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Safety for Cats and Houseplants

Two cats and a plant
Two cats and a plant | Source

Identifying Poisonous Plants for Cats

Many common household plants are toxic to cats if ingested. This page contains a partial list of poisonous houseplants, as well as symptoms of poisoning in cats and other animals.

Cats and houseplants make such a cute picture when you see them together. However, this combo can be dangerous to both feline and greenery. Did you know that some of the common houseplants we cultivate are toxic or poisonous for cats, as well as for dogs and other pets?

Not all cats will bother with houseplants. My present cat has no interest in the greenery. He and my collection of indoor plants co-exist in complete harmony. However, if you have a cat that likes to nibble on plants, or if you've brought a new cat into the home and don't yet know his peculiarities, you may want to consider moving your little green friends to a safe area that the cat does not visit.

The other side of this coin is the safety of your non-toxic plants around your nibbling cat. I once bought a beautiful little shamrock plant for St. Patrick's Day. I awoke the next morning to discover a potful of stems without a single clover leaf to its name. The culprit -- the household's incumbent cat!

Actually, the shamrock is listed among plants that are toxic to cats. Luckily, the plant is toxic only if eaten in large amounts.

However, protecting your plants from your cat is a lesser concern than protecting your cat from poisonous houseplants. This page focuses on keeping your cat safe from toxic greenery.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos on this page are my own.

ASPCA's Database of Plants Poisonous to Cats and Other Animals

The houseplants listed on this page do not comprise an inclusive list. There are many other indoor plants, outdoor plants and even fruits that are toxic to animals. The ASPCA's web site contains a searchable database of almost 400 toxic plants. Please be sure to keep your companion animals safe by monitoring the houseplants that you introduce into their environment.

ASPCA stands for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Ragdoll Cat
Ragdoll Cat

Tips for Keeping Your Cat Safe from Poisonous Houseplants

1. If you suspect your cat has ingested a toxic or poisonous plant (or other substance), call your veterinary clinic immediately. If possible, take a sample of the plant to your veterinarian for inspection.

2. Remember that even non-poisonous plants may have been sprayed with insecticides that are poisonous to cats. Discourage your cat from chewing on any plant until it has been thoroughly washed. When buying a new plant, ask the garden center what insecticide they use and whether it is poisonous to animals.

3 Keep a supply of cat grass or other safe grass plant for your cat to nibble on. Lawn grass is not advisable as the sharp spikes can cut a cat's mouth or internal organs.

4. You can discourage your cat from chewing on houseplants by spraying them with a mixture of lemon and water. Do not rely on this to keep cats away from poisonous plants, however. To be completely safe, keep your poisonous plants in a spot that the cat does not visit, or do not keep poisonous plants at all.

Pothos or Devil's Ivy
Pothos or Devil's Ivy

Pothos or Devil's Ivy

Epipremnum aureum

This plant goes by various names -- golden ivy, pothos, devil's ivy, taro vine, ivy arum. I'll call it pothos for simplicity.

Pothos contains insoluble calcium oxalates which makes it toxic to both cats and dogs. The symptoms of poisoning include intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing.

If no animal or human is likely to nibble on this plant, it makes an attractive and remarkably hardy addition to your collection of indoor plants. It will recover from most forms of neglect, and does well in almost any kind of light, although it prefers a bright, warm place.

Poinsettia
Poinsettia | Source

Poinsettia

Euphorbia pulcherrima

Almost everyone has heard that these popular Christmas and Holiday plants are poisonous. While it is true that poinsettias are toxic to both cats and dogs, the good news is that the toxic effects are not usually severe. Symptoms include irritation to the mouth and stomach and sometimes vomiting.

Poinsettias grow wild in tropical climates such as Hawaii. They like humidity, fresh air, light and warmth. I live in Vancouver, a city located in the heart of a rain forest. I have had a poinsettia plant growing in a pot in my south window for several years. It has never flowered beyond the first year I bought it, but it is growing and producing lovely green leaves.

Easter Lily
Easter Lily

Easter Lily

Lilium longiflorum

I was shocked to learn that this beautiful and oh-so-popular Easter flowering plant can mean death for cats. Most lilies are poisonous, as a matter of fact, but the Easter Lily is not toxic to species other than feline. If your cat munches on the Easter lily, the symptoms to look for are vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, kidney failure, and death. Cats are the only species known to be affected.

Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera | Source

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera

Who would have guessed that this popular, medicinal houseplant is poisonous to dogs and cats? It contains a substance known as Saponins, which causes vomiting, depression, diarrhea, loss of appetite, tremors and changes in the color of the animal's urine.

Aloe vera is a succulent-like plant, but oddly, it is a member of the lily family. This plant originated in the dessert and can survive drought better than many indoor plants.

This houseplant is touted as being medicinal in nature and is recommended for healing burns and skin sores, as well as for other purposes. However, research regarding its health benefits are conflicting. Aloe vera, also known as lily of the dessert is sometimes used as a foodstuff for humans.

Catnip
Catnip | Source

What About Catnip?

Some poison databases, such as the one maintained by Oklahoma State University's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences list catnip among the poisonous plants. The ASPCA's database does not include it.

Catnip is an herb that is particularly appealing to cats. In small doses, it can cause euphoria-like behavior in our feline friends. Occasionally you may come across a cat that displays a negative reaction to catnip and becomes highly aggressive. if this happens, remove the catnip and contact your veterinarian for advice.

While catnip is usually viewed as a "feel good" treat for our feline friends, it does contain a substance that if consumed in high amounts can cause stomach irritation, drowsiness and confusion.

It is therefore wise to give your cat catnip in moderation.

Allergies are another consideration. Some cats are allergic to this herb. Introduce it cautiously to see how your animal responds.

Miscellaneous Plants that are Toxic to Cats and other Animals

These plants may surprise you. Most of them surprised me when I discovered that parts or all posed a threat to cats and other species.

  1. Apples and Crabapples: The stems, leaves and seeds of the apple tree contain cyanide and are toxic to cats, dogs and horses. Symptoms to look for include bright red mucous membranes, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, panting and shock.
  2. Apricots, Plums, Peaches and Cherries : Some species contain Cyanogenic glycosides, the same compound occurring in apples. The toxins are located in the stems, leaves and seeds, and are dangerous to cats, dogs and horses. The symptoms are the same as with apples.
  3. Avocados : The seeds, leaves, fruit and bark contain a toxin known as persin. This wonderful fruit is poisonous to cats, dogs, cattle, horses, birds, rabbits, goats and possibly other species as well. The symptoms differ according to species. With cats and dogs, look for vomiting and diarrhea.
  4. Eucalyptus: Often added to floral bouquets or brought into the home for its lovely odour, the eucalyptus is toxic to cats, dogs and horses. Symptoms to look for are salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, depression and weakness.
  5. Garlic and Leeks: This cooking staple in many homes, the well-loved garlic bulb, and also the leek, contain a substance known as N-propyl disulfide. The stinking rose is toxic to cats, dogs and horses. Symptoms include vomiting, anemia, blood in urine, weakness, high heart rate and panting.
  6. Grapefruits, Lemons, Limes and Oranges: The essential oils in these fruits are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. The symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, depression and possibly hypersensitivity to light.
  7. Marijuana: This plant contains Delta-9-THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a substance that is toxic to cats, dogs and horses. Signs of toxicity include prolonged depression, vomiting, incoordination, sleepiness or excitation, hypersalivaton, dilated pupils, low blood pressure, low body temperature, seizure, coma and occasionally death.
  8. Mistletoe: Kissing under the mistletoe is a Christmas tradition, but the plant is toxic to cats, dogs and horses. Signs of mistletoe poisoning include gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular collapse, labored breathing, slow heartbeat, erratic behavior, and occasionally vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure.
  9. Rhubarb: Sometimes known as "pie plant", this garden staple is poisonous to cats, dogs and horses. Look for kidney failure, tremors and salivation.
  10. Tobacco Plant: The scientific name is Nicotiana glauca. You probably know that nicotine isn't that great for humans, but its even worse for dogs, cats and horses. Symptoms of tobacco poisoning include hyperexcitability then depression, vomiting, incoordination and paralysis. Death can occur.
  11. Tomato Plant: Who doesn't love growing tomatoes? Be sure your plants aren't chomped on by horses, dogs and cats. Signs of tomato poisoning are hypersalivation, loss of appetite, severe gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, drowsiness, CNS depression, confusion, behavioral change, weakness, dilated pupils and slow heart rate.
  12. Tulips: We love to see them every spring, but they're not so good for cats, dogs and horses. The tulip bulbs are the most toxic part. Poison symptoms are vomiting, depression, diarrhea and hypersalivation.

© 2010 June Campbell

Please Leave a Comment 45 comments

GramaBarb profile image

GramaBarb 6 years ago from Vancouver

Well done, June! You got my vote!


