When it comes to plants that cats will bother, succulents are usually pretty low on the list just because of their sturdy (and usually non-dangling) structure.
What if your cat does play with, dig up, and chew on your succulent plants? Should you be worried?
For the most part, succulents are harmless to cats. Still, there are poisonous succulents that do contain irritants that can cause dermatitis, gastric distress, or even severe illness or death if consumed in large quantities.
In this article, we explore the topic of succulents’ toxicity to cats. Read on to learn more.
Which Succulents Are Poisonous to Dogs and Cats?
Easy-care succulents are popular houseplants. Their fleshy, water-storing leaves make it easy for them to adapt to many different settings, both indoors and outdoors.
For the most part, succulents are safe for cats, but a cat who is bored, hungry, or longing for greenery may play with, dig up or chew on succulent plants.
That’s why it’s important to care for your pet correctly to keep them happy and healthy, keep your plants out of harm’s way, and choose plants that offer little or no danger.
- Which Succulents Are Poisonous to Dogs and Cats?
- What Succulents Will Harm Cats?
- What Are Some Cat-Safe Succulents?
- Cats & Succulents Q&A
- Keep Your Cat & Your Plants Safe
- What To Do If Your Cat Eats A Toxic Plant?
What Succulents Will Harm Cats?
Aloe Vera is a very popular, easy-to-grow succulent with many uses in folk medicine and personal care. The gel in the aloe plant’s plump, fleshy leaves has many healing properties, but it can also cause your cat to experience gastric distress and lethargy if consumed.
Kalanchoe is a plant genus made up of 150 species. Some of the most common species include:
- Devil’s Backbone, or Mother of Thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana)
- Velvet Leaf, or Felt Bush (K. beharensis)
- PenWiper Plant (K. marmorata)
- Panda Plant (K. tomentosa)
These attractive ornamental plants often produce pretty flowers and always display very interesting succulent leaves.
Unfortunately, if your cat makes a meal of the leaves, he or she may experience diarrhea and vomiting, and uneven heartbeat. Seek veterinary care if your cat eats any sort of Kalanchoe.
Euphorbia (Euphorbiaceae or spurge family) is another genus of rubbery plants that comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, ranging from rambling ground cover to towering trees.
There are 6,745 species of Euphorbia in 218 genera. One of the most common households of Euphorbias is the Poinsettia (E. pulcherrima) which is deadly poisonous to cats.
Other examples of popular succulents that are poisonous to our furry friends include:
- Devil’s Backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides)
- Snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata)
- Manchineel (Hippomane mancinella)
- Rubber Tree (Hevea brasiliensis)
- Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)
- Purging Croton (Croton tiglium)
- Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii)
- Snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata)
- Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli)
- Silver Jade Plant (Crassula arborescens)
What these many diverse plants have in common is a sticky, white latex sap that can dangerously cause skin irritation and injure the eyes. If ingested, it can cause burns to the mouth and throat and mild to severe gastrointestinal upset.
Handle all Euphorbia with care. Wear gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection, and keep these plants out of the reach of kids and pets.
Popular, easy-care Jade plants come in many varieties sporting plump, succulent leaves in various shapes. The most common type of jade plant has a woody trunk and plump, green oval leaves.
If your cat does eat a significant amount of Jade plant, he or she may experience some gastrointestinal distress and perhaps even some ataxia; however, jade plants don’t typically tend to be very alluring to cats.
Other serious symptoms of toxicity to cats include difficulty breathing, mouth irritation, loss of appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy, change in urine color, tremors, and abnormal heart rhythms.
What Are Some Cat-Safe Succulents?
So what are some examples of safe succulents for pets?
Echeveria is cute, varied, and completely non-toxic to cats, kids, and adults. In fact, the leaves of some varieties are quite tasty in salads. There are 150 species of Echeveria, all in the Stonecrop (Crassulaceae) family of plants.
These rambling, rosette-forming succulent plants offer plenty to choose from in colors ranging from the palest blue-green to shades of purple so dark as to seem black.
The common name Hen & Chicks refers to most Echeveria because of how mature plants surround themselves with tiny offsets. You may also hear Echeveria referred to as Hen & Chickens or House Leek.
Haworthia can look similar to Aloe Vera in structure, but it is non-toxic and doesn’t spread as rapidly as Aloe, so (in this writer’s opinion) it is a better choice as a houseplant. The plant usually stands no taller than six inches high.
