Curious little kitties seem to be hell-bent on making pet parents crazy. They get into everything. They gnaw shoelaces, knock things off shelves, and chew on your favorite house plants. As endearing as these destructive impulses maybe to cat lovers, they can also be dangerous and even deadly to your furry friend.
Below, I will explore many of the common plants that are poisonous to cats and what you can do if your cat encounters one.
Common House Plants Poisonous To Cats
- Baby’s Breath
- Barbados Lily
- Bird of Paradise
- Desert Azalea
- English Ivy
- Tiger Lily
- Tomato Plant
- Trumpet Lily
- Water Hyacinth
- Wood Lily
- Giant Dracaena
- Stargazer Lily
- Aloe Vera
- Arum Lily
- Asian Lily
- Asparagus Fern
- Cardboard Palm
- Chinese Jade
- Clivia Lily
- Corn Plant
- Lacy Tree Philodendron
- Lily of the Valley
- Mistletoe “American”
- Orange Day Lily
- Pencil Cactus
- Easter Lily
- Everlasting Pea
- Flamingo Flower
- Florida Beauty
- Garden Hyacinth
- Indian Hemp
- Jade Plant
Chances are good that you have something in your house right now that could end your cat’s life.
I don’t say that to scare you…
But I do hope I got your attention.
Plants are one of the often-overlooked dangers in our everyday environments, and it’s our pets who suffer for it.
Ingestion of toxic or poisonous materials is one of the biggest killers of cats each year.
Because of their innate curiosity, cats tend to get themselves into dangerous situations.
Felines are notoriously difficult to keep out of forbidden areas.
Some clever cats have even learned how to unlock doors!
Unfortunately, their curiosity, intelligence, and ingenuity often bring them in contact with poisonous plants.
The only real way to protect your indoor cats from poisonous plants is to avoid them altogether.
Never bring them into the house and it won’t be an issue.
However, it’s a bit tougher for outdoor cats; but you can still take precautions.
There are over 700 plants that are toxic to cats and dogs.
It would take me ages to list them all.
I’ve narrowed this list down to the most common toxic plants that may already be in your cat’s environment
I was shocked to learn that my favorite aloe plant was toxic to cats.
That chubby, beautiful succulent had saved me from the pain of countless kitchen burns.
But once I learned the truth about it, I locked it in my office, far from my kitties.
The toxic substances in aloe plants are called:
- Anthraquinone glycosides.
If ingested, your cat’s urine may turn a reddish color, which makes it easy to spot.
The toxic substances may make her vomit and feel all-around yucky with lethargy and diarrhea.
She may also suffer:
- A loss of appetite
Sometimes symptoms take six to twelve hours to appear, so if you see tiny kitty teeth marks in your aloe plants, watch your cat closely.
Amaryllis and Lilies
Amaryllis, or the belladonna lily, is a bulb plant with white to reddish, trumpet-shaped flowers.
It is native to southern Africa but is a wildly popular flower in the United States.
Generally planted in garden beds, it is mostly a danger to outdoor cats.
Other names include:
- Saint Joseph lily
- Cape Belladonna
- Naked Lady
However, some people have had success growing these plants indoors, so be sure you know what your indoor bulbs are.
It’s worth noting that there are lilies that are benign to cats, but it can be difficult distinguishing them from the toxic ones.
Mainly, it’s the lily pollen that is dangerous.
Your best bet is to simply avoid all lilies.
Another toxic plant that surprised me is apple.
While it’s safe to give cats a little taste of the apple flesh, it’s not really worth the risk, if you ask me.
The seeds, stems, and leaves contain a substance that breaks down into cyanide.
Sapogenin is the toxic component of the asparagus fern and is a variety of steroid.
The asparagus fern is sometimes called:
- Emerald Feather,
- Emerald Fern
- Sprengeri Fern
- Plumosa Fern
- Lace Fern
- Racemose Asparagus
Toxic ingestion causes vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. There’s also the potential of allergic dermatitis.
Autumn crocus is another toxic bulb flower. Part of the Amaryllis family.
It is also known as meadow saffron or naked ladies.
The flowers often emerge before the leaves, making them easier to spot.
They contain colchicine, which mimics arsenic poisoning.
There’s no known antidote to colchicine poisoning.
Azaleas and Rhododendrons
Azaleas and rhododendrons are in the same family.
This flowering shrub is popular in gardens and as a potted plant.
They can also be called:
They can be evergreen or deciduous.
The shrubs can get quite tall, often looking like small trees.
