Are Orchids Poisonous To Cats & Dogs?

Lush and colorful, plants and flowers beautify and enliven our indoor spaces and make a home feel "homey." But styling your home with plants means more than curating a collection of plants based on their individual sunlight or shade requirements.

Tabby cat sniffing flowers of white orchids
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First and foremost, if you have cats, dogs, or both, you need to choose plants that are non-toxic to pets. While that seems obvious, it's surprising how many pet parents are not aware of the toxicity of some plants, judging by animal poisoning statistics which show that plants rank #9 on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center's Top 10 Toxins of 2018. On the other end of the spectrum, some pet parents play it ultra-safe and avoid having any plants or even flower arrangements in their home, says Orchid Republic, a floral boutique whose flower arrangements are often returned by the gift recipient for that reason.

But you're in luck if your plant passion is the exquisite phalaenopsis orchid, otherwise known as the moon orchid or moth orchid. Contrary to what you may have heard about orchids, this little beauty is non-toxic to cats and dogs, says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Plant lovers' fascination with orchids

Orchids are wonderful and addictive, says the American Orchid Society. Once bitten by the orchid bug, you'll want to collect different varieties, colors, and hybrids of these colorful and fragrant plants, although the phalaenopsis orchid is widely considered the best orchid to grow in the home. Consequently, it's a favorite of commercial greenhouse growers.

Growing orchids is a fascinating hobby for many plant enthusiasts. The good news for pet parents who love orchids, is that the phalaenopsis orchid is specifically listed as non-toxic by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. But like anything else inappropriate your dog or cat eats, you can expect vomiting and/or diarrhea along with an upset tummy if he takes a bite out of your orchid. Further, with so many orchid species—25,000 to 30,000—and hybrids galore out there, it's possible that one or more, though not proven toxic to dogs or cats to date, may at some point turn out to be, thus adversely affecting your pet. Why take a chance when it's possible to keep your orchids safely away from your pets, or at least less desirable to them?

blooming Phalaenopsis Orchids on window
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Pets can coexist with orchids

Even though orchids are non-toxic to dogs and cats, it's wise to keep your pet from nibbling on them. For one thing, your orchids may have been treated with a pesticide, and most foreign substances a dog or cat ingests, including plant matter, will usually cause stomach upset. Plus, these elegant flowers warm your home with magnificent blooms for months at a time and they're expensive; why let a determined pet ruin your investment?

Pets and orchids can indeed coexist by simply following a few guidelines, as follows:

  • Discourage nibbling by dusting orchid leaves with cinnamon powder or cayenne pepper.
  • Make your own pet repellent spray with a combination of an equal portion of water and white or apple cider vinegar.
  • Plant your orchids in hanging pots and hang them from hooks in the ceiling or at the top of window frames.
  • One of the easiest deterrents is to create a dedicated plant oasis in a sunny area of your home where you can keep the door closed making it inaccessible to pets unless they are under your supervision.

Signs of abdominal upset

If you've done what you can to safeguard your pets and your plants and still your dog or cat gets her teeth into your orchids, watch for the following symptoms of abdominal discomfort or gastrointestinal upset:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Behavioral changes such as weakness and general malaise.

What to do if your pet eats an orchid

Even though the phalaenopsis and some other orchid species are considered non-toxic, if you spot the signs of gastric upset upon your pet ingesting any part of an orchid plant, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible with the name of the orchid and the symptoms you have observed in your pet. If your vet is unavailable, call the ASPCA's National Animal Poison Hotline (888) 426-4435, the best resource to keep handy if your pet has ingested anything potentially poisonous, or the Pet Poison Helpline (855)764-7661, another helpful resource — both are available 24/7, 365 days a year.

As a pet parent, you should know which plants are toxic and non-toxic. You can review this comprehensive list provided by the ASPCA Poison Control Center here. The following common names of orchids are listed among the non-toxic plant species:

  • Phalaenopsis orchid
  • Lilly of the valley orchid
  • Fiery reed orchid
  • Pansy orchid
Young cat playing with a vase of flowers on a wood table
credit: Carlina Teteris/Moment/GettyImages

Conclusion

Orchids are not poisonous to cats and dogs but should not be eaten for a number of reasons, including the possibility of gastrointestinal upset from ingesting a foreign substance or any pesticide residue from the leaves.

Your pets and orchids can co-exist if you place your orchids out of their reach, treat the leaves with a repellent, or create an orchid oasis in an inaccessible area.

If you're an avid indoor gardener, keep a list of toxic and non-toxic plants handy to refer to when shopping for plants for your home.