As a cat owner, you know that your cat likes to chew on plants. This may seem strange because you also know that cats are primarily carnivores. It’s not really known for sure why cats do this, but it may be they need certain nutrients or fiber provided by plants. What is known, however, is that some plants will make your cat sick. The following is a list of plants commonly found in homes and gardens that are toxic to cats.
- Autumn Crocus
- Castor Bean
- Daffodil, Narcissus, and Tulip Bulbs
- English Ivy
- Peace Lily (not a true lily)
- Sago Palm
- Spanish Thyme
For additional information, click on this ASPCA site for an extensive list of plants that will make your cat sick. And, Click here for photographs of the ten plants that are the most dangerous for cats.
How Will I Know if my Cat has Eaten a Toxic Plant?
Plant toxins that will make your cat sick act as irritants or inflammatory agents, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common symptoms will be redness, swelling, and/or itchiness of the skin or mouth. However, some plant poisons may affect a specific body part and produce the following signs of toxicity.
- Breathing difficulties (airways are affected).
- Difficulty swallowing or drooling (toxins are affecting the mouth, throat, and/or esophagus).
- Vomiting (the stomach and/or intestines are involved).
- Diarrhea (the intestines and/or colon are affected).
- Excessive drinking and urinating (kidneys are compromised).
- Fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat (the heart has a problem).
What Should I do if My Cat has Eaten a Poisonous Plant?
If you spot your cat chewing on a plant and you don’t know whether it’s poisonous or not, here are a few things you can do.
- Remove any plant material from your cat’s fur and skin.
- If necessary, wash your cat with warm water and a small amount of non-irritating dish soap.
- If you have identified the plant as poisonous, call your vet immediately.
If your cat develops symptoms of plant poisoning, here’s what you should do.
- Identify the plant that your cat has eaten. This is important for your vet to determine the correct treatment.
- If you don’t know the plant’s name, bring a clipping to show the vet.
- If your cat has vomited, collect a sample to give to the vet.
- In a real emergency situation, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661.
What is the Treatment for Cat Poisoning?
Your vet may give your cat some activated charcoal to absorb any toxins remaining in the gut. Medication that protects the damaged areas of the stomach may also be given. Fluids and/or anti-inflammatory medication may also be administered if the toxic effect on the gastrointestinal tract is severe. If the damage is major, prolonged aftercare in the form of medication and/or a special diet may be prescribed.
Fatalities: Unfortunately, some plants are usually deadly for cats no matter how soon you get your cat to the vet. This is especially true of lilies, especially Asiatic, day, Easter, Japanese, and tiger lilies. What is really alarming is that just the pollen from one of these lily species has been known to be lethal to cats.
Healthy Plant Alternatives
To satisfy your cat’s craving for plants without making your cat sick, consider growing some wheatgrass. You can purchase a product such as PetGrass or cultivate it yourself from wheatberries that you can find in most health food stores. Another option is catnip, but be warned that two out of three cats go wild over catnip. Place your cat’s private green garden near your cat’s food and water and away from other plants. You don’t want to give mixed signals to your cat about eating plants.
If your cat has eaten a toxic plant, don’t hesitate to seek veterinary treatment immediately. CVETS in Columbia, South Carolina, is a pet emergency regional center especially equipped to deal with plant toxins that are making your cat sick. Bring your poisoned cat to us; your cat’s life may depend on it.