What Plants Are Toxic to Cats?
Updated February 13, 2023
Reading time: 6 minutes
Cats can be fond of plants and flowers with pleasing textures or bright colors. Smells and other factors can also attract your cat to your houseplants and garden plants. However, not every plant is safe for your pet to ingest — even in small amounts. Common flowers, like lilies, and some plants, like aloe vera, can be highly toxic to cats. Ingestion of some of these toxic plants can lead to problems like kidney failure, gastrointestinal tract issues, liver damage, oral irritation, and elevated heart rate.
If you’re concerned about keeping toxic substances away from your feline friends, here’s what you need to know about some of the more poisonous houseplant and outdoor plant species.
Some plants are more toxic than others, and certain parts of the plant are often more toxic than the rest. Watch for the early signs of poisoning, including:
Upset stomach (look for vomit)
If you suspect ingestion or notice any of these symptoms, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1 (888) 426-4435 right away to get an idea of how to proceed. The Pet Poison Helpline can help you identify the plant your cat ingested and the immediate steps you should take to protect it.
You can also call your veterinarian, who will be able to recommend a course of action. You may also need to take your cat to an emergency veterinary clinic or animal hospital if it needs immediate medical attention. Be sure to keep a sample of the plant or seeds so your vet has an idea of what might have harmed your cat.
Pet insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary bills for your cat if it’s ingested a toxic plant. Compare quotes from multiple pet insurance companies to find the right plan for your needs.
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If you don’t always want to be on the watch for symptoms of plant poisoning, consider growing only plants that don’t pose a threat to your cat. If this isn’t possible, try to put your plants somewhere out of reach of your cats.
Here are some common cat-safe plants:
Polka dot plant
Some succulents, like Haworthia
Many plants are toxic to cats, including some common houseplants. The most dangerous ones should probably be kept out of your house for the sake of your cat, while others are usually safe to keep with the proper precautions.
Below are some of the most toxic indoor plants for cats. You can find the various names and variations of the plants on the ASPCA’s comprehensive list.
Pothos plants, also known as devil’s ivy, are very common houseplants due to their ease of care. However, they’re toxic to cats and can cause oral irritation, difficulty swallowing, drooling, and vomiting if ingested. A good way to keep your cat away from your pothos is to place it on a high, out-of-reach shelf.
Snake plants are also very popular indoor plants, as they require little maintenance. However, the saponins in their leaves are toxic to cats and can cause nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Snake plants are often placed on the floor due to their size, so a good way to keep your cat away from them is to spray the plant with a cat-deterrent spray.
Monstera deliciosa, also known as the cut-leaf philodendron and the Swiss cheese plant, can be toxic to your cat if ingested. It causes problems like oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing. Try to keep your cat away from your Monstera by placing it out of reach or spraying it with a plant-safe deterrent.
The heartleaf philodendron is another common indoor plant that’s quite toxic to cats if ingested. It causes mouth pain, excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing. These plants tend to grow long vines that can dangle. A good way to keep them away from your cat is to place them on a high shelf and guide the vines to grow along the top of a window frame.
Jade plants, also known as rubber plants, can be quite toxic to cats. If your cat ingests part of the plant, it can experience vomiting, incoordination, and even depression. These plants are often quite small, so a good way to keep them away from your cat is to place them on a high shelf that your cat can’t reach.
The saponins in the white latex on aloe leaves are toxic to cats, even though the gel inside is considered edible for them. Ingestion can cause lethargy, diarrhea, and vomiting. If you decide to keep aloe plants in your home, be sure to keep them in a place your cat can’t reach.
Popular lilies — like the calla lily, Easter lily, and lily of the valley — can cause severe kidney and heart damage to your cat. It’s not exactly known how lilies are poisonous to cats, but it’s clear that they’re dangerous to them. Keep lilies out of your cat’s reach, and try to keep the plant in a vase in an area where the pollen won’t get near your cat.
Companion animals like dogs and cats can be poisoned by azaleas, and severe azalea poisoning can even result in cardiac failure for cats. Seek medical advice immediately if you think your cat has ingested any azaleas. Signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. Make sure to keep the plant somewhere your cat can’t get its paws on the flower.
The giant dumb cane comes with a highly toxic protein, as well as insoluble calcium oxalates that can harm your cat. Signs that your cat may have ingested the plant include oral irritation, difficulty swallowing, and vomiting. Consider setting this plant out of reach and taking steps to keep your cat away, such as using a nontoxic spray deterrent.
The ficus plant, also known as a fig, can be dangerous to cats, causing gastrointestinal upset and skin irritation if consumed. This plant is also called an Indian rubber plant or weeping fig.
It’s not only indoor plants that can be dangerous — various outdoor plants can be toxic to cats as well. If you like to bring your cat outside for fresh air or walks, make sure you keep it away from unknown plants.
Below are some of the most common toxic outdoor plants for cats. See the ASPCA’s comprehensive list for further details and plant variations.
The best way to keep your cat away from the most toxic plants is to avoid having these plants in your home altogether. Even some hanging plants might not be out of reach of a curious and creative cat. And make sure to keep your cat on a leash when you take it outdoors to prevent it from ingesting dangerous plants.
If you want to keep plants that may be toxic to your cat in your home, here are some things you can do to keep your cat away from them:
Play with your cat. Providing alternative toys and taking the time to play with your cat can keep them less interested in the plants you have around the house.
Train your cat. You can train your cat to stay away from your plants by distracting them from a dangerous plant and redirecting them to something else.
Use deterrents. You can use special sprays to keep your cat away from your plants.
Get your cat its own plant. Buy cat grass for your cat to keep it interested in a plant that isn’t dangerous if ingested.
Place unpleasant surfaces near your plants. Some cats don’t like how aluminum foil or spiky plastic feels. If you surround your plants with these types of surfaces, your cat might learn to stay away from the plant.
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Here are answers to some common questions about toxic plants and cats. Visit the ASPCA website for a complete list of toxic plants for cats.
No, cats shouldn’t eat garlic. It’s toxic to them and can cause increased heart rate, blood in urine, vomiting, and other issues.
It’s a good idea to know what plants are in your neighborhood before taking your cat outside. Also, consider using a leash to keep it away from poisonous plants.
Cats are curious by nature. They may eat plants because they smell interesting, have a unique texture, or simply because they’re bored. Additionally, wild cats sometimes eat plants for extra nutrients or fiber. Whatever the reason, it’s important to keep your cat away from plants that can cause them harm.
Cats don’t like foil, so putting it around your tree might keep your cat away. Cats also don’t like the scent of citrus, so putting lemon or orange peels around the base of your tree may keep them away.
Miranda Marquit, MBA, is a freelance financial writer covering various markets and topics since 2006. She has contributed to numerous media outlets, including Forbes, TIME, The Hill, NPR, HuffPost, Yahoo! Money, and more. Her work has been syndicated by MSN Money, Marketwatch, Credit.com, and other publications. She has written about insurance topics for Clearsurance, HealthCare.com, and various other websites. She is also an avid podcaster and co-hosts the Money Talks News podcast. Miranda has a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Syracuse University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.