Cats are naturally inquisitive, and that is not always a safe trait. Hence the saying “Curiosity killed the cat!”
Felines enjoy climbing, exploring and chewing on things, so if you have a pet cat, it’s important to make certain your home and garden are safe.
Before adding pets like a kitten or cat to your family, it’s a good idea to inventory the plants in your home or on your property and remove or secure poisonous plants for cats.
All of the plants on the following list are considered toxic to cats. Many of these plants are considered poisonous to both dogs and cats; however, the focus of this article is on toxicity to cats.
Plants are notated first by scientific name, followed by any common names. This list also includes the “toxic principle” of each type of plant.
This term refers to the specific ingredient or quality of a plant which acts as a toxin.
For complete information on common toxic principles of plants, Quizlet provides a handy plant toxicology study set. [source]
20 Poisonous Plants Cats Should Avoid
Common Names: Amaryllis, Naked Lady, Belladonna lily, Saint Joseph lily, Cape Belladonna
These plants contain several toxic principles, but the most dangerous is Lycorine. Cats exposed to this toxin may experience shaking, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Common Names: Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron
The toxic principles of this plant are alkaloids, including colchicine. Exposure may cause damage to multiple organs, bone marrow suppression, shock, diarrhea, and vomiting blood.
The toxic principle of this plant is grayanotoxin which interferes with the functioning of skeletal muscles and the heart.
Ingesting even a small amount can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, paralysis in the legs, depression of the central nervous system (CNS), weakness, stupor, coma, a collapse of the heart and death.
Common Names: Castor Bean, Castor Oil Plant, Mole Bean Plant, African Wonder Tree
The toxic principle of this plant is ricin, which is most present in the beans. This toxin inhibits the body’s ability to process protein.
Ingesting even a very small number of beans or amount of foliage can cause burning of the mouth and throat, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhea, trouble breathing, trembling, excessive thirst, kidney failure, CNS depression, loss of coordination, fever, weakness, convulsions, coma, and death.
Common Names: Chrysanthemum, Daisy, Mum
This plant contains several toxic principles, including pyrethrins, lactones, and sesquiterpene. Ingestion of or exposure to any part of the plant can result in skin irritation, drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of coordination.
Note: The other “daisy” – gerbera daisy plant – is not considered toxic yo cats
Common Names: Cyclamen, Sowbread
Terpenoid saponins are the toxic principles of this plant. Ingestion of the tubers can lead to drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, convulsions and death.
Common Names: English Ivy, Glacier Ivy, Branching Ivy, Needlepoint Ivy, Sweetheart Ivy, California Ivy
Triterpenoid saponins make up the toxic principles of this plant. The toxins are more concentrated in the leaves that in the berries. Ingesting a small amount of foliage can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
The toxic principle of this plant is bufodienolides. Ingestion can cause diarrhea and vomiting. In rare instances, heartbeat irregularities may result.
There are between 150 and 200 varieties of Kalanchoe hailing from various parts of the world, including Australia, Madagascar, and Africa.
Because it is a tropical plant, it is mostly found as a houseplant; however, it has naturalized in some of the warmer areas of the United States. It pays to be vigilant and check your surroundings if you live in a semi-tropical area such as Hawaii or Florida.
Common Names: Easter Lily, Lily
The precise toxic principles of members of the lily family are unknown; however, ingestion of lilies causes kidney failure in cats. Symptoms include excessive thirst and frequent urination, cloudy and/or bloody urine.
NOTE: Interestingly, the Plumosa fern is a member of the lily (Liliaceae) family, but it is non-toxic to both dogs and cats.
Common Names: Indian Hemp, Marijuana, Hashish
The toxic principle of marijuana is Delta-9-THC (aka: tetrahydrocannabinol). Ingestion or extended or repeated exposure to marijuana smoke may cause drooling, vomiting, depression or excitation, stupor, dilated pupils, loss of coordination, reduced body temperature, hypotension, seizures, coma and (rarely) death.
Common Names: Oleander, Rose-Bay
Cardiac glycosides are the toxic principles of this plant. Ingestion of even a small amount can cause drooling, stomach pain, diarrhea, depression, and death.
Common Names: Yew Tree, Japanese Yew
Taxine is the toxic principle of this plant. Ingestion can cause difficulty breathing, muscular tremors, seizures, heart failure, and death.
