Cats are curious by nature and love to have a little chew on vegetation from time to time. This would all be fine except that some vegetation is very disagreeable to cats. If you are thinking of bringing a cat into your home or you are someone who loves a bit of greenery and plant life in your home and you have a cat, check out this list of common houseplants toxic to cats. Make sure your cat isn’t at risk from these houseplants!
Whilst the below list isn’t comprehensive, it does feature some very popular and fashionable house plants that are poisonous to cats. To keep your cat safe, try to avoid having these plants around your home.
Peace lilies (spathiphyllum) are a very popular household plant because they produce very attractive flowers that brighten up rooms and are reputed to clean air! They are very easy to care for and require medium to low light and infrequent watering so they can thrive in most settings. Problem is, they and many other types of lilies (Cala, easter, and tiger lily) are dangerous to cats.
Now peace lilies are not the worst lily – your cat needs to chew on leaves to release the dangerous calcium oxalate crystals that cause problems with peace lilies. These crystals are absorbed through the mouth and can cause mouth and GI tract irritation. They can lead to irritation, loss of appetite, and vomiting.
Other lilies, true lilies (genera Lilium) such as the tiger lily, are much more dangerous. Eating a small amount of leaf or petal, breathing pollen, or drinking water from the vase of these lilies can bring on acute kidney failure that can kill your cat! Often there is nothing a vet can do to save the cat. In general, play it safe and avoid lilies…
Jade plants (Crassula Ovata) otherwise known as money plants or money trees are a very popular and widespread houseplant, mainly because they are perceived to bring good luck – hence the money related names!
They are a succulent that is generally pretty easy to care for, damn hard to kill, and are particularly easy to propagate through stem cuttings which also makes them very popular.
They originate in South Africa and will, occasionally flower if you keep them in the correct conditions which are bright sunshine and well-watered – but not wet.
Unfortunately, they are not very lucky for pets as they are toxic to cats and dogs. Jade is unlikely to kill your cat – it is considered to be mildly toxic, but chewing on leaves will produce nasty bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, result in drooling and staggering, and apparently also causes depression in cats and dogs! So, not something you want around your cat.
Lucky bamboo is neither lucky nor bamboo as far as your cat is concerned! It is a dracaena, dracaena sanderiana. These are a very popular houseplant because they are very easy to care for and can be grown into artistic shapes like spirals, trellis, or tree shapes.
They originate in China and have been a part of Chinese culture for thousands of years. They have come to play a part in feng shui and are believed to bring good energy into the home. Different shapes of lucky bamboo are believed to bestow different energies on the home and having three stems of this bamboo is considered lucky whilst arrangements with four stems are considered bad luck.
Lucky bamboo is considered to be mildly toxic to cats but can still cause some nasty side effects. Cats who eat this can suffer from drooling, loss of coordination, vomiting, depression, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, dilated pupils, and racing heart rate – not good. We would suggest you avoid having lucky bamboo in the house if you have a cat. It may not be attractive to cats, but a cat with a curious nature could end up in a bad way!
English ivy, common ivy, European ivy, or hedera helix – are all the same thing. This ivy is really an outdoor plant but people do like to use them indoors as they are a wonderful low light, aggressive, cascading vine plant that works well in bathrooms and on bookshelves. The trailing effect is popular – problem is they can be tough to grow indoors and they are toxic to your pets.
English ivy kept as a houseplant needs regular re-potting, misting up to three times a week, regular cleaning to keep dust off leaves, and a position in bright but indirect sunlight. You can understand from the misting why they might be good bathroom plants.
This ivy is toxic to your cat. It is unlikely to kill your cat but will make them really sick. The poisons that are found in ivy which create the problem are saponins. These are going to give your cat a bad case of the trots, abdominal pain, vomiting, and excessive salivation. Basically, you are going to end up doing a lot of clean up and with a visit to the vet.
Depending on how bad it gets, dehydration could be a problem with all the vomiting and diarrhea so best keep this stuff out of your house if you have a cat!
Swiss Cheese Plant
The Swiss Cheese Plant, or Monstera Deleciosa, is a plant that brings a glamorous and tropical vibe to any home. This, and the fact they are pretty easy to care for making them incredibly popular worldwide.
They originate in tropical jungles of South America but live under the canopy meaning they will grow without trouble in most homes without the need for direct sunlight – a little diffuse natural light and they are happy. If you locate it in bright light the leaves scorch and if you put it in light that is not bright enough it won’t develop the holes in the leaves which give it the swiss cheese look. Watering is simple, don’t let it stand in water and let the top two inches dry before watering.
The bad news. This glam plant has leaves that contain calcium oxalate crystals, just like the peace lilies mentioned earlier. So, if your cat nibbles at this plant they are going to suffer an irritated mouth, lips, GI tract, will end up drooling all over the place, probably vomit, will panic from swallowing difficulties but should, ultimately, avoid death.
Let’s just say it is probably best not to chance having it in your home when there are so many non-toxic houseplants safe for your cat that are available!
