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.