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 6 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@GramaBarb: Thank you! I appreciate your visit.


SoyCandleLover profile image

SoyCandleLover 6 years ago from Henrietta, New York

Wow. Aloe Vera surprises me. Thanks for the great info regarding plants and cats. Fav, rated, and lensrolled to my 2 Kitty Cat lenses and My Choc Lab pages. Thanks so much!


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 6 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@SoyCandleLover: Thanks for dropping by. Aloe Vera surprised me too. In the past, I have had cats dig up aloe vera plants. It didn't seem to make them sick but maybe they dug instead of chewing.


ellagis profile image

ellagis 5 years ago

Ops..... I've just found out that I have a big aloe vera plant on my balcony.... but I hope my cat is too sleepy to try it. Well, my cat is actually too lazy to chew, she just licks the "sauce" and then she decides if the taste is worth the effort ;)


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 5 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@ellagis: Some cats don't bother plants. My present cat shows no interest at all. On the other hand, I've had cats who couldn't be trusted with the greenery. It all depends ...


PTurner56 profile image

PTurner56 4 years ago

Thanks so much for your comments on "My Adopted Princess" lens! Is the beautiful Siamese in this lens your cat, Gordo?


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@ellagis: I think when the experts say poisonous, it does not necessarily mean deadly poisonous. Maybe toxic in large quantities or maybe toxic in that kitty gets a tummy ache. I know a cat of mine used to eat aloe vera plants whenever he got the chance, with no apparent ill effects. That was before I knew the plant wasn't recommended for a cat's diet!


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@PTurner56: el Gordo is my cat, yes. He is a ragdoll, not a Siamese. They have similar color markings so many people confused the two breeds.


Sylvestermouse profile image

Sylvestermouse 4 years ago from United States

Oh, my!!! This is so important! I had no idea my Pothos was poisonous to my grand kitties and my dogs. Sure am glad the dogs don't get up on the counters. I will have to watch over my grand kitties carefully when they come over from now on. Bless their hearts! I would have passed out if something happened to one of them because I had a houseplant!


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@Sylvestermouse: These plants are surprising. In particular, I was shocked to discover that the Easter lily is a danger. Thank goodness my senior cat has no interest in anything other than the most expensive cat food.


WriterJanis2 profile image

WriterJanis2 4 years ago

You have very important info here. As someone who has worked with feral rescue, I really appreciate the info you are putting out there. Blessed.


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@WriterJanis2: Thank you so much. And thanks for the work you do with feral animals.


greenmind profile image

greenmind 4 years ago

wow -- we have four cats... better check our plants! Thanks.


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@greenmind: You are a four cat family! Wow! The most I have ever had was two.


InnaTsv profile image

InnaTsv 4 years ago

Omg, I have a cat and Aloe is all around my flat! That's an extremely useful lens for pet-lovers! Thanks a million!


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@InnaTsv: I have had a cat eat aloe in the past with no apparent ill effects. Perhaps it is a matter of how much the cat eats with relation to body weight. In any case, aloe is not said to be deathly toxic for cats --but can make them sick as mentioned above.


Bellezza-Decor profile image

Bellezza-Decor 4 years ago from Canada

I didn't know about Poisettias being a problem for cats. I've had 2 in a basket on the floor in the living room since before Christmas! Haven't seen him chewing on them, so good enough. Thanks for the info.


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@Bellezza-Decor: Perhaps your cat is not a plant chewer. My current cat doesn't bother plants at all. What a relief.


Lady Lorelei profile image

Lady Lorelei 4 years ago from Canada

I knew a few of these plants were poisonous to cats and dogs but I had no idea that the aloe vera plant fell into this category too.


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@Lady Lorelei: That really surprised me as well when I learned about it.


Escapes2 profile image

Escapes2 4 years ago

Great information for any pet owner.


Wednesday-Elf profile image

Wednesday-Elf 4 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

I know you wrote this very helpful page about what houseplants are specifically toxic to cats, but in your 'apple' description I was interested to see that the apple seeds are toxic (cyanide-wise) also to horses. I've read several books with some type of horse-background (most of Dick Francis' books had a horse-theme since he'd been a jockey before he was a writer) and they always talk about giving apples to horses as a treat. Since the apple is whole, is that OK for a horse? I'm curious, now that I know it has toxic properties!


