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What plants are harmful to cats?

Cats are well known for going off and exploring, yet thankfully they tend to be fairly cautious around plants. There’s usually a greater risk of picking up pollen or sap from poisonous plants on their fur or paws, and ingesting it whilst grooming.

To help keep your furry feline friends safe, we’ve put together this useful guide about what plants are harmful to cats and what to do if you suspect yours has eaten something poisonous.

Symptoms of plant poisoning in cats

Although most symptoms of plant poisoning are mild, the severity will depend on the type of plant and the amount digested.

Here’s some key symptoms of plant poisoning in cats to watch out for:

  • Changes in drinking, urinating and appetite
  • Salivation
  • Inflammation or swelling of the skin
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Twitching and fitting
  • Shock or collapse
  • Depression
  • Coma

Why can cats react badly to poisoning?

It’s mainly due to their biological make-up and size, even a small dose of something poisonous can be fatal. Cats can sometimes struggle to process toxic substances and eliminate them from their body.

Also, cats lead an adventurous outdoors lifestyle; it’s hard to know what they’ve come into contact with, or when it happened, making it more difficult to react quickly.

Avoid lilies: the most dangerous plant to cats

Sadly, lilies can be deadly for cats. All parts of lilies are toxic, including its pollen, and it is the most commonly reported poison in cats and kittens.

Within minutes of ingesting the plant, your cat can become lethargic or start to vomit, it can also lead to kidney failure. Even small amounts can cause poisoning in cats.

Common toxic plants

Most of these plants will only cause mild symptoms, unless very large amounts are eaten. These plants are less toxic than lilies but can still harm your cat if ingested.

This list is not exhaustive, but covers a wide range of plants to stay clear of:

  • Amaryllis (bulbs) (Hippeastrum species) – can cause tremors, seizures, vomiting and changes in blood pressure.
  • Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale) – may result in drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Azaleas (Rhododendron occidentale) – can cause vomiting, abnormal heart rate, tremors and seizures.
  • Castor Bean (Ricinus communis) – can be fatal and cause twitching, tremors, seizures and comas.
  • Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum) – can cause lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Cyclamens (Cyclamen species) – can cause drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Daffodils (Narcissus) – can cause drooling, increased heart rate, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Dieffenbachia (Dieffenbachia) – can cause mild irritation to the throat and mouth and in rare cases difficulty breathing due to the swelling caused in the cat’s airways.
  • Dragon tree (Dracaena species) – can cause drooling, dilated pupils, weakness and vomiting.
  • Foxgloves (Digitalis species) – even a small amount can be fatal and cause muscle weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea and heart failure.
  • Hyacinth (bulbs) (Hyacinthus orientalis) – can cause oral irritation and pawing at the mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive drooling, depression and increased heart rate.
  • Ivy (Hedera helix) – can cause drooling, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe) – can cause drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Oleander (Nerium oleander) – can cause food aversion, excessive drooling, hypothermia, slow heart rate, diarrhoea (may contain blood) and vomiting.
  • Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) – can cause drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Pothos, Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) – can cause pawing at the face, excessive drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing.
  • Rhododendrons (Rhododendron species) – can cause vomiting, abnormal heart rate, tremors and seizures.
  • Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) – needs to be treated quickly as it can cause liver damage, as well as paralysis, bleeding, seizures, vomiting, diarrhoea and blood in faeces.
  • Spanish Thyme (Plectranthus amboinicus) – can cause strange behaviour, drooling, lack of appetite, weakness, pawing at the mouth, vomiting and diarrhoea (which may contain blood).
  • Spring Crocus (Crocus vernus) – can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) – although classed as non-toxic for cats, spider plants can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and have a mild hallucinogenic effect.
  • Tulips (Tulipa species) – can cause lethargy, loss of coordination, salivation, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Yew (Taxus baccata) – can be fatal and cause drooling, weakness, rapid breathing, dilated pupils, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, vomiting, tremors, seizures and comas.
  • Yucca plants (Yucca species) – can cause lack of coordination, vomiting, diarrhoea and convulsions.

What can I do to prevent plant poisoning?

Be mindful when you are gardening to keep spring bulbs and other poisonous plants out of paw’s reach and, if you are pruning any poisonous plants, dispose of them straight away. The best way to keep your cat safe is to avoid planting poisonous plants at all.

It’s not just outdoor plants that can be a danger to cats, unfortunately cut flowers can have the same harmful effects. Picking a bouquet that is safe for cats will eliminate the risk of poisoning. As we know, daffodils and tulips can be harmful when eaten and lilies should always be avoided. Instead, it would be better to opt for pet friendly flowers like freesias, roses and snapdragons.

Worried your cat has been poisoned by a plant?

If you suspect your cat has come into contact with a poisonous plant, seek advice from your vet immediately. Getting emergency care will increase the likelihood of your pet making a full recovery.

If you have any concerns about your pet, please get in touch with your local St Kitts practice.

St Kitts Veterinary Centre: 01252 844044
Basingstoke Veterinary Centre: 01256 844944
Crookham Park Veterinary Centre: 01252 913990
Firgrove Veterinary Centre: 01252 877799


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