Common Names: Mauna Loa Lily, Peace Lily plant
Insoluble calcium oxalates are the toxic principles of this plant. Ingestion can cause oral irritation and burning of the mouth and throat, drooling, vomiting and trouble swallowing.
Common Names: Pothos Ivy plant, Devil’s Ivy, Taro Vine, Ivy Arum
Insoluble calcium oxalates are the toxic principles of this plant. Ingestion can cause irritation and burning of the mouth and throat, drooling, vomiting, and trouble swallowing.
Common Names: Sago Palm, Coontie Palm, Cardboard Palm, Cycads, Zamias
The toxic principle of this plant is cycasin. Ingestion can result in excessive thirst, vomiting, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, bloody feces, jaundice, liver damage and failure, bruising, excessive bleeding and death.
Common Names: Coleus, Indian Borage, Spanish Thyme, Stinging Thyme, Country Borage, East Indian Thyme, Bread and Butter Plant
The toxic principles in this variety of coleus plant are found in its essential oils. Ingestion of any part of the plant may cause unexplained weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool, and depression.
Common Names: Tulip
The tulip is a member of the lily family; however, its toxic principles have been identified as tulipalin A and B. These ingredients are most concentrated in the bulb of the plant, but ingestion of any part of the plant can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and depression.
Common Names: Exotica Perfection, Dumb Cane, Tropic Snow, Exotica
The toxic principles of this plant are proteolytic enzyme and insoluble calcium oxalates. Ingestion results in oral irritation, drooling, vomiting and trouble swallowing.
Common Names: Buddhist Rosary Bead, Precatory Bean, Weather Plant, Seminole Bead, Indian Licorice, Indian Bead, Rosary Pea, Lucky Bean, Love Bean
The toxic principles of the plant are abric acid and abrin. These components are found in greatest concentration in the seeds; however, the seed coating must be broken for the toxins to be absorbed.
Ingesting even small amounts of this plant can cause severe symptoms such as bloody diarrhea and vomiting, tachycardia, high fever, tremors, shock, and death.
Common Names: Narcissus, Daffodil, Jonquil, Paper White
Toxic principles of this plant are alkaloids, including Lycorine, which is present in the greatest concentration in the bulb. Ingestion of any part of the plant may result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure and seizures.
Spring blooming bulbs are generally toxic. For a complete list, see this ASPCA article:
This is just a brief list of plants toxic to cats. You can also visit the ASPCA website for their extensive list of Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants. [source]
Although some plants are only poisonous in part (leaves, stems, seeds, twigs or roots) it is always safest to assume that if a plant is toxic at all, the entire plant is toxic.
A plant may have a higher concentration of its toxic principle in one part, but exposure to any part of the plant can be problematic. Even when the toxic principle is believed to cause only specific damage, it is best to avoid exposure altogether.
How Do You Know If Your Cat Has Eaten A Toxic Plant?
Because most plants toxic to cats are irritants to the gastrointestinal tract, any irritation and inflammation around your cat’s mouth should be a warning sign.
Look for itchiness, swelling, and redness. Drooling is also a common symptom associated with most types of poisoning.
Secondary symptoms may include vomiting and trouble swallowing. Stomach pain and diarrhea are also very common symptoms associated with many types of poisoning.
Extreme thirst and excessive urination are an indication that your cat may have been poisoned by a substance which affects the kidneys.
Rapid pulse or heartbeat, loss of coordination, lethargy, and stupor may indicate ingestion of a poison affecting the CNS.
What To Do?
If you catch your cat eating a plant, and you are unsure as to whether the plant is poisonous, naturally you will want to put a stop to the activity.
Observe your cat closely over the next couple of hours. While doing so, take steps to identify the plant and determine whether or not it is toxic.
Seek the advice of your veterinarian by phone, and if you determine you must take your cat to the vet, bring along a sample of the plant. If your cat throws up or has diarrhea, bring along a sample of that as well. This will help your vet determine the precise toxin.
Quick action is imperative if your cat is showing signs of poisoning. Call your vet right away. Alternately, you can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435.
They may charge you a consultation fee of $65 by credit or debit card. This option could save your cat’s life if you are far away from your vet or don’t have a vet.
