Health and Safety

Must Know: Which Plants Can Kill Cats

You may love having house plants and taking care of your pets. However, in some cases, houseplants and cats do not go together. There is a surprisingly large number of popular plants that are toxic to cats and may even poison them. Just as you would keep toxic chemicals away from your children, you should keep these dangerous houseplants away from your cats, or keep them out of your home altogether. Find out which plants to avoid keeping in your home if you have cats.

It isn’t just the indoor plants that can be deadly to cats, but even favorite flowers you keep in your garden. If you have indoor cats, you don’t need to worry about your cat consuming your garden blossoms, but if you have an outdoor cat, beware. All types of lilies are dangerous for cats, and consuming them could lead to kidney failure. There are many types of lilies, including those that grow wild and those that bloom from planted bulbs. The Easter lily, Asiatic lily, day lilies, tiger lilies and basically any flower that goes by the name of “lily” should be kept far away from cats.

It is disturbing to consider how small a portion of the lily needs to be eaten before your pet is in danger. Eating any part of the lily plant and consuming just two petals can lead to a crisis. A cat should be treated immediately after consuming lilies to prevent kidney failure. The symptoms of lily poisoning include drooling, vomiting, increased urination, and dehydration. If you suspect your cat has ingested any plant from the genus Lilium, call your veterinarian or a pet emergency center to see if you should induce vomiting. If you get prompt treatment, your pet could fully recover. Make sure you bring a sample of the plant with you to the pet hospital.

Part of the treatment may include giving your cat activated charcoal to reduce the toxic effects of the lily. Your pet may also be given intravenous treatment to provide fluids and prevent kidney malfunction. After your cat has been successfully treated for lily poisoning, stay alerted for after effects, such as frequent urination or dehydration. If this happens, it may mean that not all of the toxins have been removed and there may still be some lily in the cat’s system. In this case, your pet should be taken back to the pet hospital for repeat treatment. Make sure you don’t keep lilies in the house and inspect bouquets you receive for any individual lilies. Given the extreme reaction cats have to this plant, it is not worth taking a chance by having lilies in another part of the house, since cats can move stealthily and end up eating the lily without your noticing it.

The legalization of marijuana in some areas has been a boon to those who like growing marijuana plants at home but are afraid of being caught. Now that there is less fear about growing and consuming marijuana in places it is legal. However, one way you should never experiment is by sharing some with your cat. This may seem obvious to many conscientious pet owners, but some people may reason that since cats act “stoned” when they are consuming catnip, why not a bit of cannabis? Let your cat stick to catnip which nature designed for them, and keep them away from your marijuana plants. Marijuana, unlike catnip, causes depression of the central nervous system in cats. Some of the symptoms include drooling, vomiting and an increased heart rate. If left untreated, the cat could go into a coma.

Most caring pet owners would not knowingly give their cats marijuana, but many owners are unwittingly exposing their cats to cannabis. Pet poison control hotlines have reported a dramatic increase in calls reporting marijuana poisoning in cats since 2009. People who use medical marijuana may leave it out and the cat could consume it thinking it is catnip. Cats will act as if they are intoxicated when they have been exposed to cannabis, but it is more extreme than when they are under the influence of catnip. They may either start to move more slowly and their movements will be impaired or they will jump around and behave hyperactively. It isn’t only the plant that can cause problems, but marijuana edibles have also been known to cause serious issues in cats. Make sure you keep marijuana plants, the dried herb and cannabis edibles safely out of the reach of cats.

It’s unfortunate that so many beautiful plants and flowers are harmful to cats, but it is necessary to take precautions if you have them growing in your home or garden. Azaleas are flowering shrubs in the rhododendron family and are popular plants used in landscaping. They sprout pretty blossoms in the springtime. Their blossoms can be red, light pink or deep pink and may be white. Azaleas tend to bloom in the shade of trees and provide shade to small animals. These plants can be dangerous to outdoor cats who find shelter in them. The flowers cause damage to the feline nervous system if they are ingested. They can make your cat vomit, drool and can cause diarrhea. These are just the symptoms, and the damage to the nervous system can be severe. If the symptoms go untreated, a cat can collapse from cardiovascular failure and sink into a coma.

Tulips pose a similar kind of threat as flowers in the rhododendron family since they attack the nervous system of felines and create some of the same symptoms. Tulips have a distinctive, cup-like shape and waxy petals. They bloom in brilliant colors and are the favorite of flower connoisseurs who order the most exotic varieties of tulip bulbs from Holland. Although these flowers are beautiful to look at and are the favorite of landscapers and gardeners, keep them away from your cat. The bulbs are just as dangerous as the flowers, stems, and leaves of the tulip, so keep your bulbs stored safely away from areas of the house your cat frequents. Chemicals from the tulips attack the nervous system, and if your cat is drooling, vomiting and seems disoriented, he or she might have been poisoned by tulips. In severe cases, the cat will experience cardiac arrest.

