Whether you're preparing your home for a new kitten or simply re-evaluating its safety for an existing feline, being aware of the toxicity of houseplants is an important aspect of being a pet parent. Because humans don't think like cats and are rarely on the animal's physical level, it's easy to forget how curious these furry friends can be and what types of dangers they come face to face with.
Just like toddlers, cats of all ages are intrigued by almost everything they encounter, including bugs and plants, and they may take a lick or bite to investigate. Seems harmless enough, right? Not necessarily. Here's some information to help pet owners remain alert to dangerous and potentially fatal hazards in houseplants.
Houseplants to Avoid
Common indoor greenery like English ivy, yew and pothos are among the most dangerous for cats, often leading to gastrointestinal issues, difficulty breathing and potential cardiac failure. Beautiful flowering plants like cyclamen, kalancloe and amaryllis may look harmless, but they pack a punch if ingested by your cat. Tremors, hypersalivation, abdominal pain and irregular heartbeat can accompany the standard vomiting and diarrhea. And that basket of chrysanthemums your aunt brings when you host Thanksgiving dinner? It's a big-time danger that can result in drooling and a loss of coordination, coupled with diarrhea and vomiting.
To be perfectly honest, the vast majority of houseplants and flowers pose some risk to felines; they just vary in the degree to which they can make your kitty sick. If you've been a cat owner for awhile, you've likely witnessed your pet eat grass or a little bug, and a little while later, vomit the goodies right back up. While you don't want that to be a regular occurrence, it's not unusual on rare occasion. Houseplants, on the other hand, can lead to more serious reactions than a simple regurgitation.
Other plants commonly found indoors that can affect your feline's health if ingested include:
• Fig trees
• Palm & peace lilies
• Jade plants
And don't forget the holiday favorites, like poinsettias, mistletoe and holly. All of these plants threaten the health of cats if they're consumed, so keep them out of reach of your furbabies, or better yet, re-gift them to pet-free homes.
Can't I Just Keep My Cats Away From My Plants?
While you may think you can simply put your beloved houseplants in a place where your also beloved critters won't go, you're really just taking a chance. Is it worth it?
Cats often gravitate toward plants for several different reasons. While you think that hanging basket is safely out of reach, its tendrils of dangling (poisonous) leaves may be taunting your kitty like a cat toy. Not to mention the cat's urge to consume grass or other foliage when faced with digestion issues. And how about felines facing pica -- the behavior of consuming non-food material -- or a compulsive disorder? Houseplants are an easy and initially palatable target.
If Your Cat Does Eat a Poisonous Plant…
Timing is of the essence when it comes to a poisoned feline. Note the plant the cat consumed and, if possible, take a sample with you to a veterinarian or animal hospital. The treatment will be based on the ingested toxins, which is why the plant name or sample is key. The vet may induce vomiting or give activated charcoal to absorb some of the poison. Tests may be necessary to determine what (if any) organs have been affected, and fluid therapy could be an option.
If you're unable to get to a vet or if you've noticed your cat simply licking a poisonous houseplant, contact your veterinarian or animal hospital immediately, or call the ASPCA poison control hotline at 888-426-4435 for guidance.
By Tara Hall