Which plants are toxic to cats?


Even though cats have been domesticated for thousands of years, their wilder instincts can still lead them into trouble. Their natural curiosity is a powerful motivator when out exploring their environment, climbing and jumping up onto every surface, investigating every nook and cranny. A jungle of houseplants can be a favourite site to explore, and it is important to remember that some common plants may be toxic to your feline friend

Many plants commonly found both inside and outside our homes may have toxic implications for cats. Cats can develop serious inflammation to their gums, mouth and stomach lining by chewing on certain plants, as well as localized skin reactions by simply brushing up against others. It is therefore important to identify and avoid plants that may be dangerous to our cats. Many of the over 700 plants known to be toxic to cats can be commonly found in garden centers and sold as houseplants. Here a few plants to remember to avoid.

1. All varieties of lilies

Lilies are one of the most toxic houseplants commonly available. Lilies can cause vomiting and lethargy within as little as one hour after ingestion. Even ingestion of a small amount (a piece of a leaf, for example) can make a cat very sick. If left untreated, lilies can lead to kidney failure and death.

2. Autumn Crocus

These lovely flowers can cause burning sensations, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure, or even cardiac arrhythmia if ingested. Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat may have come into contact with this plant.

3. Dracaena (Dragon Tree)

There are over 50 varieties of this plant available today. Simply chewing on one of its elongated leaves can be enough to provoke loss of appetite and vomiting. These effects are not fatal and will usually improve within a day. Contact your veterinarian if symptoms persist for more than 24 hours.

4. Plants that contain oxalic acid

Oxalic acid is present in numerous houseplants including philodendrons, spinach, agave, and tea leaves. When ingested, this substance will lead to swollen gums and mouths, salivation, and vomiting. In these particular cases, allowing your cat to lick a saucer of milk, ice cream, or yogurt (sources of calcium) may help decrease the local irritation.

5. Tulips

Although not lethal, tulips can cause irritations to the mouth and gums, salivation, and nausea. We recommend consulting with your veterinarian if you suspect that your cat has been chewing on tulips.

6. Narcissus

Consuming even the smallest amount of this plant can lead to  vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, convulsions, and a sudden drop in blood pressure. Call your veterinarian immediately.

Amaryllis, chrysanthemums, rhododendrons, azaleas, thyme, kalanchoe… These are only a few of the plants known to be dangerous to cats. It is therefore extremely important to do your research before introducing a new plant into your home, and to watch out for any possible symptoms that could lead you to suspect that your cat has come into contact with a toxic plant. Since the majority of toxic plants are irritating to the digestive system, watch for redness or irritations around the mouth and gums. Other symptoms may vary depending on the affected organs but often include: difficulty breathing or swallowing,  vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heart rhythm, and dehydration.

Consult your veterinarian should you have any doubts about your cat’s behaviour.