They each bloom in spring and come in a variety of colors.
The flowers can last many weeks.
Cats are particularly attracted to rhododendrons because of their climbability.
Larger specimens provide a multitude of perching locations with plenty of foliage for cats to hide in.
Azaleas contain andromedotoxins, which are mind-altering substances that are deadly to cats.
Baby’s Breath Or Maidens Breath
This wispy, delicate plant is often used in flower arrangements.
I can’t count how many times my cats have knocked over a vase of flowers brought in by well-meaning guests.
While not toxic in the traditional sense, it can make cats feel ill. They may vomit or get diarrhea, which is enough reason for me to keep my cats away from this plant.
Another wildly popular garden bloom is the colorful begonia.
Unfortunately for cats, it contains soluble calcium oxalates.
Ingestion of the underground parts can cause vomiting in cats as well as kidney failure in some animals.
Bird of Paradise
The bird of paradise isn’t a bird at all.
It’s a large, flowing, feathery-looking plant that causes vomiting and diarrhea.
- Crane Flower
- Bird’s Tongue Flower
It can also cause incoordination and difficulty swallowing.
These can cause confusion and behavioral changes, weakness, slow heart rate, and severe gastrointestinal upset.
Ingestion of black nightshade will expose your cat to:
- Atropine-like substances
This small, innocent-looking flower contains protoanemonin, which is an irritant.
Aside from irritated membranes, it can make your cat depressed, cause anorexia, and wobbly gait.
Note there are other types and colors of the buttercup flowers out there.
But the simple yellow one above is poisonous.
Castor bean is a perineal flowering plant from the spurge family.
It’s not actually a bean, which is part of the reason people confuse this toxic plant for less harmful types.
Castor seed is where castor oil comes from, which is also where the poison ricin comes from.
Guinness World Records lists castor bean as the world’s most poisonous common plant.
That sentence alone should put you on high alert if your cats venture outdoors.
If castor seeds are ingested, it could take up to 36 hours for ricin poisoning symptoms to emerge.
At that point, it is far too late to help your cat.
If only a tiny portion of ricin was ingested, your cat may recover on her own, but that is not always the case.
These plants are often referred to simply as “mums.
They are native to Asia and northeastern Europe but have become popular in the United States because they’re easy to grow.
Mums are a natural insecticide with the component pyrethrins.
They’re generally less lethal to mammals, but in larger quantities or too small or younger cats, they can be deadly.
Despite its name, the corn plant is not the familiar corn from your breakfast cereal.
- Ribbon Plant
- Dragon tree
- Cornstalk plant – this toxic plant contains saponin.
Ingestion of saponin induces vomiting which may contain blood.
Cyclamen Or Sowbread
There are 23 species of cyclamen.
They are native to Europe and the Mediterranean basin and grow from underground tubers.
If your cat eats this plant, he may suffer:
Ingestion of the tuber can cause heart rhythm abnormalities and seizures before death.
These popular flowering plants contain lycorine, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, and cardiac issues.
They’re sometimes called narcissus and daffadowndilly.
Look for its distinctive trumpet shape and variety of colors.
Commonly found in gardens, clinging to walls and old fences, and wrapping itself around trees, ivy is a dangerous and invasive plant in many areas.
Because it is so prolific, it’s hard to eradicate, making it easy for cats to come in contact with.
The most common names for these are:
- Branching Ivy
- Glacier Ivy
- Needlepoint Ivy
- Sweetheart Ivy
- California Ivy
It’s in the Araliaceae family.
The hosta plant is popular in shaded areas of gardens and a popular landscaping element in public spaces.
These are also called:
- Plantain Lily
Ingestion of hosta material introduces saponins to your cat’s body.
This can make your kitty depressed and suffer from vomiting and diarrhea.
It’s usually very easy to spot when cats have been chewing on hosta’s since their pinprick bite marks show up on the large, flat leaves.
I had to remove my hostas from my front yard because I caught our barn cat, Tak, chewing them.
Thankfully, she had just begun, so she wasn’t hurt in any way.
I hate to think what might have happened if I hadn’t seen her out there!
These beautiful flowering plants contain toxic alkaloids, mostly concentrated in the bulbs.
There is no antidote, but supportive vet care can drastically increase your pet’s chance of survival and full recovery.
Contact with hyacinth bulbs is most often made in soft garden beds when outdoor cats are looking for bathroom locations.
The kalanchoe is a favorite succulent plant, often found indoors on windowsills and in succulent arrangements.
