Are Roses Poisonous Or Toxic To Cats?

Are roses poisonous to cats? For the cat owner that is a great question!

Roses in the Rosaceae family are perhaps the most iconic flower out there.

Cat walking in rose garden
Cat walking through a garden of blooming roses – 智通 伊藤|Adobe

In the language of flowers, roses can mean friendship, love, or even death; all depending upon the color.

They’re invaluable in aromatherapy and rose hip tea is one of the best herbal drinks out there. And rose petals are pure romance.

But for pet owners, are roses still safe to have, or are they poisonous plants to your cats?

Are Roses Poisonous or Toxic?

The answer to this can get a little complicated, as many species aren’t roses but are referred to as such.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), true roses in the genus Rosa are safe for your cat to eat, if he or she doesn’t mind a few thorns for their trouble.

Just be careful they don’t ingest any chemical or home pesticides which may themselves prove toxic.

Note that ingesting thorns may result in abdominal pain, mouth injuries, or bowel obstruction.

Likewise, while cats may nibble on greens to aid in digestion, snacking on a large amount may leave them with an upset stomach or light case of diarrhea.

Which non-Rosa Roses Are Poisonous or Toxic?

While roses themselves are non-toxic, there are a lot of toxic plants out there which look like roses and have the word “rose” in their common name.

Here are some popular non-Rosa species to watch out for.

Adenium obesum (aka desert rose) has a highly toxic sap known to kill elephants.

Helleborus niger (aka Christmas rose or Easter rose) is a popular ornamental plant in Europe which blooms from December to April. All parts of this plant are highly toxic.

As with the rest of its genus, Hibiscus syriacus (aka rose of Sharon) has a scent cats love but is moderately toxic when ingested.

Portulaca oleracea (aka moss rose) has become quite popular as a ground cover and is perfectly edible to humans, this plant is quite toxic to cats, especially the leaves.

Primula vulgaris (aka Primrose) is a non-toxic plant which may result in vomiting if your furry friend snacks on it but will not otherwise harm them.

The entire genus Rhododendron (AHA rose tree, rosebay, or azalea) is known to have highly toxic leaves and roots which may prove fatal in even tiny amounts.

What Are The Symptoms Of Poisoning?

Ingesting Adenium obesum sap causes diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, vomiting, or even death.

Helleborus niger poisoning symptoms include diarrhea, drooling, and vomiting

Hibiscus syriacus isn’t lethal, but it will cause disorientation and seizures in cats.

Symptoms of Portulaca oleracea ingestion include drooling, kidney failure, tremors, and weight loss; although the poison takes effect quickly, which usually prevents the cat from eating a lethal amount.

In the event your cat has ingested any toxic plant, it’s imperative to contact a local vet with a 24-hour poison control specialist as soon as symptoms are discovered to prevent any permanent harm.

How To Protect Cats Who Love Roses

When dealing with non-toxic roses, especially Rosa plants, it’s often a good idea for cat owners to carefully remove all of the thorns from indoor plants.

The thorns are necessary on garden roses to help protect against excessive grazing by rabbits and other common pests, so aim for protective mesh fences or spraying the ground with smells your outdoor cats find offensive.

Planting rosemary near roses and rose-related plants can help deter cats from approaching them.

Common Rose Companions Which Are Toxic

Keep in mind that the plants you wish to place beside roses in gardens, indoor settings, or flower arrangements may also be toxic to your cat.

Some of these flowers include:

  • Amaryllis
  • Autumn crocus
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodil
  • Hydrangeas
  • The lily family and plants with lily in the common name (ex: day lilies or morning glory)
  • Tulip

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