Cat-Proofing Your Plants

Spring is finally taking over across the country, leaves are back on the trees, and flowers are blooming all around. Gardens are being planted while flowers and houseplants are joining the d�©cor of many homes. Looks and taste are not the only factor to consider when deciding what to plant in gardens or pots. Cat owners can not simply go to the nearest garden store or nursery and pick out the plants that look pretty. It is important for cat lovers to select plants that are not harmful to furry family members if they happen to steal a nibble or two while their owners are not looking.


Some of the most common and prettiest plants can be poisonous to cats. For example, Baby’s Breath, which often comes as filler in many floral arrangements, is not healthy for cats to eat. Buttercups, lilies, daffodils, marigolds, and tulips are other flowers and that should be kept out of reach of felines. Additional harmful houseplants include ferns, cactus, morning glory, peony, oleander, laurel, wisteria, geranium, periwinkle and some types of ivy.


Aloe vera is an example of a plant that many people keep in their homes during the summer months for its many uses, such as rubbing it on skin to help soothe sunburn and dryness. However, this plant is poisonous to cats and can cause upset stomach, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.


It is also important for cat owners to remember that many common fruits and vegetables found in most homes are also harmful to cats. Apple seeds, apricot pits, cherry pits and seeds, peach pits and leaves, and tomato plants are fruits that can cause anxiety, breathing difficulty, or convulsions in cats. Cornstalk plants, mushrooms, potato plants, and eggplant are other common edible plants that should be kept out of the reach of cats.


Cats who spend some or all of their time outdoors also have to beware plants commonly found in yards (or in neighbors’ yards). Poison ivy and poison oak are toxic to both humans and cats, and it is not a bad idea to remove these plants if found around the yard. Honeysuckle, a tasty summertime favorite among children, is also harmful to cats.


Spring and summer are not the only seasons that cat owners should carefully consider the plants placed in and around their homes and yards. Plants dominate during the holiday season, such as mistletoe and poinsettia, are also very poisonous to cats. These plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, blistering in the mouth, and difficulty breathing.


Often cats will naturally and instinctively avoid munching on poisonous plants. Since this is not always the case, however, it is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of a poisoned cat. Stomach and intestinal irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea are the most common symptoms in cats caused by poisonous plants. Other signs indicating a cat may have eaten a toxic plant include a lack of appetite, pale tongue and gums, swollen tongue, skin rash or irritation, and convulsions. It is important to remember that some of the more poisonous plants can even be fatal to family pets.


So many plants are harmful to cats that it is often hard to know all of them, or to keep them all away from housecats. Cat owners who suspect their cat has eaten part of a plant, or is showing some of the above symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately. Often the vet will request an office visit and that the owner bring in part of the ingested plant so the cat can be given the appropriate treatment.

The Animal Poison Control Center provides an emergency hotline 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week via telephone for veterinarians and animal owners; they can be reached at (888) 426-4435. There is $50 consultation fee.


No cat owner wants their beloved pet to experience the effects of poisonous plants. This can all be prevented by keeping the plants inside and outside homes and yards cat-safe. Ball ferns, butterfly orchids, Boston ferns, hickory, Easter orchids, snapdragon, bamboo, Irish moss, wild buckwheat and camellia are examples of non-toxic plants. Banana plants, strawberry plants, zucchini squash, honeydew melons, and watermelons are some non-toxic edible plants.

It is also a good idea to pot a few plants especially for cats, such as catmint, thyme, sage, parsley, lawn grass, or catnip. Even these “safe” plants can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and depression in cats, but when caused by non-toxic plants, these symptoms should clear up on their own. It is wise to always limit the amount of plant material cats are allowed to eat.

For a more comprehensive list of plants toxic to cats, visit This site also provides a list of non-toxic, or “safe” plants.

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