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November 10, 2020

Which Houseplants Are Safe for Cats?

Which Houseplants Are Safe for Cats?

Fresh flowers and plants can really brighten up your home, and outdoor gardening can be therapeutic and fun, while improving your home’s curb appeal.

However, before you choose plants for your home (or your yard or patio, if your kitty goes outside), it’s important to consider your feline companion’s safety. 

Some plants are perfectly safe for cats, while others are very dangerous, even deadly.

Read on to learn which plants to avoid, and which plants are cat friendly.

12 Houseplants That Are Toxic to Cats

Some plants are more toxic than others. When in doubt, it’s best to avoid a plant.

Here are a few of the biggest culprits you’ll want to steer clear of.

1. Lilies

Of all the plants out there, lilies are probably the biggest safety concern for felines. That’s because ingestion can cause kidney failure, which requires immediate hospitalization to treat, and can be fatal even with treatment.

Every part of the plant is poisonous to cats — the leaves, flowers, pollen, and even water in the vase. So your kitty could suffer acute kidney failure just from brushing against the plant and getting pollen on their fur (which then is ingested while grooming) or by drinking the flower water.

Since the risks are so high, it’s critical that cat parents do not keep any variety of lily in their homes. 

If you remember just one plant from this list, remember to avoid lilies.

2. Autumn Crocus

This fall-blooming flower can cause mouth irritation, severe digestive upset (possibly including bloody vomiting), damage to multiple body organs, bone marrow suppression, and even death in both cats and dogs.

READ ALSO: Poisonous Plants for Dogs

3. Azaleas & Rhododendrons

These flowering plants can cause vomiting and diarrhea, weakness, heart problems, depression of the central nervous system, and even coma and death. 

4. Daffodils & Narcissus

These plants — especially the bulbs — can cause stomach upset, convulsions, abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, and dangerously low blood pressure.

5. Dieffenbachia

Also known as dumb cane or tropic snow, this plant typically isn’t so dangerous as to be fatal. But it does contain irritating compounds that can cause painful burning in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and vomiting.

6. Oleander

This flowering shrub is a common outdoor plant. However, it is dangerous to your cat’s heart if ingested. In addition to causing stomach upset, the effects on the heart can be fatal.

7. Onions & Chives

While some herbs are pet-friendly, onions and chives are not. In addition to stomach upset, they can cause red blood cell destruction and life-threatening anemia in some pets.

8. Sago Palms

This popular tropical plant is commonly planted outdoors, although indoor varieties also exist. Ingestion can cause liver damage in cats, which may be fatal even with treatment. Other effects may include bloody vomiting and diarrhea, weakness/depression, and seizures.

9. Tulips

Ingestion of tulips (especially the bulb, although all parts of the plant are toxic) can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy/depression, and convulsions.

Toxic Holiday Plants

In addition to Easter favorites like lilies and tulips that were mentioned above, certain holiday seasonal plants are best avoided.

10. Poinsettias

While their toxicity has been exaggerated, poinsettias can cause stomach upset if eaten.

11. Holly

Holly causes severe stomach upset.

12. Mistletoe

This plant also causes stomach upset, which may be accompanied by more severe effects like an abnormal heart rate, difficulty breathing, seizures, collapse, and (in large amounts) death.

SEE ALSO: Holiday Safety Tips for Pet Parents

Symptoms of Toxic Plant Ingestion in Cats

Symptoms vary depending on the type of plant your cat nibbled on, so you likely won’t see all of the symptoms listed below, but any are a cause for alarm after a toxic plant exposure. Your cat may exhibit: 

  • Vomiting and diarrhea (which may be mild to severe, and may or may not contain blood).
  • Drooling.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Itchiness or irritation, especially around the face, eyes, and mouth.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Seizures or tremors.
  • Lethargy, weakness, or depression.
  • Irregular heartbeats. This may be more difficult to detect, since most pet parents don’t routinely check their kitty’s pulse. What you may notice as a result of irregular heartbeats is faintness, weakness, distress, or collapse.
  • Excessive water drinking or urination.

