Many cats like to chew on plants, and if you’re going to have live plants in your home, you must be aware of which plants are poisonous to cats. The effect of poisonous plants can range from mild gastrointestinal upset to severe neurological damage and death. Some plants may cause irritation and inflammation on contact with the skin or mouth, other plants may affect specific organs like the heart or kidneys.

Symptoms of plant poisoning

Symptoms will vary depending on which organ system a toxin affects, and can range from drooling, difficulty breathing or swallowing to vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drinking or urinating and a fast, slow or irregular heart beat.

Immediate veterinary care is essential

If you notice any of the symptoms above, or if you even just suspect your cat may have eaten a toxic plant, take your cat to a veterinarian immediately. Take a piece of the plant with you.

You can also call a Pet Poison Hotline (a fee will apply with most services,) but since some plants can be so highly toxic that time may be of the essence, I think it’s safer to take your cat to your vet or an emergency clinic.

Most common poisonous plants

The following list contains some of the most commonly seen plants that are toxic to cats (Source: PetMd.com):

• Amaryllis (Amaryllis sp.)
• Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale)
• Azaleas and Rhododendrons (Rhododendron sp.)
• Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
• Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum sp.)
• Cyclamen (Cyclamen sp.)
• English Ivy (Hedera helix)
• Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe sp.)
• Lilies (Lilium sp.)
• Marijuana (Cannabis sativa)
• Oleander (Nerium oleander)
• Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.)
• Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
• Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
• Spanish thyme (Coleus ampoinicus)
• Tulip and Narcissus bulbs (Tulipa and Narcissus sp.)
• Yew (Taxus sp.)

The deadly Lily

Lilies are highly toxic to cats. Just one small bite of a flower, leaf, stem or even the pollen of this plant can cause gastric distress, and, more importantly, if left untreated, can lead to fatal kidney failure. Immediate treatment is critical. If aggressive treatment is initiated within 6 hours of ingestion, chances are good that the cat will survive. After 18-24 hours, the prognosis, even with treatment, is poor. Read more about lily toxcity here.

Why I no longer have real plants in my home

As much as I love plants, I stopped keeping live plants in my home after Feebee, my first cat, decimated a ficus tree. While he thankfully didn’t ingest the leaves (they’re toxic to cats, something I didn’t know at the time, or I would have gotten rid of it sooner), he decided that running at the tree at full speed and using the trunk as a scratching post was great fun. The tree lost a bunch of leaves after each of these assaults until it looked like the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree’s poor cousin. Ever since then, the only plants allowed in my home are silk plants.

11 Comments on Plants That Are Poisonous to Cats

  1. We’ve found that cats LOVE Rose! There is a Rose Hydrosol (NOT essential oils as they are toxic to cats) that works great for calming and soothing during times of stress and high emotion. One of my cats enjoys trimming my mini rose plant if I ignore his meal demands. Sigh… For those of you with cats that insist on “helping” you garden, there is a very good Pinterest Pin with all of the safe herbal plants. It also works on many cats, that if they have their own plants, they’ll leave yours alone. 🙂

  2. The only plants that my husband and I have now are cacti and orchid. None of our cats have ever shown interest in cacti. (Or if they ever have without our knowledge, they probably learned to avoid them!) As for the orchid, they “gave” it to me for Mother’s Day, and so naturally they leave it be. 😉

  3. I have a male cat named Pawnee, now just under 2 years old who chewed and ate just about EVERYTHING when he was a baby. The very first time I let him roam freely about the house he jumped up on the windowsill and abruptly chomped a small tip off a lily plant leaf. It happened so fast and at the time I was unaware of the dangers of various plants because in the past I had cats and all kinds of plants with no problems – none were such chewers! Long story short I called the vet and had to take him in immediately where he stayed for a few days to get treatment. I then found out that even the tiniest pieces of lilies can be deadly to cats. So after this ordeal I researched about toxic plants for cats and still keep house plants but limit them to cat grass, mint, catnip, spiderplants, bamboo, Christmas cactus and a few others that aren’t toxic according to what I read, but I had to get rid of quite a few plants. He is gradually becoming less interested in eating plants except for his cat grass but I still won’t have any plants unless I know they are safe.

  4. While I find this post very educational and useful, I think that also a list of 100% safe plants, preferably with pictures, would also be great. Cat parents could choose plants from that list and have a peace of mind. There are a lot of plants for which any information on toxicity to cats is not available. Anyway, thanks for including the scientific names, they are essential.
    I have citrus trees, olive tree, begonias, palm Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, wandering jew Tradescantia zebrina, Maranta leuconeura, and a Hoya. While some of these are mildly toxic, my cat shows no interest in chewing them, expect for the palm and the Maranta and sometimes the tradescantia. The tradescantia is now out of his reach as I learned that it is toxic. I will probably give it away to be on the safe side. I also grow wheat and oat seedlings from time to time so he is less tempted to eat the decorative plants.

  5. We went plant free way back because I never trusted if a plant was safe or not. Even now I was unaware of quite a few on that list. Thank you for the very important reminder. I say better safe than sorry. I’m glad Feebee wasn’t poisoned back then.
    Loosing a pet is beyond heartbreaking but I can’t imagine how I’d feel if it was due to an everyday, seeming safe item in my home.

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