They’re sometimes called:
- Mother of Millions
- Devil’s backbone
- Chandelier plant
While not usually deadly, the kalanchoe’s bufadienolides can make cats violently ill, especially young cats and those with existing health issues.
Many people plant milkweed in hopes of attracting butterflies to their yards.
Unfortunately, milkweed is toxic to cats.
Certain species of this plant have cardiotoxins, while others contain neurotoxins.
Both substances can cause kidney and liver failure, coma, seizures, and paralysis.
A beautiful evergreen shrub with delicate flowers hides a sinister threat to your cat’s life.
Oleanders are extremely toxic.
They can slow your cat’s heart rate, cause severe vomiting, and often results in death.
Are pothos plants poisonous to cats? Pothos contains insoluble raphides, which are toxic to cats. It’s worth noting that the presence of calcium oxalate in this plant is also mildly toxic to humans.
This common houseplant goes by a large variety of names:
- Money plant
- Golden pothos
- Hunter’s robe
- Ivy arum
- Ceylon creeper
- Solomon Islands ivy
- Devil’s vine – Devil’s Ivy
- Taro vine
This happens to be a popular plant in-store displays and garden centers, too.
It’s often found in parks, on wilderness trails, and in a multitude of public spaces, which makes it especially dangerous to your cat.
Just one leaf stuck to your shoe after a day of running errands could mean an emergency trip to the vet.
The sago palm is used to make a starchy food called sago.
It looks much like the traditional palm tree, so it’s fairly easy to spot.
As sago needs to be detoxified before human consumption, it’s especially toxic to cats, who love to chew this plant.
Health issues for cats include liver failure, damage to the stomach lining, bloody stools, and vomiting.
Coleus – Spanish Thyme
The aroma of this plant often attracts cats.
It smells a lot like oregano and has a mint-like flavor, reminiscent of catnip to some.
It’s sometimes called:
- Thick leaf or Broad leaf thyme
- Indian borage
- Cuban oregano
- Bread and Butter Plant
- East Indian Thyme
- Stinging Thyme
- Country Borage
It can cause a variety of gastric symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea, as well as depression, and anorexia.
While yew is a slow-growing tree or shrub, it’s also incredibly long-lived, increasing your cat’s chance of exposure over years instead of weeks or months.
Yew contains taxine alkaloids, which are highly toxic.
The highest concentrations are in the seeds, but nearly all parts of the trees contain it.
Other Plants Poisonous to Cats
Here are some other toxic plants you should keep out of your cat’s reach.
- Calla Lily
- Pig Lily
- White Arum
- Trumpet Lily
- Florist’s Calla
- Garden Calla
Asian Lily or Asiatic Lily
- Fire Lily
- Lily of the Palace
- Desert Rose
- Mock Azalea
- Sabi Star
- Impala Lily
- Kudu Lily
- Charming Dieffenbachia
- Giant Dumb Cane
- Tropic Snow
- Spotted Dumb Cane
- Exotica Perfection
- Elephant Ears
- Via sori
Giant Dracaena: Palm Lily, Grass Palm
- Elephant’s Ears
- Mother-in-law Plant
- Pink Cloud
- Texas Wonder
- Fancy-leaved Caladium
Cardboard Palm: Cycads and Zamias
- Wild Carnation
- Sweet William
- Swiss Cheese Plant
- Cutleaf Philodendron
- Hurricane Plant
- Mexican Breadfruit
Chinese Jade: Silver Dollar
- Kaffir Lily
- Caffre Lily
- Cape Clivia
- Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
- Franciscan Rain Tree
Lacy Tree Philodendron
Lily of the Valley
- Arrow-Head Vine
- Green Gold Nephthys
- African Evergreen
- Trileaf Wonder
Orange Day Lily
Pencil Cactus – Crown Of Thorns
Everlasting Pea – Sweet Pea – Perennial Pea
Fig – Weeping Fig and Indian Rubber Plant
- Flamingo Lily
- Tail Flower
- Oilcloth Flower
- Pigtail Plant
- Painter’s Pallet
Florida Beauty – Gold Dust Dracaena and Spotted Dracaena
Indian Hemp – Marijuana and Hashish
- Baby Jade
- Dwarf rubber plant
- Jade Tree
- Chinese rubber plant
- Japanese rubber plant
Even More Common Household Plants:
- Adam-and-Eve, also called arum, lord-and-ladies, and cuckoo plant.
- Ambrosia Mexicana also called Jerusalem oak and feather geranium.
