While not being well known, many toxic plants are irritants: they cause localized inflammation of the skin, mouth, stomach, etc. The toxic principle in other plants may have a systemic effect and damage or alter the function of a cat’s organs, like the kidney or heart.
The following flowers can be toxic to your pets and should be avoided:
- Amaryllis (Amaryllis spp.)
- Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale)
- Azaleas and Rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.)
- Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
- Chrysanthemum, Daisy, Mum (Chrysanthemum spp.)
- Cyclamen (Cyclamen spp.)
- Daffodils, Narcissus (Narcissus spp.)
- Dieffenbachia (Dieffenbachia spp.)
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- Hyacinth (Hyacintus orientalis)
- Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe spp.)
- Lily (Lilium sp.)
- Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
- Oleander (Nerium oleander)
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.)
- Pothos, Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
- Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
- Spanish Thyme (Coleus ampoinicus)
- Tulip (Tulipa spp.)
- Yew (Taxus spp.)
Which Parts of the Plant Are Toxic to Cats?
If a plant is poisonous to cats, assume all parts of the plant are poisonous—though some parts of the plant may have higher concentrations of the toxic principle than others.
Toxic doses can vary widely from plant to plant. In some cases, ingesting a small amount can have devastating results, while cats may need to be exposed to relatively large amounts of other plants before symptoms develop.
Symptoms to Watch For
Since many plants are irritants, most symptoms seen will be the result of irritation or inflammation, such as redness, swelling or itchiness of the eyes, skin or mouth.
When deeper parts of the gastrointestinal tract, like the stomach and intestines, become irritated, vomiting and diarrhea are likely.
If the toxic principle directly affects a particular organ, the symptoms seen will primarily be related to that organ. For example:
- Difficulty breathing (if the airways are affected)
- Drooling or difficulty swallowing (if the mouth, throat or esophagus is affected)
- Vomiting (if the stomach or small intestines are affected)
- Diarrhea (if the small intestines or colon are affected)
- Excessive drinking and urinating (if the kidneys are affected)
- Fast, slow or irregular heart beat and weakness (if the heart is affected)
If you see your cat eating a plant and you are uncertain if it is poisonous, or if you even suspect that your cat ate such a plant, do the following before you take him to your veterinarian:
Remove any plant material from your cat’s hair, skin and mouth if you can do so safely.
Keep your cat confined in a safe environment for close monitoring.
Identifying the plant is very important for determining treatment. If you are unsure of the name of the poisonous plant that your cat was exposed to, bring a sample of the plant or plant material that your cat has vomited with you to the veterinary office.
The best diagnosis is made by identifying the plant. Your veterinarian will also give your cat a physical exam and order tests as necessary to determine the overall health of your cat.
These tests are especially necessary if the identity of the poisonous plant is unknown, or if the identified plant is known to target internal organs.
Your veterinarian may give your cat medications to encourage vomiting and/or activated charcoal to absorb any of the toxic principle that may be in the gut. Your vet may also administer medication like sucralfate, which protects the damaged areas of the stomach.
Supportive care, such as intravenous fluids, anti-nausea drugs, pain medicine for cats and anti-inflammatory medication will be used as needed. Other treatments may be required based on the toxin involved and the cat’s condition.
Living and Management
Some poisonous plant ingestions can be fatal for cats, particularly if treatment is delayed. Other plants may cause enough damage that prolonged aftercare in the form of medication or a special diet is needed.
Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions and ask any questions that you might have.
Take whatever steps you can to protect your cat from exposure to poisonous plants. This includes removing such plants from your home and keeping your cat indoors, or closely supervising any outdoor activities.