houseplants to safely coexist, but before bringing plants into your home, it is important to make sure that they will not make your cat sick. You may have heard of “baby-proofing” your home to make it safe before the arrival of a newborn or young child, and the same must be done for our pets if we are to truly ensure they cannot be exposed to items that might cause them harm.
We all know that cats often enjoy munching and sniffing leaves and flowers, but they do not realize the potential danger to them. Some common houseplants are even extremely toxic to cats, and can result in death if ingested. What many people do not know is that a lot of the plants that are toxic to cats are also toxic to dogs, and dog-owners should research first before bringing any houseplants into the home as well.
Here is a list of 15 common houseplants that are actually dangerous for your cat:
- Caladium: This plant has large “elephant ear”-shaped leaves with a bright red coloring around the veins. In both cats and dogs, it can cause extreme oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing.
- Sago palm: The sago palm is actually toxic to both cats and dogs. It is known to cause vomiting, excessive thirst, and bloody stool, but may also induce severe reactions including hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, liver damage or failure, and even death.
- Poinsetta: Toxic to both cats and dogs, this popular Christmas decoration can cause mouth and stomach irritation and sometimes vomiting. It is generally overrated in toxicity, as many people hear of it having much more severe effects in even small amounts, but should still be avoided.
- Baby’s Breath: Popular for its dreamy, white appearance and sweet smell, baby’s breath should be kept away from your felines as well as dogs. It can cause lethargy, lack of appetite, and upset stomach.
- Philodendron: Keep this one away from your dogs and cats. Much like caladium, it causes intense burning and irritation in the mouth, on the tongue and on the lips, and can also cause drooling and difficulty swallowing.
- Pothos: Also known as “Devil’s Ivy,” the pothos plant should not be kept in a home with cats or dogs. Extreme oral irritation can occur if this plant is ingested by your animal.
- Arrow Head plant/vine: The Arrow Head vine is another common house plant that has been found to cause burning and pain of the mouth area, drooling, and difficulty swallowing.
- Lilies, including Peace Lilies: Lilies are one of the most common toxic houseplants for cats. This danger is one of the more well-known amongst the cat-owning population. Eating as little as a couple of leaves from this plant can cause liver failure and potentially death. Symptoms of lily poisoning include depression, lack of appetite, vomiting, and dehydration. What many people don’t realize is that certain varieties of lilies should be kept away from your dogs as well. Some of the most dangerous types for cats and dogs include the rubrum lily, the stargazer lily, the Western lily, the wood lily, the red lily, the autumn crocus, the day lily, the Easter lily, the palm lily or giant Dracaena, the Asiatic hybrid lily, the Japanese Show lily, the peace lily, the calla lily, the amaryllis, and the tiger lily. Given the huge variety of dangerous types and the level of toxicity, it is probably advisable to keep any type of lily away from your animals at all costs.
- Oleander: While it has beautiful blooms, oleander has actually been reported to cause death in humans! It can do the same in dogs and cats, as well as birds. Symptoms of oleander poisoning include vomiting, drooling, heart arrhythmia, seizures or tremors, weakness, collapse, vomiting, and cold extremities.
- Dieffenbachia: Dieffenbachia is a popular houseplant and can cause severe oral irritation, difficulty swallowing, and excessive drooling in cats and dogs.
- Mother-in-Law’s Tongue: This plant, also known as the “snake plant,” can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea in both dogs and cats.
- Ivy: Common ivy plants can be dangerous for cats and canines. Both the foliage and the berries are toxic, but the foliage is more poisonous. Hypersalivation can occur, as well as vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
- Azalea: Azaleas should always be kept away from both your cats and your dogs. Ingestion of even a few leaves can cause serious problems, as the toxic principle in the plant impedes cardiac muscle, nerve, and skeletal muscle function. Upset stomach may occur as well as drooling. More serious consequences include weakness, stupor, paralysis, coma, central nervous system depression, loss of coordination, collapse, cardiovascular distress, and death.
- Aloe: Neither dogs or cats should be exposed to aloe, or aloe vera. This plant can cause tremors, lack of appetite, discolored urine, vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.
- Rhubarb: Rhubarb cancause kidney failure, hypersalivation, and tremors in cats and dogs.
This is by no means a complete list. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a more comprehensive list on their website, and it is advisable to consult this list before bringing any houseplant into a space you share with your cat.
If you believe your pet ingested these or any other plants on the ASPCA’s list, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.*
* A $65 consultation fee may apply.
Alternatively, here are 15 safe plants that you and your kitty can enjoy. Be aware that excessive intake of almost any plant matter can cause digestive upset in cats, as they do not have the proper digestive enzymes to process plant material. Also, be advised that just as in humans, cats and dogs can experience allergic reactions to edible material that is otherwise considered safe!
- Bamboo: A curious pet can even nibble on bamboo shoots – no variety of bamboo is toxic to cats or dogs!
- Boston fern: Rest easy if your cat eats some of your Boston fern!
- Marigolds: Some cats like to eat anything green or blooming. Marigolds are non-toxic and beautiful!
- Mint: Cats can be attracted to mint and both you and kitty will love the smell. Be warned that excessive intake of some plants in the mint family, including peppermint, could cause digestive upset in cats. Cats usually prefer to smell and rub against mint plants, but never fear if your kitty takes a nibble.
- Parsley: Parsley is safe for cats to consume in moderation.
- Christmas Cactus: This plant is generally safe for your cat to eat, but a sensitive cat might experience an allergic reaction, so as with all plants, watch your cat carefully for any adverse side effects. Also, insecticides and other chemicals are often used on this plant and they are absolutely not safe for your cat to ingest!
- Spider plant: If your kitty eats a small amount of spider plant, there is no need to worry. Do not allow excessive consumption, however, as the plant contains chemical compounds similar to opium, and there is a potential risk of negative impact if your kitty eats too much!
- Zinnias: Zinnias are non-toxic to cats and dogs!
- Johnny Jump Ups: Also known as tricolor violets, these beautiful flowers are safe for your kitty or your pup to nibble!
- Lemongrass: Cats and dogs can eat lemongrass, but do not let them eat too much! Your dog or feline might be instinctively drawn to it and get carried away. Wheatgrass and oat grass are generally safe too!
- Spice Orchid: Spice orchids are safe for both cats and dogs!
- Golden palm: Also known as the Areca palm, this pretty fern is non-toxic to both your kitty and your precious pooch!
- Button fern: Also called the Duffii fern, this plant can be safely kept in a home with cats and dogs.
- Thyme: Thyme is an herb that your dog or cat can safely ingest.
- And of course… catnip! But you already knew that one!
With some careful foresight, you can have both plants and cats (or dogs!) in your home without fear of harm coming to your beloved animal friend! The plants however, might get some teeth marks! – Kelsey Hardin
Kelsey Hardin is a crazy cat lady and graduate of the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. Living back in Columbus where she grew up, she spends her spare time writing, cuddling cats, crafting, spending time with friends, and catching local concerts and theatre shows.
Photo by X posid