- American mandrake, also called wild lemon, hog apple, and duck’s foot.
- Easter rose
- English holly
I’ve found most of these in my neighborhood or in places I frequent.
There are hundreds more, but this list should at least get you started.
You can find a huge list of these and more toxic plants on the ASPCA website right here.
How to tell if your cat has ingested a poisonous plant?
The best way to tell if your cat has ingested toxic plant matter is by witnessing it happening.
Unfortunately, sneaky kitties like to get into mischief when Mom and Dad aren’t around.
That means you’ll need to put on your detective hat to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Tipped vases, spilled plant water, and tracks of fresh soil are all indicators that your cat has been up to no good.
- Check all of your houseplants for chew marks on the leaves, scratch marks on stems and trunks, and broken foliage.
- Check out the soil in the pots, too. Some kitties just can’t resist digging in that soft, cool soil.
Even if you can’t find any sign of your cat messing with your plants (or the ones outside), he may be acting strangely.
Don’t ignore any changes in behavior or habits, no matter how small.
The good news is that toxic ingestion of plants is pretty easy to spot if you know what to look for.
Aside from finding a knocked over or chewed houseplant, check your cat for the following signs.
Irritation and Inflammation
Plants usually contain irritants of some kind.
Irritation and inflammation are unpleasant for your cat, but that makes symptoms easy to spot.
Look for redness, swelling, or itchiness in and around your cat’s mouth.
The gums and tongue will especially noticeable.
Be sure to pull the fur back to check the skin, too.
Common irritated areas include the mouth, chin, head, and front paws. Look between your cat’s toes and around her paw pads for redness, swelling, or sores.
If irritation is the only symptom you notice, just keep a close eye on your kitty.
He may recover within hours. If, however, he has any other symptoms listed here, a vet trip is in order.
Some plants can cause breathing issues either from a blocked airway or from ingesting a toxic substance.
Issues may include:
- Depressed breathing: slow, shallow, or labored
- Accelerated breathing: such as panting or fast gasping
Breathing issues are a life-threatening problem, so get help immediately.
Some cats drool a little every now and then, but excessive drooling is a reason to be concerned.
Drooling can sometimes go along with simple irritation and inflammation, but it’s also a sign of gastrointestinal distress.
Be especially concerned if your cat is having trouble swallowing.
She may be experiencing life-threatening swelling of the throat and tongue.
Cats sometimes just puke; it’s what they do.
But true vomiting is fairly obvious and a sign of concern. If your cat suddenly vomits, check the puddle for plant matter.
If you see blood in the vomit, get to the vet immediately.
If your cat ingested toxic plant matter a while ago, you may not see any signs until it makes its way through his digestive tract. In this case, diarrhea might be your first sign that trouble is brewing in his belly.
The presence of mucus or blood in the stool is especially concerning. Take a sample and your cat straight to the vet.
Many cats will begin drinking copious amounts of water in an attempt to feel better.
This may be from irritation in the stomach and intestines or as a direct result of the toxins they ingested.
Whatever the reason, if you see her drinking a lot more water than usual, it’s worth investigating the area and your cat for other signs.
Excessive or No Urination
This is a sign that the kidneys may have been affected by a toxic substance.
Kidney problems are a major issue for cats, so don’t waste any time.
Get down to the vet as soon as possible.
Fast, Slow, or Irregular Heart Beat
A good number of toxic plants on this list can cause heart problems.
It could be as simple as a brief increase in heart rate or as serious are total cardiac arrest.
It’s worth the time and effort to have your cat checked if you notice any strange heart beat issues.
Quick Care Can Save Your Cat’s Life
If you spot your cat munching away on a plant, especially if you’re uncertain if it’s toxic or not, you can take immediate steps to try to mitigate any damage.
You’ll need to head to the vet, of course, but the following quick actions could help save your cat’s life.
- Check your cat’s fur, skin, and mouth for any plant matter. A quick brush is a good way to remove the small bits he or she may try to lick off later.
- Grab a sample of the plant, if possible, and place it in a baggie to show the vet.
- Some people suggest washing your cat with soap and water, but I think this is a waste of time if you’re that worried. A bath could take 10 or more minutes; I’d rather spend that time getting to the vet!
- If your cat has vomited, take a sample with you to the vet.
Do not induce vomiting yourself.
Without knowing what your cat ate or how it might affect your cat’s health, inducing vomiting could cause more problems than it solves.
Do not use ipecac syrup unless your vet tells you to. Do not use hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting either.
