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What are the most toxic houseplants for cats?

16 Houseplants to Avoid if You Have Cats

Some dogs seem to get into everything, pulling food off the kitchen counter, begging for anything you’re eating and binging on whatever they can find tipped out of the garbage can. Cats might be the more finicky eaters of our animal companions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still apt to eat things they shouldn’t.

While we may think we know why cats eat grass (and throw it up), our favorite felines also have a habit of nibbling, chewing, and swallowing other flowers and leaves from houseplants and outdoor plants. Some of these plants are fine for cats to get into (even if eating them leads to a bit of stomach upset or vomiting), but others are especially toxic and can lead to fatal poisoning in your cat.

Plants Toxic to Cats

Plants enrich the great outdoors, and many cats appreciate some of that greenery brought indoors for them to see, smell, touch and (sometimes) taste. While cats who eat a part of an indigestible but nontoxic plant may experience an upset stomach (think: vomit, constipation, or diarrhea), there are certain plants that are a bigger danger to cats.

Ahna Brutlag, DVM and Senior Veterinary Toxicologist at the Pet Poison Helpline, says there are a number of plants pet owners should keep away from cats.

Look Out for Lilies: Toxic to Cats

Lilies are at the top of the list. These gorgeous blooms—found commonly in bouquets and growing in the garden—can be extremely dangerous to cats. They’re such a common threat that Brutlag and her team created the No Lilies for Kitties! campaign to warn cat owners about the dangers of these toxic plants. Varieties of lilies that have been identified as particularly toxic include:

  • Asiatic lily, including hybrids (Lilium asiatica)
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis species)
  • Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum)
  • Japanese Show lily (Lilium speciosum)
  • Rubrum lily (Lilium speciosum var. rubrum)
  • Stargazer lily (Lilium ‘Stargazer,’ a hybrid)
  • Tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum or lancifolium)
  • Wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum or umbellatum)

«When people bring in Easter lilies, for example, cats seem really attracted to them, maybe because they’re new around the house,» she says. «But they are highly toxic to cats.»

While veterinarians are not sure which toxin in lilies causes poisoning in cats, exposure to the plant’s leaves, flowers, pollen, or even water from the vase may result in acute kidney failure. Exposure of just two or three petals or leaves calls for an immediate visit to the veterinarian, as delaying treatment for more than 18 hours can result in permanent kidney failure.

Brutlag says these lilies may be less toxic but are still dangerous, and can cause irritation to the mouth, tongue, and throat:

  • Calla lilies
  • Peace lilies
  • Peruvian lilies

If your cat has eaten a lily but you’re not sure what kind, Brutlag recommends taking a picture of the flower and getting in touch with a poison helpline or your veterinarian for identification and possible treatment for poisoning.

orange cat sniffing houseplant; what houseplants to avoid if you have cats
Credit: Light Field Studios / Getty

15 Other Plants That Are Toxic to Cats

Lilies are sometimes seen as Feline Public Enemy No. 1, but there are other dangerous plants out there. If your botanical decor includes any of these plants, keep them out of reach of your kitty’s curious paws, and watch out for any signs your cat has been poisoned.

  • Asparagus fern. While true ferns are non-toxic to cats, the asparagus fern is actually a member of the lily family and is a no-no for your cat. It frequently appears in bouquets and can cause cats gastrointestinal upset and skin irritation.
  • Sago palms. This household and outdoor plant is a cycad, and is not to be confused with the non-toxic true palm. The sago palm can be harmful to pets, and cause stomach upset, vomiting, bloody feces, seizures, and liver failure—even on the first day after ingested. «They grow outside in the South, but they’re popular to grow inside in pots,» Brutlag says. But beware! They can easily be found in the garden section at your local box store, but cat owners should steer clear.
  • Tulips and hyacinths. While the bulbs of these beautifully flowering plants are especially toxic, eating any part of the plant can cause vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy in a curious cat who nibbles.
  • Autumn crocus, another member of the lily family
  • Azalea
  • Cyclamen, with the roots especially dangerous to pets, if ingested
  • Daffodils
  • Devil’s ivy, or Golden Pothos
  • Jade plants, a succulent
  • Kalanchoe, a succulent
  • Lily of the Valley, while not a true lily, contains a toxin that can induce vomiting, diarrhea, heart problems, and possibly seizures
  • Philodendrons have a defense mechanism that shoots needle-like crystals when animals bite into the plant. The spiny crystals in Philodendrons and other members of the Araceae family of plants (like Oleander and Dieffenbachia) can irritate mouth and throat tissues and, in rare cases, can cause breathing problems.

Help! My Cat Ate a Toxic Plant!

If you’re reading this because your cat ate a little (or a lot) of a plant, go straight to the free databases at Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Animal Poison Control. They spell out dangers to pets of ingesting dozens of different plants.