It is hard not to appreciate amaryllis. Any plant that throws out such colorful, vibrant blooms in the depth of a northern hemisphere winter is a winner in my book! The joy of these plants is that they are bulbs you just pot up and then let them sprout and perform – just when everything else is drab and colorless.
They are real simple to tend. They don’t need much light and certainly direct light is not essential, you just water occasionally and wait it out – you don’t need fertilizer as their bulb provides all the essential nutrients they need to reach maturity and put on a show. Give it six weeks and you’re in business with big blooms that are usually showstoppers.
Problem is these little tarts are related to daffodils, and that isn’t a good thing for your cat. The flowers, leaves, and bulbs contain phenanthridine alkaloids, which is a long way round to just saying poison. If you have these plants and your cat starts vomiting, having tremors or seizures ask yourself “have they been at the amaryllis?”
The snake plant, St George’s sword, mother in laws tongue, call it what you will, is a member of the Dracaena family. Remember them? (Think Lucky Bamboo). They are incredibly popular because they are really tough critturs, can look architectural, and have a rep for being air cleaners.
Their air cleaning rep was such that NASA checked them out and found they were particularly good at removing benzene and formaldehyde from the air! Apparently, they are also skilled at storing up oxygen during the day and releasing it back out at night – useful to know if you find yourself short of breath at night.
They are an evergreen from west Africa and can grow from six inches to twelve-foot high if you give them the right conditions. They don’t mind shade and are drought tolerant – basically, they are as hard as nails. And just to back up their tough guy of the plant world image, their leaves were shredded and used as bowstrings back in the day…
But. They are no good if you have a curious cat. As with Lucky Bamboo, chewing on these plants is going to give your cat problems. Your cat isn’t likely to die from the odd nibble but they are going to get a numb tongue and throat, swelling throat, nausea, and vomiting all caused by saponins found in the plant. Avoid if you are a cat or dog household…
I have dropped oregano into this list because some of you homebodies are bound to grow some of this stuff on your windowsill along with other herbs. After all, it goes with so many dishes you always need some of the dried stuff to hand.
What is the problem with oregano? Basically, leaves and stems contain flavonoids and polyphenols. We are fine with these. We have enzymes that convert these toxins into harmless compounds – cats do not.
If your cat has even small amounts of oregano, fresh or dry, they are going to ingest some of these compounds. Symptoms of oregano poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, belly pain, shallow breathing, lethargy, and potentially liver failure leading to death. Oregano is a massive no in a cat household…
Asparagus ferns, emerald fern, lace fern, or emerald feather are neither asparagus nor ferns so that sorts that out then! Their wispy fronds, which are similar to asparagus in some respects, give rise to the name.
Not a hugely popular houseplant like some of the others on this list, it makes it onto the list because it does have a nice wispy, cloudy form, is really easy to maintain as a houseplant due to its ability to survive in most light conditions and because it is actually related to the lily family – which makes it a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
These plants are actually dangerous to humans and pets if ingested. They are even known to irritate skin just from contact. They sometimes form red berries which are particularly dangerous, but ingestion of the leaves is the most likely way your cat will get poisoned by this imposter fern. Symptoms of poisoning are likely to include salivating, vomiting, diarrhea, and belly pain. If your cat does get poisoned they are probably going to suffer quite badly from vomiting and diarrhea and need to go on a drip at the vet to see them over the worst of the poisoning. I say go for a safe, real fern like a Boston fern or maidenhair fern…
Cheap, cheerful, architectural, tall, green, tropical undertones – everyone loves a ficus – great value for size compared to other houseplants. Ficus is actually the group that contains fig trees but the common houseplant variety, weeping fig (or Indian rubber plant or common rubber tree), is usually Ficus Benjamina, shortened to plain, old “ficus”.
These popular houseplants can be difficult to keep. They originate in rainforests but they like some bright sunshine during the day or they won’t thrive. They are also particular about how they are watered losing leaves if they are underwatered or overwatered. And then they don’t like to be moved – see what I mean, high maintenance, just as well they are not overly expensive!
However, it is just as well they are difficult to keep because if you have a cat it gives you an additional reason not to own a ficus. These plants are toxic to cats, dogs, pets…If the sap gets on the skin it causes dermatitis and if they chew down on leaves then that irritating poison is going to give them mouth irritation, gi tract irritation, and the usual vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, decreased appetite, etc. Probably won’t kill them but vomiting and diarrhea can be enough to make big problems with dehydration if not dealt with. Ficus is best avoided in a cat home…
A Departing Word
Our list features some, but not all, of the most common and popular houseplants that are toxic to cats. We could have included aloe vera, begonia, lemon trees, carnations, and gladioli amongst others. Eliminating these from your home goes a good distance to keeping your pet safe. Just be aware these are “houseplants”. There are plenty of other outdoor plants around your backyard that can pose a danger to your cat or dog.
These everyday, popular outdoor plants are toxic for pets – daffodils, cyclamen, tulips, and autumn crocus. This is just a small fraction of the plants that are toxic to pets that you might find in your garden, but they have been highlighted because they appear in many gardens in many neighborhoods.