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@Wednesday-Elf: Sorry, but I do not know the answer to that. I know very little about horses. I suggest you click on the ASPCA Poison Control Link above and see if you can find the answers you want.


julieannbrady 3 years ago

We found out the hard way about plant toxicity to cats. My mom's cat, PePe died after getting into a potted plant. My mom thought it might be the Miracle-Gro potting soil as PePe had oily dirt in his paws. He was a polydactyl. It is important to consider inside pets with pet-friendly houseplants.


leilasi profile image

leilasi 3 years ago from Belgium

Great lens! Chocolate and other cocoa products are also toxic for cats.


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 3 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@leilasi: Good to know, thanks!


anonymous 3 years ago

Now, that's a good point you make about a plant maybe still being toxic to a cat even if its on the safe list if it has been treated with a chemical. I could feel your heartbreak over the shamrock and your relief that it was a small enough amount to not harm your cat. I've never had cats get into plants but if they do, it would be good to give away anything that might be harmful. I was the most surprised by the aloe vera, had never heard about that or the pothos. I have never given my cats catnip and was surprised that can be dangerous, I guess its like anything else used for mood changes, a little is a good thing maybe but not to be overdone. Excellent information to keep our beloved cats with us and avoid tragedy! :)


Northerntrials profile image

Northerntrials 3 years ago

I've added a link to this lens from mine (bottle-gardens-and-hanging-glass-terrariums). It's a good resource lens thanks.


mel-kav profile image

mel-kav 3 years ago

Wonderful lens with important information. We do want to keep our furry friends safe.


sierradawn lm profile image

sierradawn lm 3 years ago

I thought I knew it all when it came to cats & plants but I learned many new and important things here on your informative and very well crafted article! As one who loves to be surrounded by both cats and plants: thank you so much!


darkflowers profile image

darkflowers 3 years ago from The Hague, the Netherlands

I had no idea that Aloe vera was poison for dogs and cats, good to know. And all other information is very good too and so very important! Great Lens!


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 3 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@darkflowers: Thank you. I don't know how much aloe vera a cat or dog would have to ingest to feel the effects, but better safe than sorry, I guess.


nancy-loboschefski 2 years ago

Good article, but the link in the above catnip section is for Oklahoma State University, not Ohio.One also gets redirected to a new web address. You may want to relink. FYI.


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 2 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@nancy-loboschefski: Thanks for letting me know. I will recheck the links.


Coreena Jolene profile image

Coreena Jolene 2 years ago

There are so many indoor and outdoor plants that are dangerous and harmful to our beloved kitties. You have some great information to help inform those who are not aware of the situation. Just like our children we need to take care of the adorable fur children that consume our lives as well :)


SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 2 years ago from Arkansas USA

Very helpful list! I've never had many plants because of my cats. I do have an Easter lily, but it's in a place where Oreo rarely goes now, in her old age. Good to know that I need to be extra careful with that one.


favored profile image

favored 2 years ago from USA

Found this on pinterest. Thanks for this information.


eileen-lubienski 2 years ago

Is it the essential oils in the orange skins that are toxic? My little dog loves to eat peeled oranges.


QuiltFinger profile image

QuiltFinger 2 years ago from Tennessee

Wow! There are some real surprises here. I remember the cocoa mulch fiasco a few years ago, but I never considered that houseplants might also have pesticides on them! Very informative lens. Thanks for looking out for our beloved pets.


tazzytamar profile image

tazzytamar 2 years ago from chichester

What an incredibly useful lens! Thank you so much for sharing - we have 3 cats and they love napping on the windowsills where our houseplants are - really good to know they're safe!


norma-holt profile image

norma-holt 2 years ago

Great to air these facts about house plants. I have to watch the plants in my garden as well as I have 3 mother cats. Ivy is a no-no as too a plant called by various names, most common is wandering jew, with bright green leaves that spreads like a house on fire. Animals can lose their fur when in contact with it. Well done bringing these things to our attention.


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 2 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada Author

@norma-holt: I didn't know about the plant commonly called wandering jew. I used to grow it as a houseplant. Thanks for that good tip.


Adventuretravels profile image

Adventuretravels 2 years ago from London UK

I have never thought about safety with cats and house plants. But I know that babies don't like house plants at all. They are scared of them. Research says that it's because plants can be poisonous -so this is nature's way of protecting them. It may be why so many kids don't like their veggies!! Great lens very informative.


HeatherGilmour profile image

HeatherGilmour 17 months ago from London

I'm very careful with plants since I have a cat at home. I didn't realized that spraying the flowers with lemon juice will keep my cat away from plants although I know that she hate citrus scent.

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