If your cat is showing symptoms of potential plant poisoning, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) or ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888-426-4435). Signs of potential poisoning in a cat may include, but are not limited to:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mouth irritation
  • Drooling
  • Breathing problems

Plants That Are Safe and Nontoxic for Cats

Garden enthusiasts feeling like their floral oasis is in danger, rest assured: It’s not all bad news. Plenty of plants still get the greenlight from the vet, including orchids, roses, and lilacs. This list of houseplants and flowers are considered safe for cats to be around. If you have questions about what’s safe to grow and you can’t find it on a list—give your vet a call, they’ll be happy to advise on what flora can safely mix with your feline fauna.

Common House & Garden Plants Toxic to Cats

Knowing which plants in your home and garden are toxic to cats could help to safeguard your feline friend’s health if they suffer from poisoning due to ingesting toxic plants. Here our Cordova vet explains more about which plants are toxic for cats and what to do if you discover your cat eating your houseplants.

Cats & Plants

Typically cats are pretty careful about what they eat, making poisoning relatively rare in cats. That said, when poisoning due to plant ingestion does happen in cats it is often down to a bored cat playing with and nibbling on a plant that looks fun, or cat’s grooming.

Cats that are around toxic plants may get the seeds or pollen trapped in their fur or on their paws. Then, while the cat is grooming themselves the toxic substances are ingested.

Other cats are just playful and love to jump and explore. Playful or bored cats may spot a lush green vine hanging down and decide the plant looks like a fun new toy. Keeping toxic houseplants out of a playful cat’s reach can be a challenge.

For the sake of your cat’s health, our Cordova and Greater Memphis area vets recommend that you take some time to learn the names of the plants you have in your home, and research which plants are toxic to your cat or kitten.

Protecting Your Cat

When it comes to plants, it’s best to do the research before buying and only bring home plants that are safe for your pet.

If you already own plants included on the list below consider giving them to a friend who doesn’t have a cat, or store your plant in a room that your cat can’t get into.

That said, our vets know that accidents happen. If your cat does ingest a toxic or poisonous houseplant, knowing the plant’s name will help your vet to treat your cat quickly and with fewer tests.

Toxic Plants for Cats

Many plants are poisonous or toxic to cats and kittens. If you notice your furry friend eating any plant that you’re unsure of, call your vet.

Below are just a few of the most common plants that are poisonous for your cat or kitten to eat:

  • Spring bulbs
  • Amaryllis
  • Autumn Crocus
  • Azaleas and Rhododendrons
  • Castor Bean
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Daffodils
  • Dieffenbachia
  • English Ivy
  • Hyacinths
  • Kalanchoe
  • Lily
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Marijuana
  • Oleander
  • Peace Lily
  • Pothos, Devil’s Ivy
  • Sago Palm
  • Spanish Thyme
  • Tulip
  • Yew

While all of the plants listed above are toxic to cats, perhaps the most dangerous is the lily. Lilies can cause kidney failure in cats who come in contact with the flower’s pollen, then ingest the pollen during grooming.

If you have cut flowers in the house, including lilies, be sure to keep your flowers in a room where they will not come in contact with your cat.

If you suspect that your cat has come in contact with lilies, contact your Cordova vet as soon as possible.

Lily poisoning can be fatal in cats.

Symptoms of Poisoning in Cats

Depending on the plant species that has been ingested, the early signs and symptoms of poisoning can vary greatly.

  • Irritants may cause symptoms such as: irritation around the mouth, itchiness, swelling, and red or watery eyes.
  • If your cats’ organs have been affected by ingesting a toxic plant, symptoms of poisoning may include: breathing difficulties, drooling, difficulties swallowing, excessive drinking, frequent urination, overall weakness, or irregular heartbeat.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms of poisoning may include: vomiting and diarrhea.

What To Do If Your Cat Has Been Eating Plants

If you notice your cat eating a plant that you are unsure of, contact your vet immediately.

Before heading to the veterinary clinic there are a few things you should do:

  • Stay calm and remove any bits of plant from around your cat’s mouth, paws, or fur then move your cat to a safe confined space (well away from the plant) while you get ready to go to the vet’s office.
  • Take some time to identify the plant that your cat has ingested then call your veterinarian, or if it’s after hours please call your emergency vet’s office in Cordova for assistance. Let them know what has happened and that you will be bringing your cat in to see the vet.
  • Bring a sample of the plant along with you to show your vet, or if you are unsure which plant your cat has been eating bring in a sample of your cat’s vomit containing the plant material.

Diagnosis of Plant Poisoning in Cats

When it comes to diagnosis and treatment, being able to identify the plant that your cat has ingested will give your vet a vital head start.

If you are unable to identify the plant that your cat has ingested, or supply a sample of the plant matter, your vet will need to run a series of tests to identify the type of poison ingested before treatment can begin.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you have noticed that your cat is eating a plant you’re unsure about, or is showing signs of poisoning, contact Germantown Parkway Animal Hospital in Cordova immediately.

Toxic Plants for Cats, Cordova Vet

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