• Jessica Desrosiers

Toxic Plants That May Harm Your Cat (And How to Avoid Them)

Thinking of bringing home a new plant? While that lily may be beautiful, it can also be dangerous to your pets, especially your cat. Ingesting a toxic plant can vary from mildly irritating to life-threatening. Toxic plants can cause a variety of issues ranging from drooling and vomiting, to kidney failure, seizures, or even death. Here are five toxic plants that can harm your cat, and a few ways you can help train your cat to avoid them.

Toxic Plants to Cats

1. Lily

What it is: A bulb plant with large fragrant flowers on a thin stem. Some varieties of lily are used for perfume, however, most are used for ornamental decoration.

Signs of toxicity: Early ingestion of lilies may not be apparent until it is too late. The most common sign of toxicity is a change in urinary or drinking habits followed by kidney failure.

2. Poinsettia

What it is: A small shrub-like plant with bright yellow or red flowers. Native to Mexico, however, it is popular worldwide around Christmas.

Signs of toxicity: While not as toxic as some sources make it out to be, it can still be harmful and extremely irritating if ingested. Signs of ingestion include drooling, pawing at the mouth, and vomiting or diarrhea.

3. Tomato Plants

What it is: Tomatoes, a member of the nightshade family, are a berry-type fruiting plant similar to other nightshades such as potatoes and eggplant. While the fruit is edible, the leaves and stems can be irritating or toxic. They are native to Central and South America.

Signs of toxicity: Drooling, loss of appetite, GI upset, diarrhea, vomiting, confusion, depression, lethargy, dilated pupils, and slowed heart rate are signs of potential ingestion and toxicity.

4. Rhododendron

What it is: Rhododendrons are small shrub or tree-like plants with large bell-shaped flowers and leaves that remain green throughout the year. It is often grown as an ornamental plant. The plant is native to Asia.

Signs of toxicity: Vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, weakness, neurologic issues, cardiovascular issues, collapse, and death are all signs of potential ingestion toxicity.

5. Iris

What it is: Irises are plants with a variety of different colored flowers and sword-shaped leaves. It is a common ornamental plant native to Eurasia and North America.

Signs of toxicity: Drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy are all common signs of ingestion toxicity.

Avoiding Toxic Plants

Here are some tips for keeping your cat safe:

Create a Cat-Friendly Garden

Cat-friendly gardens are increasing in popularity, especially for indoor-only kitties. These are often large pots that are planted with a variety of edible and safe plants. Your cats can nibble, roll in, and enjoy these items safely. Choose plants like catnip or other safe mints, rosemary, cat grass, and more. Adding pebbles or other rocks to allow them to safely step around the plants without damaging them. Cat gardens are also a great way to redirect your cat’s attention from something unsafe to something they can enjoy without worry.

Keep Plants Away From Cats

The best way to keep your cat safe is to prevent their access to harmful plants. Outdoor plants can easily be avoided by keeping your cat indoors. For outdoor kitties, fence off areas where you don’t want your cat to wander. Catios are also great ways to let your cat outside without the worry of getting into a toxic plant.

If you have indoor plants, there are ways to keep them out of the way. Move them to a high shelf your cat can’t leap to, keep them in rooms your cat doesn’t have access to, or place them inside greenhouses or cloches. That way, you can safely enjoy your favorite flowers without your cat being tempted to nibble.

Train Your Cat to Avoid Plants

If you can’t keep the plants out of the same space as your cat, you may need to use deterrents to keep them away. Simple steps, such as adding sticky tape or tin foil around a plant make stepping in these areas uncomfortable without harming your cat. Training your cat to “leave it” by asking them to leave the plant alone, and then enticing them with a treat to step away from it can help teach them what to avoid.

While there are deterrents out there such as spray bottles of water, noisemakers, or startlers, they should be a last resort. Often, cats will learn to get around these items or may become fearful of the area as a whole. Keeping plants out of reach and deterring your cat by other means is best.

When to Call Your Vet

Call your vet and schedule an appointment immediately if you think your cat has ingested a potentially toxic substance or plant. You can also contact Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435 for help and information, or the Pet Poison Helpline online. They can help you determine if you need to seek emergency care, or just take it easy on your cat’s stomach for a little while.

Plants, while pretty, can be pretty harmful. Learning to recognize potential problems and taking steps to have your cat avoid them can keep your feline friends healthy and happy.

Have more training questions or concerns? Check our our library of resources, and the blog for more tips, tricks, and tail wags!

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