What to Do if Your Cat Ingested a Toxic Plant

First, minimize the toxic exposure. Take your pet away from the plant, and remove plant materials from their mouth or fur if you can safely do so. While some parts of the plant may be more toxic than others, it’s best to assume all parts of the plant (and vase water) are dangerous.

Then, immediately contact your veterinarian (or an after hours vet), even if your cat isn’t showing symptoms yet. Sometimes symptoms can be delayed — but prompt treatment makes a big difference and may be life-saving.

If you’re not 100% sure what the plant is, bring the plant or a piece of it (enough to identify it) to the vet. Keep it separated from your kitty during transport so they’re not exposed to more of the toxin. Different plants require different treatments, so this is important information for your vet to know.

Also, consider calling the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435, especially if you can’t reach a veterinarian right away.

Do not try to do home treatments or make your cat vomit, unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian or a pet poison control expert.

12 Plants That Are Safe for Cats

If you’re a cat parent and love plants, don’t worry. There are plenty of plants that are generally considered safe for cats, including cat friendly indoor plants and outdoor plants that could be used to line a catio.

Two edible cat friendly plants in particular are popular with felines:

1. Cat Grass

While not as common as it is in dogs, many cats enjoy chewing on grass. “Cat grass,” which is typically a mix of barley, wheat, oat, or rye grasses, provides a safe option for this. This plant comes in small grow kits, which you can set up (in direct sunlight) like a miniature garden for your furry friend to enjoy to their heart’s content. Plus, this may deter them from chewing on your other plants.

2. Catnip

Yes, this is the same funny-smelling stuff found in many cat toys. Your cat may enjoy the fresh version, and you’ll have fun watching your furry friend take nibbles or even roll on top of the plant. While catnip is generally considered safe for cats to eat, be warned that overindulgence may cause stomach upset, sedation, or hyperactivity — but most cats can enjoy this plant in moderation. To keep it growing, be sure to place it somewhere in your home that gets plenty of bright light.

Keep in mind that, even with plants that are safe for cats, you may still see some stomach upset if your kitty eats them. This is even true for both cat grass and catnip, which are the only plants your little buddy should be eating with any regularity.

Below are additional plants that are safe for your pet, even if your cat takes a small bite from time to time. Note, though, that your cat shouldn’t regularly eat them, since they can cause digestive troubles.

3. African Violets

4. Bamboo Palm (also known as Parlor Palm)

5. Areca Palm

6. Air Plants

7. Boston Fern

8. Phalaenopsis Orchids

9. Ponytail Palm (also known as Beaucarnea Recurvata)

10. Spider Plants

11. Prayer Plants, such as Calathea

12. Many succulents, including Hens and Chicks, Haworthia, Blue Echeveria, Peperomias, Bromeliads, and Christmas Cactuses

How Do You Know What Plants Are Safe for Cats?

With all the plants that grow in a variety of climates and environments, it would be impossible to cover all of them here. So, keep in mind this list of plants is not exhaustive and there are other plants not on this list that could present risks if your kitty is exposed. It’s important to determine whether or not a plant is toxic to cats before you bring it into your home.

Many plant names (especially common names rather than scientific names) sound similar. To be on the safe side, it’s crucial to do your research before bringing any new plant into your home or yard where your kitty could be exposed. A great resource for this is the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant searchable database

Setting Up Your Plants So They’re Safe for Cats

Remember, cats are excellent jumpers and climbers, and they love to explore.

Toxic plants shouldn’t be brought into the home at all, but even for safe plant options, don’t assume your feline companion can’t reach plants on the counter or on high shelves. Be sure you have a place that is truly cat proof for anything you don’t want your pet to access. 

This will not only protect your cat, it will also protect your new plant’s fronds from teeth marks, and from your kitty digging up the dirt and making a mess or knocking over and breaking a vase or pot.

If you want to play it safe, artificial plants are also an option (plus, they’re extra low maintenance!).

If you do your due diligence — researching plants ahead of time and then finding a safe place to put them — you can enjoy some greenery and flowers while keeping your kitty safe.