Palms provide an exotic atmosphere reminiscent of the tropics. Many people eat hearts of palm, but some types of palm in their natural state are highly toxic to pets. Before this plant can be consumed by humans, it has to go through an extensive detoxification process to be fit for consumption. Some types of palm are poisonous and some are not, so it is important to know which variety are hazardous to felines. The Cycas Revoluta is the palm plant that is toxic to cats. Every part of this plant can cause severe health problems, but the seeds are the most poisonous. If your cat ingests just one or two seeds, it could experience severe health problems and heart irregularities. Vomiting and diarrhea are common reactions, and if left untreated, seizures could develop and eventually liver failure.

Oleander is an evergreen shrub that is grown for its bright blossoms that are shaped like a funnel. Landscapers enjoy using this plant for its attractive greenery and blossoms, hardiness and rapid growth, but the plant is highly toxic to both humans and animals. People with small children should beware of having oleander growing nearby. In cats, oleander can cause severe gastrointestinal problems, irregular heart function, and hypothermia. For many cats, ingesting oleander can be fatal.

Chrysanthemums are often known by the simple name “Mum” and daisies are also members of the same family. Someone may give you a pot of Mums or daisies for your birthday or another special occasion, but the gift will not be appreciated by your cat. The pyrethrins in these plants are chemicals that threaten the gastrointestinal tract of cats and other animals. It isn’t just the blossom that can cause problems, but every part of the plant.

Ivy adds a fresh, green look to a patio or the exterior of buildings. They may create an Old World look to your exterior design, but make sure your cat does not consume any of the leaves. All varieties of ivy can cause problems for cats. If your cat ingests ivy, it could hyper-salivate, vomit, and suffer from abdominal pain.

Not all problematic plants cause poisoning or serious health problems, but they can still create issues you and your cat would rather do without. The dieffenbachia and the philodendron contain calcium oxalate which can make your cat’s mouth hurt and cause tooth pain. Your cat may not experience severe health repercussions after eating this plant, but it will foam at the mouth or drool excessively. You need not get rid of these plants, but keep them out of reach or in places where your cat can’t jump.

In addition to the plants mentioned above, the following are highly toxic for cats: Yew, castor bean, cyclamen, kalanchoe, amaryllis, Autumn crocus, pothos, Schefflera, and others. Check your indoor plants to make sure they are not the above varieties. If you are unsure if your houseplant may be of the same family as plants that are toxic to cats, consult the web to do research on various plants, and if you are in doubt, consult your veterinarian. Inspect your yard, garden and the surrounding environs for plants that can be hazardous to your cat. If you have a cat that spends part of the time outdoors, it may be difficult to ensure that your pet does not eat ivy or toxic flowers. When you rent a new apartment, look around the environs and see what kind of plants surround the apartment or house.

You are able to control the plants that are in your house. If someone gives you a bouquet of flowers with a lily in it, you can always keep it far away from your cat or give it away to a friend who has no pets. However, if you have rented a new apartment, aside from speaking to your landlord about the plants that are actually on his premises, there is little you can do about plants that “belong” to surrounding homes. This is yet another argument in favor of keeping your cat indoors. If your cat wants to go out, it may be difficult to refuse, especially if he or she meows endlessly, but when considering a cat to adopt, there are advantages to adopting a cat that has been raised indoors.

Former feral cats may want to venture outside now and again, even if they are spayed or neutered, and living at least part of the time outdoors can expose your cat to poisonous plants as well as many viruses and illnesses. Cats who live outdoors even part of the time have been shown to live shorter lifespans than indoor cats. They are more likely to be exposed to two of the major killers of cats, namely, accidents, such as being hit by a car and viral diseases such as feline leukemia. These viruses are passed from one cat to another, and if your cat wanders outside he or she may come in contact with infected cats. These viral illnesses are less common among indoor cats, and they are also absolutely unlikely to come in contact with poisonous plants that were not introduced into your home. You may not be able to keep a cat inside if he or she is unwilling to stay there, but keep in mind the risks and try to reduce them. When it comes to poisonous plants, try to make sure you don’t have poisonous flowers or foliage on your property. Know what to look for and expect concerning symptoms of poisoning through plants. If you are prepared with information, even if you can’t control what plants are in the neighbor’s garden, you will at least know if your cat is in distress and have some idea of what to do. Many people don’t even realize that these flowers and foliage are poisonous so this information itself is valuable.