The most common type of Haworthia is dark green with white, raised horizontal stripes. This variety is commonly referred to as Zebra Cactus.
Other varieties include Pearl Plant and Star Window Plant, which differ structurally but are still small, compact, easy-care, and non-toxic.
Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum) is another member of the Stonecrop (Crassulaceae) family of plants. In nature, this rambling plant is a ground cover, but as a houseplant, it makes an excellent candidate for a hanging basket.
Moreover, this houseplant is a great alternative to a String of pearls, which is a known toxic succulent that can cause oral irritation, upset stomach, and vomiting.
As the common name suggests, its growth habit resembles donkeys’ tails, so the plant trails prettily over the sides of its planter.
Like other Stonecrop succulents, Burro’s Tail is entirely non-toxic; however, its trailing tendrils may tend to make it a bit enticing to cats. Keep the plant out of its reach for its own safety.
Cats & Succulents Q&A
1. Why would a cat want to eat succulent houseplants?
A cat whose diet is lacking in nutrients, roughage, or other essentials may try to find what’s missing in whatever is available.
Cats need some vegetation in their diet to help with digestion. If the only vegetation available is succulents, cats consider that fair game.
There is also a behavioral component. Very active, mischievous cats and kittens may tamper with your succulents just for fun.
Bored cats may look to common succulents for entertainment value. Cats in a stressful environment may tear plants up as a way of acting out.
2. What can you do to keep your cats out of your succulents?
As mentioned, be sure your cat is healthy and happy and has everything he or she needs. Also, don’t trust your cat!
Put your plants out of reach, and if possible, never leave your cat unattended with your plants. If you can keep your plants in a separate room, do so. A door will keep your cat out of your plants!
3. What if my cat digs up the soil around my succulents?
Your cat may just be bored, or it may be that you are not keeping the litter box clean enough.
To keep cats from digging in houseplants’ soil, be sure to clean the litter box often and apply a layer of pebbles or lava rock to the surface of the soil of houseplants.
4. Should I spray my succulents with cat repellent?
Some indoor gardeners have good luck using a spray containing equal parts lemon juice, white vinegar, and water. This concoction will probably not harm your succulents, but really, spraying any liquid on succulents is not usually advisable. It’s best just to put your plants in a safe place.
Whatever you do, don’t use any cat-repellent recipe that contains any kind of pepper. Getting pepper in the eyes can be very harmful to cats and may cause blindness or even self-injury.
5. If my cat eats a non-toxic succulent, should I worry?
You shouldn’t worry much, but you shouldn’t be cavalier about it. Any time a cat eats anything that falls outside its usual diet, it can cause gastric distress.
If your cat eats a few Hens and Chicks leaves (for example), keep an eye on the cat, and move the plant to a safe place.
Your cat may have eaten the plant to induce vomiting (e.g., to dislodge a fur ball), so don’t be too alarmed if the cat throws up, but still, observe him or her closely for the next day or so. Call the vet if symptoms worsen.
Keep Your Cat & Your Plants Safe
If you currently have a cat and plants, be sure to identify all of the plants in your home to determine which are toxic and which are not. You may wish to rehome any that turn out to be toxic.
Avoid bringing potentially toxic plants into contact with your pet. When acquiring new plants, identify them before bringing them home.
Even if you have entirely non-toxic plants, arrange them in such a way that your cat doesn’t come in contact with them regularly.
Even the most trusted cat may get bored and bat around dangling leaves or offshoots, chew on plant leaves or plump fronds, or mount an excavation project.
Keep your cat entertained and well-fed. Be sure your cat has plenty of toys to play with. If he or she is a strictly indoor cat, choose a brand of kibble that is formulated for indoor cats.
These types of cat food include extra roughage and veggies to help keep your cat satisfied and prevent fur-balls.
You can also grow grass for your cat using rye-grass seed, wheat grass seed, or oats.
How to Grow Wheatgrass Without Soil in 12 Days
What To Do If Your Cat Eats A Toxic Plant?
Call your vet immediately if you suspect your feline friend has eaten a potentially dangerous succulent. Be sure to have clear information to share regarding the plants’ botanical and common names.
Let your vet know how much of the plant your cat ate. Be ready to pack up a plant sample to take to the vet.
If your vet is unavailable, another number you may wish to contact for assistance is the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661).
You can also contact the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) and ask for a comprehensive list of toxic and nontoxic plants for cats and other house pets to familiarize yourself with common poisonous plants for cats to prevent this kind of problem.