The Aglaonema, aka the Chinese evergreen plant, are popular houseplants in homes and offices thanks to its resilient nature and high ornamental value.
The common name ‘Chinese evergreen’ refers to 21 plants typically grown in subtropical and tropical forests in Southeast Asia. These plants belong to the family Araceae and exist in various shades ranging from green to dark green, silver, or gray depending on the species and cultivar.
However, as with any other houseplant, pet owners should check the toxicity of this plant to determine whether or not it’s safe to have around their homes. So today, we’re addressing the toxicity of Chinese evergreen when it comes to cats.
Is The Chinese Evergreen Plant Safe For Cats?
No, Chinese evergreen plants are not safe for cats. In fact, according to ASPCA, Chinese evergreens are poisonous to cats, dogs, and horses. This is due to the presence of the toxic principle insoluble calcium oxalates.
Why Are Chinese Evergreen Plants Toxic for Cats?
Chinese evergreen plants contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, like almost all other plants in the Araceae family – Peace lily, Dumb Cane, Philodendron, and Swiss Cheese plant.
When your feline pet chews on or bites into a Chinese evergreen plant, the plant will release these crystals.
Upon tissue penetration, these crystals can irritate the mouth, the GI tract and cause intense pain. In severe cases, they lead to swelling of the upper airway, which results in breathing difficulties.
What Are The Symptoms of Chinese Evergreen Poisoning?
Here are the common signs you need to watch out for:
- Intense oral irritation of the mouth, tongue, throat, and lips.
- Excessive drooling.
- Swelling of the throat.
- Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia).
- Inability to swallow.
These can occur right away or up to 2 hours after ingestion. Your cat may continue to show the symptoms above for up to 2 weeks after ingesting the toxin.
Consuming larger quantities of Chinese evergreens can lead to:
- Severe digestive upset.
- Extreme difficulty breathing.
- Fast, shallow gasps (dyspnea).
If your pet ingests extensive amounts of the plant, the symptoms will manifest much more severely. Besides any of the ones listed above, additional symptoms will show such as:
- Violent convulsions.
- Renal failure.
- Possible death.
Is it Possible to Recover from Chinese Evergreen Poisoning?
Yes, it is possible to recover even from severe calcium oxalate poisoning. However, there could already be permanent liver and kidney damage in most severe cases.
Related: What Plants Are Poisonous To Cats?
What To Do If Your Cat Ingests Chinese Evergreen?
If you suspect that your feline pet may have ingested a Chinese evergreen plant, the first thing you should do is remain calm so you can reliably perform first aid steps. Don’t worry; most cases of calcium oxalate poisoning can be alleviated at home.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Once you notice that your cat may have ingested Chinese evergreen, quickly rinse out its mouth and flush it thoroughly with water.
- After that, feed your cat some milk, yogurt, cheese, or any other food that’s rich in calcium to relieve the burning sensation and the pain of irritation. This is because calcium can precipitate some of the calcium oxalate crystals.
Most poisoned pets, including cats, can fully recover within 12 to 24 hours of ingestion.
If your cat is suffering from more severe gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, and diarrhea, you should carefully monitor it for signs of dehydration. Be sure to provide adequate fluid intake if necessary.
As a preventative measure, and in cases where there’s obvious oral swelling, you can give your cat an antihistamine medication. This will help prevent or reduce swelling, discomfort, and airway blockages. A medication to relieve gastrointestinal upset can also be considered.
If the cat’s airway becomes blocked due to swelling, visit your vet immediately. The cat will probably be kept under observation until the swelling subsides and breathing returns to normal.
How to Prevent Your Cat from Ingesting Chinese Evergreen
- Plant your Chinese evergreens inside a plant terrarium.
- Use some non-toxic, pet-friendly repellents. You can also try home remedies such as lemon sprays and lemon peels.
- Put your Chinese evergreen in areas rarely visited by your cats.
- Provide alternative safe plants such as pet-friendly grass to satisfy your cat’s urges.
- Engage your cat in more playtime to alleviate boredom.
- Train your cat not to eat plants by spraying water whenever it goes near your Chinese evergreen.
- If you are growing these plants outdoors, make sure you’re using dry deterrents.