You may wonder how likely it is that cats will actually consume house plants or flowers in the garden. After all, cats and dogs are carnivores and rely on meat as the basis of their diet. However, cats like to have roughage now and again and a little variety. One way you can satisfy your cat’s desire for roughage is to avoid giving it solely wet food but incorporate dry food and fiber-filled treats on a regular basis. If you notice your cat enjoys the greenery, try getting some specially made cat grass for her. You can find wheat grass, oat grass, barley or other types of grass from your pet store. People like to drink concentrates wheatgrass juice to promote general health, so think of wheatgrass as something you can share with your cat.

Eating grass and plants isn’t necessarily natural for cats. In fact, cats do not have the stomachs to digest grass and other greenery or foliage. It is likely that any cat grass your cat ingests it will regurgitate it. However, this can provide health benefits, because along with bringing up the cat grass, your cat will also get rid of hairballs and other things it doesn’t need. Think of grass as a kind of detox for your cat, or at least a purge. Some cats really enjoy eating grass and plants whereas others leave it alone entirely. In the wild, cats would eat plants only indirectly through consuming it in the stomach of their prey. Some cats like to consume grass as a kind of laxative which will help it get rid of items it doesn’t need. Grass may also give your cat some nutrients it would not otherwise get in its meat-based diet. Then again, there may not be a tangible reason why your cat likes to eat grass and plants—maybe it is just your cat’s preference.

If you notice that your cat is the type that likes a bit of green in its diet now and again, purchasing cat grass is a great way to keep it away from dangerous plants. It is relatively easy to grow cat grass from the seed, and this can be done indoors or outdoors. Start by purchasing seeds for the cat grass. Put rich soil in the pot and pat it so it is even. Add seeds to the top and press them down. Water the top slightly but don’t make it excessively wet. Put the pot in the direct sunlight and keep watering it. You will notice sprouts start between 5 to 7 days. When the grass is one inch long, you can start to introduce it to your cat, although some people keep a portion of the cat grass to grow to a longer length before giving it to a cat. If you grow wheatgrass for your healthy juice, all you have to do is put aside some for your cat.

Your cat may like cat grass, but you may also want something that adds charm to your home, and a pot of grass may not have exactly the decorative appeal you are looking for. If you want attractive plants that are not harmful to your cat, there are many types of plants that can fit the bill. Herbs are functional and can be beautiful, especially varieties like lavender that also blossom. Spider plants are decorative and cats seem to love them. There are other advantages to spider plants in addition to their relative safety. They grow well in dim light and can clean the air inside the home. Cats seem to love spider plants so much that you may have to protect your plants against the cats rather than vice versa (which is a different topic altogether).

Bamboo can give an exotic touch to your interior design and is a fun plant to have around the house. Fortunately, it is also safe for cats who sometimes love to chew on its stalks. Bamboo is technically a grass, and it makes sense given its shape. It is a no-fuss houseplant because it does not require substantial maintenance, can grow in almost any kind of light and does not “shed” like other types of house plants. Your cat may enjoy snacking on bamboo, which may pose more problems for the plant than it will for the cat. In this case, make sure you put the bamboo plant high up to prevent your pet from devouring it entirely.

A striking type of foliage with the brightness of a blossom but plenty of green is the wandering Jew plant. Its leaves appear almost striped with white and green and there are touches of purple underneath the leaves. These plants do well in the winter and can grow into small bushes in a basement. Cats love to hide among their leaves and can eat a leaf or two without adverse effects. Another bright form of foliage that is safe for cats is the prayer plant. These leaves are shaped like palms and have pink and dark green highlights.

Flowers cats can eat without harm include African violets, phalaenopsis orchids, and bromeliads. You don’t need to sacrifice colorful blossoms to make your home safe for cats, but make sure the plants are safe from your cats, and that your kitty doesn’t eat the blossoms. Cats are less likely to munch on flowers than grasses, but it is a good idea to be on the safe side and place them high up. At least you won’t have to worry about your cat’s health in the worst case scenario, but about purchasing a new plant.

When we choose plants for the house or garden, our first consideration may be aesthetics, maintenance, and usefulness. The notion of cats eating plants may not be the first thought that comes to mind if it hasn’t happened before. If you have many plants in your house and are adopting a cat, make sure you are aware of what kinds of plants are toxic to cats. Be aware of what blossoms in a bouquet to beware of. There are plenty of non-toxic types of foliage and flowers that do not pose problems for cats.


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