Cats can be mischievous creatures, interested in exploring their surroundings and everything in them including your indoor houseplants. Unfortunately, many of the most common indoor plants are toxic to cats. As cat parents, it’s our responsibility to recognize which plants are putting our cats at risk and take steps to eliminate the danger.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t bring some much-needed greenery into your home! Studies have found that adding houseplants to your home or workplace offers many benefits including boosting productivity, reducing stress, and improving air quality.
Create a happy, healthy home environment for your cat by trading in the following common plants toxic to cats for cat-friendly alternatives.
18 Toxic Houseplants for Cats
- Peace Lily
- Jade Plant
- Sago Palm
- Easter Lily
- Aloe Vera
- Umbrella Tree
- Devil’s Ivy
- Snake Plant
- Split-Leaf Philodendron
- Dumb Cane
- English Ivy
The peace lily is a popular plant for holiday decorating and throughout the year. But, for a cat, peace is the last word that would be used to describe an experience with this plant! While they aren’t as toxic as true lilies, chewing or biting on a Peace Lily can cause significant irritation to your cat’s mouth and digestive tract.
Symptoms include drooling, pawing at the mouth, loss of appetite, difficulty swallowing, and vomiting. In rare cases, it can also trigger swelling in the upper airway which makes it difficult for your cat to breathe.
The bright colors of the tulip are often celebrated as the first sign of spring. However, you may want to think twice about your choice of potted flowers if you have a cat as tulips are highly toxic. Tulipalin A, the toxin found in the tulip, is found in all parts of the plant including the leaves, flowers, stems, and bulb.
The concentration in the bulb is the highest and can be fatal if ingested. Ingesting the rest of the plant isn’t quite as serious, but can still cause respiratory issues. Symptoms include excessive drooling, increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate, difficult breathing, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
As another popular springtime flower, these beautiful yellow and white flowers bring happiness and joy into any space – unless you’re a cat! These plants are dangerous for cats if any portion has been ingested including the flower, leaves, stems, and (most importantly) the bulb.
Signs of daffodil poisoning include drooling, shivering, vomiting, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, and seizures.
While we don’t blame any cat parent for wanting to attract money into the home (cats can be expensive), bringing a money plant into your home isn’t the best way to make that happen. These plants are toxic to cats if eaten.
Signs that your cat has been snacking on your money plant include vomiting, lack of coordination, depression, and lethargy.
These small, colorful members of the rhododendron family may look like a great addition to your living space, but they are highly poisonous plants to cats. The plant contains a toxin that can affect the muscles of their heart and their skeletal system, meaning that poisoning can be very serious if it isn’t addressed quickly.
Poisoning can occur from eating any part of the plant. Symptoms include drooling, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abnormal heart rate, hypotension, weakness, tremors, temporary blindness, seizures, coma, and heart failure.
While these fragrant trees are usually grown outdoors, they can thrive in a pot on a smaller scale. The plant is believed to help soothe the mind, making it a popular choice for those introducing aromatherapy into their lifestyle. However, due to the presence of eucalyptol (the active ingredient in eucalyptus essential oil products), the plants are toxic to cats.
The symptoms of eucalyptol poisoning are relatively minor, but it’s not a pleasant experience for your cat. These symptoms include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weakness.
We can’t discuss dangerous plants or cats without discussing the sago palm, a popular tropical houseplant. Not only are these plants toxic to cats, but they are also one of the most dangerous plants for dogs. Sago palm poisoning is not just an inconvenience, it is also fatal in approximately 50-75% of cases.
All parts of the sago palm plant are considered to be poisonous with the highest concentration of the toxin found in the seeds (or nuts) of the plant.
Early signs of sago palm poisoning include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, increased thirst, bruising, lethargy, black-tarry or bloody stool, and jaundice. If it’s not treated immediately, it can cause blood clotting disorders, liver damage, and liver failure.
A highly recognized symbol during the Easter season, the Easter lily features a beautiful white trumpet-shaped flower with a bold yellow center. The flowers have a beautiful fragrance and emerge quickly each spring making them a common choice for those that love spring flowers. However, for cat parents, these are considered a ‘true lily’, meaning that they are one of the most toxic houseplants available for your feline friend.
Lily poisoning can be experienced from any member of the lily family including Easter lily, Japanese snow lily, Daylily, Asiatic lily, and Tiger-lily. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite, and kidney failure. Untreated, lily poisoning is often fatal.
This is a plant that has gained popularity considerably in recent years as people learn about the benefits that the plant has to offer. It is said to have antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and antiseptic properties, making it a great choice for tending to any skin problems. However, this helpful plant also makes our list of dangerous plants for cats.
Aloe Vera is a mild toxin, meaning that it likely isn’t going to risk your cat’s life. However, it can cause considerable discomfort with symptoms including vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, changes in urine color, and diarrhea.
The umbrella tree (or umbrella plant) is a smaller tree that is well suited to growing indoors, capable of being kept to a size of approximately 4 to 8 feet. For this reason, they are very popular for those looking to bring the outdoors into their living space.
