As an owner of Savannah cats and owner/editor of SAVANNAHGANS® eMagazine, I write a lot about the health and safety of cats.
Toxic Plants Can Cause Illness and Death to Your Cat
Are you disappointed by the endless list of feline-toxic plants? According to the American Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals (ASPCA) website, the list includes many of your popular greenhouse favorites. As a house plant and gardening enthusiast, one of the hardest things was to part with some of my favorite plants when we added cats to our family.
I've researched houseplants for the last few years and have found many non-toxic plants that are hardy and easy to grow. You needn't give up your green thumb because you choose to own cats! While there are more toxic plants than non-toxic ones, knowing the difference can save your cat's life.
House plants clean, filter, and humidify the inside air and lend a peaceful beauty to any decor. I went on a mission to learn which house plants wouldn't harm our cats if they ingested them--and they will! Trust me when I say the evidence is real!
Toxic plants, if ingested, can cause abnormal behavior, vomiting, diarrhea, skin irritation, and even death.
Before I proceed, let me warn you about the deadliest plant of all to felines--the Lilly! Lillies come in wide varieties, both indoors and outside. If your cat exhibits signs of sudden illness and you can confirm they've been in contact with lilies of any kind, please proceed to the nearest veterinary emergency facility. If you have any questions, contact the APCC 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435.
Symptoms: Sudden onset of vomiting, signs of depression, diarrhea, dehydration, and lack of appetite (anorexia). If left untreated, death can occur within four to seven days of ingestion and sooner if the cat consumes more of the plant).
The Areca Palm (Golden Butterfly Palm, Cane Palm, Golden Feather Palm, Yellow Palm)
My first and favorite recommendation is the "Areca Palm." According to ASPCA, many palm trees are toxic to domestic animals, but the "Areca Palm" is safe if consumed by cats and dogs.
With Areca Palms, the perks are endless. Each stem boasts dark, lush, green leaf fronds that bring a tropical look and feel to your home or patio. They are ideal for indoor growth or zones 9 to 11 outside (areas that stay warm and humid year-round).
Areca Palms thrive in four to five hours of daily total to partial sunlight and reach maturity six to seven feet tall. They're fast-growing, and my cats are less curious about the larger floor plants than the smaller ones they can knock over for fun!
Blue Echeveria: The Amazing Succulent
The blue echeveria is commonly known as Maroon Chenille, Painted Lady, Copper Rose, Wax Rosette, Plush Plant, Hen, and Chicks.
Many are familiar with succulents from our grandparents' strawberry pots--the ever-so-common "hen and chicks." But did you know that hundreds of varieties in all colors and shapes encompass several plant families, including cacti and orchids?
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While succulents are your safest and most varietal non-toxic plant, not all are cat-safe. Be sure the plant you buy has a tag with a name, and check the ASPCA website for cross-reference.
I think succulents are some of the most beautiful, colorful, hardy, and easiest plants to grow. They require very little maintenance and can be grown both indoors and out. When we got our Savannah cats, I quickly learned that succulents are one house plant my cats rarely bother because they are prickly and dense--and they're pretty affordable too!
I've had great success buying my plants on both Amazon and Etsy—Etsy is my favorite for finding unique species. I've bought succulent variety boxes from Amazon and prickly pear cactus paddles on Etsy.
Toxic succulents include:
- Jade and Aloe Vera plants
- Pencil Cactus
- Devil's Backbone
- Snake Plant/Mother-in-Law's Tongue
The Reliable African Violet
African violets are perennial and come in (10) pink, purple, and white varieties. While not a true "violet," they get their common name, "African violet," from their superficial resemblance to true violets. Colorful violets can liven up your décor, especially as the colder weather approaches. Violets can also be moved outdoors in certain climates.
My violet varieties live together in a heavy planter box on my window sill in the cold months. I can then quickly relocate it to the patio from late spring to mid-fall, where they can regenerate and get a break from the occasional cat snack!
Common Toxic Plants to Avoid With Cats and Viable Substitutions
Potted plants are popular for gifts and holiday decorations, and cats can’t avoid the temptation to investigate anything new.
Common toxic potted plants to avoid include:
- Boxwood Amaryllis
- Peace lily
- Poinsettia, the most popular holiday plant of all
Fortunately, several festive, colorful substitutions aren’t poisonous. Some good choices include:
- Christmas and other cacti varieties
- African violets
- Boston fern
- Prayer plant
- Spider plant
- Swedish ivy
- Polka dot plant
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Debra Roberts