We all know how curious our cats can be, especially when we bring something new into their - I mean our - homes. Just like babies and young children, one of the ways that cats learn about the new things around them is through tasting. Unfortunately for our kitties this way of learning about their environment can be dangerous for them.
Will Cats Avoid Poisonous Plants?
No, not usually. Cats just like to chew on plants! They will sometimes avoid plants that have a strong fragrance. And once they get a taste of a plant that tastes bad or hurts their mouth they don't usually go back... but that's not always the case. Cat's can't always associate "I ate that plant this morning, and this afternoon my mouth hurts. I shouldn't eat that plant again."
So it's up to us, their owners, to keep all plants - whether we think they might be dangerous for our cats or not - out of their reach.
Plants that are Poisonous to Cats
- Lilies. Lilies are beautiful bulb flowers, and are very popular in the spring and around Easter. Lilies are some of the most dangerous plants for our cats. Just a little bit of contact by chewing a leaf, a flower petal, or a stem, eating a piece of pollen, or even drinking water from the vase can cause severe kidney damage very quickly.
- Poinsettia. Another seasonal plant that you should avoid is the poinsettia. The sap in the leaves and stems can cause irritation in your cat's mouth, throat, or stomach.
- Asparagus fern. This light, fluffy fern is a popular houseplant, and the cuttings are often used in floral arrangements. Chewing on this plant can cause irritation to the mouth, throat, or stomach, or even skin irritation.
- Daffodils and Hyacinths. Both of these types of plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and even heart of lung problems. The bulbs have the highest amount of the toxins, but all parts of the plant and flowers can be dangerous. If you are storing bulbs inside for your spring planting keep them out of reach of your cats, and keep your fresh-cut spring flowers where your cats can't get to them.
- Ficus. Who doesn't love a good ficus? Well, cats don't. Ficus plants are known for being easy to take care of. If your cat comes in contact with the sap from the plant (either by chewing on the plant or finding a broken leaf or stem), they can get skin irritation or problems in their mouth, throat, or stomach.
- Pothos (Golden pothos, satin pothos, silk pothos, devil's ivy). These plants release a tiny crystal when the leaves break. Those microscopic crystals cause severe skin and mouth irritation, and can even cause swelling of the throat in severe exposure.
- Philodendron (fiddle leaf, horsehead philodendron, heart leaf, tree philodendron). These vining plants are common houseplants. They have the same kind of microscopic crystals that the Pothos plants have, and can cause severe skin and mouth irritation, and sometimes swelling in the throat with severe exposure.
- Jade plant. Jade is commonly used in succulent arrangements. They are easy to take care of, but also easy for our cats to get into. The sap inside a jade plant can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and occasionally incoordination.
- Aloe plants. Great for sunburn, not for our cats! Chewing on an aloe leaf can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and sometimes a loss of appetite and depression.
This list is certainly not the entire list of plants that can be poisonous to cats, but it is some of the ones we see most commonly. You can search for a specific plant on the Pet Poison Helpline's website to see if it is likely to cause a problem for your cats.
What Should I Do If I Think My Cat Ate a Plant?
If your cat is showing signs of toxicity - salivating, pawing at her mouth or face, vomiting, diarrhea, or any other strange behaviors after coming in contact with a plant - call us (or your regular veterinarian) immediately. Your veterinarian will likely ask what kind of plant your cat may have gotten into. If you know the name of the plant, that will help us the most. If you do not, you can send a picture so we can try to identify it.
Based on what the plant is and what kind of signs your cat is showing, your veterinarian may be able to give you advice over the phone, or we may need to see your cat in the hospital to fully evaluate what is going on.
The Pet Poison Helpline is a great place to find information on poisons that affect dogs, cats, and other animals. The information on their website is free. They also have an Animal Poison Control Center line for emergencies - that number is (855) 764-7661. Charges may apply when you call this number.
Do you think your cat got into a plant he shouldn't have? We can help! Call us if you have questions, or come in during our regular business hours. The Princeton Veterinary Hospital always accepts new patients, and does not require appointments. We also have a veterinarian on call for emergencies. Just call our regular office number and follow the phone prompts to reach the on-call doctor.