Kitties like to nibble on leaves but Some of the most toxic plants for cats include common houseplants such as Monstera deliciosa, Jade plants, Aloes, and Devils Ivy
If you’re a cat owner you’ll know that kitties like to nibble on leaves. Cats eat green leaves out of play, boredom, or because they have an upset tummy. I’ve noticed that both of my cats like running the edges of leaves along their gums before they chew. I suspect from their expressions that it feels pretty good. If they’re allowed outside they’ll eat grass and indoors they like to nibble on almost anything green and crunchy. They love long stringy leaves in particular. It’s completely normal and some pet owners even grow ‘Cat Grass’ for their felines.
As you can see from the photos, my cats are very curious about plants. Especially Louis. He’s a huge fan of catnip, eats grass pretty regularly, and I’m constantly shooing him away from my spider plant. Over time I’ve become more aware of the toxicity of common garden and house plants and wanted to share some of the top offenders.
What to do if your cat eats a toxic plant
If your cat begins to act ill and you have a new plant or bouquet in the house, take a picture of it before whisking your pet to the vet. Identifying the cause of the toxicity will ensure quick treatment and a photo or bringing in a piece of the plant will help. There are dozens of houseplants that are toxic to cats so the evidence will help pinpoint which one it is.
Symptoms can vary depending on the flower and can run the gamut from swelling around the mouth to drooling, diarrhea, irregular breathing or heartbeat, and vomiting. There’s more information on the Pet MD’s website. Above all, stay calm for both your and your beloved kitty’s sake and get them to the vet as soon as possible.
Toxic plants for cats — Lilies
Before we continue onto the houseplants we need to talk lilies. While there are many plants and flowers that can cause everything from rashes to upset tummies in cats, Lilies (of all varieties) are the most fatal.
Though most adult cats will avoid chewing on dangerous leaves and flowers, the pollen can drift down from bouquets and settle on flat surfaces. A cheeky scamper across the dining room table and little furry toes can pick up pollen, which is then licked off when the kitty grooms itself. Lily pollen can kill your beloved feline since the smallest amount will cause acute kidney failure.
Dangerous lilies aren’t just constrained to bouquet flowers. Peace lilies are a common houseplant that can make your cat sick too. Fortunately, peace lily poisoning doesn’t end in acute kidney failure like other lilies.
Of all the plants leading the houseplant craze, Monstera deliciosa, also known as the Swiss Cheese Plant, is the most popular. It’s also highly toxic to cats and just one bite can land them in severe pain. Fortunately, cats seem to prefer nibbling on stringier leaves so if you have one it’s unlikely that your cats will chew on it. However, it IS possible and you should be aware of the symptoms. Symptoms of Monstera deliciosa poisoning in cats include pawing at the mouth, drooling, mouth and throat pain, trouble swallowing, and irritation of the oral cavity
With houseplant collecting becoming more popular, Jade plants are making a comeback. Also called rubber plants or money trees, all parts of this plant is poisonous to cats. If it nibbles too much, Jade plant poisoning can be fatal.
Because Jade plants can get quite large, keeping them out of the reach of cats might be difficult. This makes having this plant in the house something you should reconsider. Otherwise, keep smaller plants elevated and out of reach. Symptoms of Jade plant poisoning include loss of muscle function, vomiting, and a slow heart rate. Without veterinary treatment, Jade plant poisoning is fatal to cats.
Aloes, including Aloe vera, are common houseplants and I keep several on hand for making skincare and for burns. However, some of the same compounds that make aloe useful (i.e. saponins) can be extremely toxic to cats. Most cats won’t nibble on aloe but one of mine will chew the tips off the leaves if she’s allowed near an aloe.
Symptoms of aloe poisoning in cats include diarrhea, loss of appetite, anorexia, depression, reddish-colored urine, and more. You’ll notice a change in your kitty between several hours to several days after they’ve eaten aloe. If you suspect your cat has been nibbling on aloe and is now ill, you should take them to the vet immediately.
Also called the golden pothos, devils ivy is a common leafy houseplant and another one to beware of. If your cat chews or eats any of it, the calcium oxalate crystals found in all parts of the plant will cause your furry friend a great deal of pain. It’s the same compound that causes poisoning via Monstera deliciosa and your cat would have similar symptoms. It will drool and paw at his mouth and have difficulty swallowing.
If your kitty has been exposed to devil’s ivy and is showing symptoms, take it to the vets immediately for treatment. Though most cats poisoned with devil’s ivy make a full recovery, their pain and suffering will be terrible. Think twice about having this plant in your home.
Cyclamen are toxic to cats
A common indoor and outdoor flowering plant, cyclamens also contain natural saponins. Just like in the case of aloe, cats can get very ill if it chews or eats any part of the plant. This last winter I’ve kept a pot of cyclamens outside on my doorstep. I haven’t noticed any interest in nibbling however, I have spotted Louis playing with the flowers. I’ll be relocating these far away from the cats as soon as it warms up. Symptoms of cyclamen poisoning include drooling, diarrhea, seizures, and if left untreated can be fatal.
Feline Stimulants & Hallucinogens
There are also some plants that cats chew on like a drug. Most people are aware of the effects of catnip on cats — drooling, playfulness, and utterly bonkers behavior. It’s said that the effects are similar to those of marijuana or LSD in humans but will only last about ten minutes. Catnip affects only 50% of cats.
There are a couple of other plants that affect cats in a similar way. These include valerian root, which is grown as a natural sleep aid for people and spider plants. One of my cats doesn’t react to catnip but does show interest in Valerian. The other loves both and I sometimes find him chewing on my spider plant too.
Spider plants are said to be non-toxic to cats but in reality, they can make them mildly ill. If your cat eats enough spider plant leaves they can have an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. But why do they eat them in the first place? Spider plant leaves contain natural compounds related to opium and will give cats mild, yet harmless, hallucinations.
Houseplants that are Toxic to Cats
There’s a long list of flowers, outdoor plants, and houseplants that are toxic to cats. Far too many to be listed here so I encourage you to have a look at this list of plants that are non-toxic and toxic to cats. Though kitties tend to leave dangerous plants alone, they might accidentally mess with the wrong plant and need help. Keeping known dangers out of reach is the first step to keeping your kitties safe. Being able to ID a plant in the case your cat does become ill will help ensure speedy treatment at the vets.