What’s the Best Course of Action?
Whenever possible, it is best to take your pet to his or her own doctor. Your vet knows your cat and will be best able to make a proper diagnosis and begin an appropriate course of treatment. Your vet will be able to provide your cat with a thorough exam and complete testing to pinpoint exactly what is going on.
A professional veterinarian has the resources at hand to quickly and skillfully administer treatments such as activated charcoal to absorb toxins or medications such as sucralfate to protect the damaged stomach lining.
If your cat needs an anti-inflammatory med or IV fluids, a veterinarian can administer these treatments quickly; however, chances are you would not be able to do so at all!
Even when excellent treatment is quickly provided, cats may suffer aafter-effectsof poisoning. This is especially true of cats who have ingested lilies. After recovery, your cat may need to take medication on a regular basis or eat a special diet.
If your vet recommends either or both of these courses of action, be sure to take the advice seriously and follow his or her instructions closely.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Clearly, it pays to cat-proof your home and garden before acquiring a cat. Take the time to identify your houseplants and those in your landscaping.
If you find potentially poisonous plants, take steps to remove them and replace them with plants both you and your cat can enjoy.
This video introduces four plants not toxic to cats!
Create a Safe Space!
If you have indoor cats, a small, secure cat garden can add fun to your cat’s life and yours! A securely fenced area the size of a balcony or screen porch provides plenty of space for cat-friendly plants, climbing and resting platforms, hiding places, water features, and play space. [source]
Use wire or plastic mesh to create cat-proof fencing at least six feet high. It’s best if you can completely enclose the area, but if you don’t have a roof and cannot put mesh over the top, add a panel to the top of the fence that leans inward at a sharp angle to prevent (although perhaps not completely stop) kitties from going over the fence.
Make your garden and enclosure as nice looking as possible so as not to inspire wrath from your neighbors.
Your cat garden should include:
- Cat-friendly plants such as grass, catnip, catmint, valerian and spider plants.
- Chairs and benches for you to sit on and your cat to hide under.
- Clean sand, soil or finished compost for digging and rolling.
- An observation platform for watching the world go by.
- A scratching post or natural stumps and branches.
- Sunny spots and shady spots.
- A water feature.
To provide grass for your cats, you can either buy a section of turf at your local garden center and plant it in shallow planters or sow bird seed in containers of potting mix.
Catnip, catmint, and valerian are easy to grow from seed, and the Chlorophytum (spider plant) are well-known for their enthusiastic production of plantlets. Your cats will probably give their edible plants quite a beating, so it’s a good idea to plant a few extras and keep them safe so that you can switch them out from time-to-time.
Arrange your chairs, benches, scratching posts and containers of plants in such a way as to make it easy for your cats to navigate through the garden without having to clamber through the pots.
They will appreciate all the natural hiding and resting places between pots and under furnishings. If your benches and chairs are solid, they will provide good shelter in case of slightly inclement weather. Otherwise, provide a little “cathouse” or two so that your cats can enjoy the garden year round.
It’s a good idea to provide a high platform that allows the cats to see out but not get out.
If your garden is not securely covered, position your observation platform near the center of the garden to prevent escapes. Incorporating your scratching post and platform is a good space-saving idea.
Cats like running water, so a fountain or pond with a waterfall is a nice touch. If you decide to include a fish pond, make sure it’s deep enough to allow the fish to get away if the cats decide to fish. Provide your fish with rocks and caves for hiding. Most cats enjoy watching fish but are not especially successful at fishing.
How to Create A Cat Garden
Be Proactive In Keeping Your Cat Safe From Toxic Plants
Kittens are like toddlers; they are endlessly excited by all of the new and interesting things they encounter minute-by-minute.
If you have a new kitten, you can expect him or her to tear around the house getting into things, and if you have poisonous plants in the house, sooner or later you can count on a disastrous encounter.
This is even true (or perhaps especially true) if you have hanging plants as they can be very tempting to playful kittens. Even older cats can be tempted into chewing on potentially poisonous plants if they become bored.
It’s easy to see that taking proactive steps by ridding your home and garden of toxic plants and providing plenty of environmental enrichment in the form of toys, safe plants, and enjoyable garden space is a great way to keep your cat safe.
Refer to the information presented here to provide your cat with a safe, enjoyable home.