Veterinarian Diagnosis for Toxic Plant Ingestion
Your vet will have an easier time diagnosing and treating your cat if she knows what your cat ate.
If you have a sample of the plant, that will help immensely.
If you can at least describe the plant, that will be helpful, too.
However, if you’re not sure what your cat ate, there is still plenty your vet can do to help.
You cat will likely have a stool sample taken, bloodwork done, and a thorough physical exam.
If she isn’t in any immediate and obvious danger, your vet may decide to send her home with you and suggest you keep an eye on her.
If, however, your vet suspects this is just the beginning, she may suggest leaving your cat overnight for observation.
Treatment Options for Plant-Poisoning
If the toxin is known, there may be an antidote ready when you arrive at the vet.
Your veterinarian may choose to induce vomiting in a controlled setting.
This gets the toxins out of your cat’s tummy, but it also gives the vet team a chance to examine stomach contents to hopefully identify the plant.
Vets sometimes use activated charcoal to absorb toxic substances from your cat’s stomach.
There are also some medications that can protect your cat’s organs or help repair damaged areas.
It’s likely that your vet will administer a variety of supportive care treatments.
This may include intravenous fluids or anti-inflammatory medications. Pain medications may be offered if it appears that your kitty is hurting.
Medications for specific symptoms are also usually available.
Prognosis for Plant-Poisoned Cats
Your cat’s prognosis will depend on the plant he ingested, how soon you realized he ate the plant, and what actions you took afterward.
Fast intervention often results in a much better prognosis.
Sometimes, a cat who has eaten a toxic plant will need lifelong support due to permanent damage to organs.
It may include medications, diet changes, and environmental adjustments. Even so, cats with special needs like that often go on to live long and happy lives!
Your vet will likely ask you to bring him back for a follow-up exam days or weeks later.
These exams and any further testing will either confirm he is fully recovered or give you and your vet an idea of any lasting effects that you need to manage.
If your cat doesn’t seem to be getting any better or they take a turn for the worse, you may still have some options.
Ask your vet about ways to make your kitty more comfortable for as long as possible. It may include pain medications or anti-nausea meds, for example.
There may not be a remedy for some cats, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try.
There are many options for pet owners to consider, and your sweet baby deserves your best.
Sometimes, thankfully, all a cat needs after a stressful encounter with a toxic plant is a warm lap and a loving scratch behind the ears.
But definitely ask the vet to rule out any serious health issues first!
Bring It Back In…
Let’s be honest, all the treatments in the world may not be enough to help all cats.
The hard truth is that certain toxic plants can’t be countered.
With hundreds of plants in the world that are poisonous to cats, the likelihood of your cat encountering one might be higher than we’d like to think about.
But you need to think about it.
Your cat’s life depends on it.
All that said, prevention should be your first line of defense against plants that are poisonous to cats.
Knowing what they are will help immensely, but knowing the signs of poisoning can help mitigate damages, too.
The bottom line is that you should be informed.
Arm yourself with knowledge of the toxic plants common in your area and what you can do to prevent contact with your precious feline babies.
Are ferns poisonous to cats? Generally, the true fern, the kind of fern that produces coiled fiddleheads that uncoil and expand into fronds are safe to have in your home with your cats. But these aren’t good for your cats to eat them. Basically, these are non-toxic that can cause permanent or serious issues.
Are Christmas cacti poisonous to cats? The Christmas cactus or Easter Cactus isn’t toxic to cats (or dogs). But know that the fibrous material of the plant can cause stomach and intestinal irritation that causes diarrhea and vomiting.
Are coffee plants toxic to cats? Saponins are the toxins that the coffee tree contains. These toxins can cause irritation on your cat’s skin if they rub against the tree or if eaten, can cause irritation to their GI tract and oral cavity. The symptoms can be skin rashes, vomiting, fatigue, depression, loss of appetite or increased heart rate.
Is licorice plant toxic to cats? Licorice isn’t good for cats, especially the root, it could cause irritation, high blood pressure and liver damage.
Are palm trees poisonous to cats? True palm tree leaves aren’t considered toxic or poisonous to cats. The Sago palm tree and its leaves are very poisonous.
Are tomato plants poisonous to cats? The ingredient called Glycoalkaloids, contained in the leaves and stems of the tomato plant, are toxic to cats if they ingest them.
Are spider plants poisonous to cats? Chlorophytum comosum, the spider plant, as stated by the ASPCA to be non-toxic or non-poisonous to cats.