This is one of the milder toxins on the list, but still one that can cause serious discomfort for your cat. Chewing on an umbrella plant releases calcium oxalates, which cause irritation in the mouth and digestive tract. Common symptoms of umbrella tree poisoning include swelling of the face, mouth, and gums, pacing, excessive drooling, pawing at the face, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also impact your cat’s willingness to eat and in extreme cases, it can cause swelling in the upper airway.
These beautiful pink, blue, and white flowers will add a pop of color to any space, but not without an added risk to your cat. Hydrangeas contain cyanogenic glycoside, which can cause cyanide intoxication in large amounts.
Cyanide intoxication is rare; however, the plant still causes digestive problems for any cat that decides to chew on any part of the plant. Watch for vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or depression.
Devil’s Ivy, also known as Marble Queen or Golden Pothos, contains an insoluble biomineral called calcium oxalate. This toxin is found in several of the plants on this list including the peace lily and umbrella plant.
With quick treatment, poisoning from eating devil’s ivy isn’t usually fatal. But it does cause bad discomfort for your cat. The most common signs include irritation of the mouth, tongue, and lips, excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth, loss of appetite, vomiting, or difficulty swallowing.
A common office plant and houseplant, the snake plant is well-known for its ability to purify the air and introduce a touch of greenery into any space. Unfortunately, these plants contain a natural compound called saponin.
Snake plants are toxic to cats, but only mildly so. It is known to cause digestive upset including excess drooling, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
Often referred to as simply ‘Mums’, Chrysanthemums are available in a wide variety of different colors. They are a popular choice for those that are looking for beautiful flowers at a low price point. This vibrant flower contains pyrethrin, a compound often found in dog flea and tick medications. While it is safe for your dog, pyrethrin is toxic to cats. It’s also important to note that there are other compounds in mums that make them a poor houseplant choice for dogs too!
The good news is that chrysanthemum toxicity is rarely serious or life-threatening. In most cases, it is best described as an irritant. Signs include skin irritation, excess drooling, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and loss of coordination.
The large, tropical appearance of this houseplant makes it a common choice for windowsills and other indoor displays. It thrives in high-humidity environments, making it a popular choice for those living in warmer climates.
Split-leaf philodendron is another example of a plant that contains insoluble calcium oxalates, meaning that it is responsible for intense irritation if your cat decides to give it a taste.
Common symptoms include burning and irritation of the mouth, tongue, and lips, excessive drooling, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing. In more severe cases, it can trigger swelling in the upper airway impacting your cat’s ability to breathe.
With the ability to thrive in more difficult indoor situations, the dumb cane is a great choice for many home settings. If you have a cat in the home, however, you may want to steer clear. Not only does the dumb cane contain calcium oxalates, but this plant also contains toxic enzymes that can cause significant problems for your kitty.
Signs that your cat has been chewing on your dumb cane plant include burning or irritation of the mouth, tongue, and lips, pawing at the mouth, excessive drooling, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and lethargy. In more serious cases, it has also been associated with blindness and respiratory distress.
This beautiful branching vine is often seen displayed on tall shelves or in hanging planters with its branches and leaves cascading down, creating a beautiful scene. But for our cats, these hanging branches are an invitation to play and chew which can lead to unnecessary pain and discomfort.
The toxins in the English ivy plant are most concentrated in the plant’s leaves. Signs that your cat is experiencing English ivy poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and skin irritation. The toxic reaction is usually mild but can present with more serious symptoms in some cases. For this reason, any exposure should be taken seriously.
Commonly sold in supermarkets and big-box stores, cyclamen is a small flowering plant with a sweet floral scent. What you may not realize is that these plants are toxic to cats. Highly toxic.
Signs that your cat has been biting or eating your cyclamen include excessive drooling, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If exposure continues, ingestion of larger amounts can lead to abnormal heart rates and rhythms or seizures. It can also be fatal and should be taken very seriously.
When to Seek Help for Toxicity in Cats
The toxicity level of each of the plants listed above can vary significantly, from causing mild discomfort to potentially fatal poisoning.
Any plant that your cat nibbles on can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, but if you spot any sign of blood, this is an indication that it could be more serious. Other signs that indicate immediate veterinary care is needed include changes to their heart rate, breathing difficulties, or seizures.
Cats are masters of hiding their pain or discomfort, so the possibility of serious poisoning should not be underestimated. If you suspect your cat has chewed on or ingested any quantity of the plants listed above, contact your veterinarian or nearest emergency clinic.
Take note of what type of plant your cat has eaten and how much. Unsure of what plant you’re dealing with? Take a picture to bring with you to show the veterinarian.
You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. This hotline is open 24 hours/day, 365 days out of the year. Their poison control experts will be able to help you identify the seriousness of the risk and what your next steps should be. A consultation fee may apply.
Are you considering adding a new houseplant to your home but are unsure of which plants are toxic to cats? You can consult the Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List provided free of charge by the ASPCA or search the Poison List from the Pet Poison Helpline.
Houseplants are brought into our homes to add joy and tranquility, not to put our pets at risk.
If you have plants toxic to cats, you can try to place them up and out of reach of your cat. However, cats are skilled climbers and jumpers with a unique ability to reach just about any surface if they set their mind to it. Eliminating the risk from your home will give you peace of mind and protect your furry friend.
Do you have a cat that likes to get into your houseplants? If so, what steps have you taken to keep your kitty out of trouble?
About the Author: Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.
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