Are Bonsai Plants Harmful to Cats?

There are many different kinds of bonsai that are ok with cats.
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Bonsai trees are beautiful replications of nature in miniature form. Several different plants can be used for bonsai as long as they can be grown in a container, have a woody stem, and true branches. If you are a pet parent who loves the artful and elegant bonsai aesthetic, you will want to know if cats and bonsai trees can co-exist safely or if a bonsai tree is toxic to cats. While several bonsai trees are toxic to cats, especially sago palm and jade, there are plants you can select for your bonsai collection that are cat friendly.

Bonsai trees may be toxic to cats

When you have cats, you need to be aware of all toxic plants since so many are suitable to bonsai. You should carefully research any potential plant you are considering for your bonsai garden by doing a Google search or check the list of toxic and non-toxic plants at the ASPCA website.

By no means an exhaustive list, the following are some bonsai plants to avoid due to their toxicity to cats:

  • Sago palm (every part of the plant is toxic) looks like a palm tree and is the most toxic of all the bonsai plants

    — the primary toxic agent is cycasin_,_ a carcinogenic and neurotoxic glucoside

  • Boxwood is highly toxic to animals and contains a butter-like oil and three toxic alkaloids; buxine, cyclobuxine, and cycloprotobuxine

  • Jade plants are variously known as baby jade, jade tree, or Chinese rubber plant and all parts of the plant are toxic to cats

  • Azaleas are beautiful flowering plants but extremely toxic to both cats and humans with all parts of the plant considered poisonous, and as little as ingestion of 0.2% of an animal's body weight can result in poisoning

  • Fig, known scientifically as ficus Benjamina, causes a mild poisoning in cats

  • Sweet plum trees may produce tasty fruit but all parts of this plant are toxic to cats

  • Cherry trees contain cyanide in their stems, leaves, blossoms, and pits, but not the ripe cherry fruit itself

A bonsai tree that is toxic to cats is best avoided altogether, unless you can create a bonsai gallery in a room completely inaccessible to your cat.

What are non-toxic bonsai?

There are several plants you can use for bonsai that are not harmful to cats, allowing you to fully enjoy your pastime and display your bonsai artistry anywhere in your home without having to worry about your cat chewing on a bonsai tree that is toxic to cats.

The following bonsai plants are just a few of those plants that can be enjoyed in a home with cats and are not considered toxic. For more ideas, check the list of toxic and non-toxic plants at the ASPCA website:

Symptoms of poisoning

Should your cat ingest the leaves or any part of a toxic bonsai plant, common clinical signs of poisoning may include some or any of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Drooling and loss of appetite (one of the initial signs of sago palm poisoning)
  • Distended abdomen from fluid accumulation
  • Obvious abdominal pain
  • Jaundice
  • Black, tarry stool
  • Depression, which can manifests as disinterest in grooming behaviors, lethargy and weakness, hiding, or sleeping more than usual
  • Slow heart rate (especially in jade poisoning)
  • Lack of muscle function
  • Tremors, seizures, or coma (especially in azalea poisoning)
  • Bright red gums and excessive panting (especially in sweet plum poisoning)

Cat eats toxic bonsai

If you suspect your cat has eaten any part of a toxic bonsai or other plant, call your veterinarian, an emergency vet clinic, or the Pet Poison Helpline at 24/7 at (855) 764-7661 for immediate help and advice.

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