As beautiful as they may be, many species of begonia are toxic to cats. With more than 1,000 species and even more hybrids, they are popular garden and houseplants. While they thrive outdoors, they won't tolerate temperatures under 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so many people bring them indoors during cooler months. Unfortunately, they contain compounds called soluble calcium oxalates that can pose a threat to your cat's health when ingested.
Identifying begonia plants
With so many different begonia species, identification can be difficult. But there are some common characteristics you can look for to identify your plant. If you are still unsure, your local nursery can likely assist you with plant identification.
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The plants typically grow 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall with smooth, waxy leaves that are up to six inches long. Depending on the species and cultivar, leaves may be green, silver, yellow, white, purple, or variegated. Begonias bloom in the summer and fall with pink, red, white, or yellow flowers. Some plants have bicolor blooms. Besides begonias, there are my other plants that are toxic to cats.
Begonia toxicity symptoms
The most toxic part of the begonia is the tuberous roots underground. Your cat may get into the roots if he enjoys digging in your houseplants or if he knocks the pot over and starts snacking on the plant.
North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension classifies begonias as having low poison severity, but that doesn't mean it can't cause problems for your cat. The main symptoms of begonia poisoning include vomiting and excessive salivation. Grazing animals may experience kidney failure, but this isn't typically a concern for cats. Unlike some other poisonous plants for dogs and cats, begonias do not cause contact dermatitis from touching the leaves or flowers.
Get veterinary treatment
If your cat gets into the begonia plant or shows symptoms of poisoning, don't hesitate to get help. Take your cat away from the begonias and check his breathing. If your cat is having trouble breathing, this is a serious emergency and you should immediately take him to the vet clinic. If possible, take a sample of the plant your cat got into to confirm the species and the type of poisoning your cat is likely experiencing.
Contact your veterinarian, the Pet Poison Helpline, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center to discuss your cat's symptoms and what treatment may be required. Treatment is usually easier and less expensive before symptoms become severe.
Do not give your cat any medications, food, or other home remedies such as milk or oil without the advice of a veterinarian. Do not attempt to induce vomiting on your own, especially using hydrogen peroxide. In cats, hydrogen peroxide causes salivation and foaming which can make the situation worse.
The safest option is to remove begonia and all other toxic plants from your home so that there is no risk of poisoning. While begonia is toxic to cats, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy flowering plants in your home. Consult the ASPCA's list of toxic and non-toxic plants to determine what plants you need to remove from your home and which cat-safe plants to bring in.
There are a couple of non-toxic plants that are called begonias but are not actually a part of the begonia genus. These include climbing begonia and trailing begonia.
Some other safe houseplants include African violets, blue echeverias, and gerber daisies. You aren't limited to flowers when selecting indoor plants. Enjoy cacti and succulents such as Christmas cactus with its beautiful, seasonal blooms or burro's tail. For beautiful foliage, consider a spider plant or a Boston fern.