Cats and Plants - Get the Facts on Flora and Your Feline

Cats and Plants: Get the Facts on Flora and Your Feline

Cats and Plants

Plants make a wonderful addition to any décor. Some cats will ignore the greenery, some may dig at the soil a little, but many are curious about the texture and taste of objects that dangle before their eyes. When making a plant selection, consider the safety of your resident feline.

Special Precautions for Gardeners

Many systemic fertilizers — typically slow-release granules that are dug into the ground surrounding the plant — have toxic warnings on the container, but state that once the area has been watered and is dry it is fine for both pets and children to return. While the top layer of dirt once dry may not be harmful to animals, if they dig in that area they may be digging into and potentially consuming toxic or even deadly amounts of fertilizer. Even a small amount can be toxic.

To help prevent this, avoid using systemic fertilizers in conjunction with other plant feeds, such as fish emulsion, fish pellets or kelp, whose smell is attractive to pets. Keep your plants healthy and your pets safe by using natural plant foods like fish emulsion or pellets, bone meal, kelp, and earthworm castings as much as possible.

Plants Safe for Cats

There are many beautiful plants you can keep inside your home that are not harmful to your cat. To learn the best plants to keep inside your home read our extensive list of safe plants.

While these plants have been shown to lack any harmful systemic or gastrointestinal effects, even non-toxic plant material is eaten in excess isn’t good for your cat.

This behavior may produce signs similar to those that appear with the ingestion of toxic plants. Vomiting, diarrhea and depression are common. The difference is that these symptoms are mild and self-limiting (they resolve on their own), and in most cases do not require medical attention. If your cat does ingest an excessive amount of plant material and symptoms do not resolve in a reasonable amount of time, see your veterinarian.

Plants Toxic to Cats

We all want to have our homes, patios, balconies and yards looking lovely. We can easily do this while carefully avoiding the plants that are potentially harmful to our feline friends. Learn what plants to keep away from your cat by reading our list of toxic plants.

If you choose to keep potentially poisonous houseplants in your home, please keep them well out of reach of your curious kitty.

And just in case, you should be able to recognize the symptoms of plant poisoning and familiarize yourself with what to do if you notice them in your cat. Remember that in addition to plants, there are many chemicals that should be kept away from your cat too.

Signs of Poisoning from Plant Ingestion

The toxins in poisonous plants have varied effects on individual cats. Some cats may be more sensitive to them and will exhibit more severe symptoms.

These symptoms range from a skin rash or irritation to convulsions, but the most common signs of poisoning are vomiting and diarrhea.

The following charts give you an idea of the types of symptoms and examples of plants and gardening chemicals with which they are associated.

Common Plants

Plant Examples


Castorbean, Daffodil, Delphinium, Foxglove, Larkspur, Pokeweed, Skunk Cabbage, Wisteriasometimes produce diarrhea, vomiting
Chrysanthemum, Crown of Thorns, Poinsettiaproduce rash or irritation after skin contact
Caladium, Emerald Duke, Philodendron, Pothosirritating, may cause swelling and pain of lips and tongue
Amaryllis, Bird of Paradise, Creeping Charlie, Crown of Thorns, Mock Orange, Privet, Umbrella Plant, Yewscause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, cramps
Almonds, China Berry Tree, Kalanchoe, Water Hemlockcause convulsions
Locoweed, Marijuana, Morning Glory, Nutmeg, Periwinkle, Peyotecause hallucination

Garden Chemicals



snail and slug bait containing organophosphatesexcessive salivation, vomiting, muscle tremors, respiratory paralysis, depression, seizures
snail and slug bait containing metaldehydeexcessive salivation, seizures, rapid heart rate, diarrhea–death can result from respiratory failure or liver failure
borate or boric acidvomiting, diarrhea, depression, loss of muscle coordination
herbicidesvomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite–some may also cause irreversible lung damage

My Cat Ate a Plant — What Do I Do Now?

Verify that your cat has eaten a plant. Should you suspect that your cat has eaten part of a poisonous plant, be certain that he has actually done so. Look for chewed leaves, stalks, etc. Collect any vomit or feces and examine it for plant matter.

This may seem excessive, but it is important to ascertain that your kitty has actually ingested plant material and didn’t get into something else.

As soon you notice symptoms contact your veterinarian’s office and give them as much information as possible:

  • What type of plant was eaten (if you know the name)?
  • When you suspect your kitty made a meal of it.
  • What symptoms he is experiencing.

You may or may not be directed to come to the office. Should your veterinarian want to see your cat, if at all possible bring the plant with you (in some cases only part of the plant — root, rootstalk, bark, leaves, flowers, fruit, pits, etc. — may be toxic).

In addition, should anything have been expelled in your cat’s vomit or fecal matter, your vet will ask that this be brought in for examination.

In most cases, your veterinarian will remove the plant and toxic materials from your cat’s system as quickly as possible. This may take the form of an emetic to induce vomiting, or the administration of activated charcoal and a cathartic to absorb the toxins from the stomach and intestines and speed their elimination in the feces.

Your kitty will also require supportive care based on his symptoms, and will probably need to remain in the hospital.

Fortunately, few plants cause life-threatening illness, if caught early enough. However, as the saying goes, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

The two simplest steps you can take to protect your feline friend from plant poisoning are to limit his access outside the home where you cannot monitor his activities and to keep your home free of toxic plants.