Just like with human babies, we go to great lengths to safeguard our fur babies — which is why we're always hiding little dangers like rubber bands and cleaning supplies. But what you may not know is that it's totally possible you have poison items that can kill your cat hanging out in plain site, in the form of that lovely little plant you have chillin' on your coffee table.
There are over 700 varieties of plants that can be harmful to your cat if ingested. Most are exotic plants that pose little danger to your domesticated kitty, but some common household plants can be dangerous as well. Tina Wismer, DVM, medical director of the ASPCA’s poison control center, suggests if you suspect your cat has eaten any part of the plants listed below, regardless of whether or not it’s showing symptoms, call your vet immediately.
1. Lilies (all varieties)
Just one bite of a leaf or the flower’s pollen could cause lethargy and vomiting within one hour of consumption. If left untreated, your cat could go into kidney failure. The pollen alone can be lethal to your feline friend.
2. Any calcium oxalate plants — including philodendrons, Chinese evergreens, Virginia creepers, spinach, agaves, tea leaves, rhubarb and taro
The poisonous part of these indoor and outdoor plants are the microscopic needle-like barbs on their stems and leaves. If bitten, they cause inflammation in the mouth and gums and result in excessive drooling and vomiting.
You can take care of the symptoms yourself by giving your cat calcium in the form of milk, yogurt, sour cream or ice cream. In rare cases, the swelling could inhibit breathing, so keep an eye on your pet for 48 hours.
3. Dracaena plants
There are about 40 varieties of this popular, leafy houseplant, including the dragon plant. If cats eat the long fronds typical of these plants, they’ll become depressed, lose their appetites and possibly even vomit blood. However, it’s usually not a fatal reaction, and symptoms tend to go away after 12 to 24 hours. Still, you should keep an eye out for worsening symptoms, and take your cat to the vet if it doesn't start to recover after 24 hours.
4. Autumn crocus
Eating any part of this flowery plant can cause an intense burning sensation in the mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, liver damage, kidney damage and even heart arrhythmias. Get your pet to the vet immediately if you suspect he/she has snacked on it.
If you have an outdoor cat, be very wary of its tendency to get into your or your neighbor’s daffodil beds. Ingestion of any portion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, arrhythmias, convulsions and a major drop in blood pressure. Call your vet ASAP.
If you have them planted outside, or in a vase inside, they’re a big no-no for cats. While not fatal, taking a bite of them (especially the bulb) can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling and nausea.
Up next: Sago palm
Originally published June 2015. Updated April 2017.
7. Sago palm
This long-leafed, tree-like plant is extremely poisonous to cats. It used to be mainly an outdoor plant, but now it’s often found on indoor window sills. While the seeds and pods are the most poisonous, any bite can cause bloody vomiting and diarrhea, bleeding disorders, liver failure and death. This is definitely worthy of an emergency vet trip.
Even just a few leaves can result in oral irritation, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, ingestion can cause a drop in blood pressure, coma and death, so you’ll want to at least give your vet a call if you notice symptoms.
Also known as the “mother-in-law plant,” this common indoor plant has a bunch of small, very dense flowers and is thus super-tempting to cats. However, if a cat eats any part of it, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea. In rare cases, heart arrhythmias can occur, so while not a dire emergency, a vet appointment should be made to assess the situation.
While you might think it would be funny to get a cat high, ingestion of cannabis can cause a whole host of problems. It will affect the nervous system and your pet’s coordination, then cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate, seizures and could even put it in a coma.
If you suspect he/she ate even one bud, get him/her to your vet pronto.
11. Aloe vera
It may cure your burns, but it’ll set your cat back significantly. Symptoms of ingestion include vomiting, depression, diarrhea, seizures, change in urine color and can even cause anorexia (for real). Again, not life-threatening, but the side effects if left untreated could severely affect your pet’s quality of life, so call your vet.
12. Ivy (all forms)
This is certainly relevant if you have an outdoor cat. Symptoms of ingestion include vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation and diarrhea. Not fatal but certainly distressing. Make sure your pet gets lots of fluids if it eats any of the ivy leaves especially, and keep an eye out for worsening symptoms.
What to expect from your vet
Obviously, a vet will want to know what your cat ate that made it sick. If you’re not sure, take pictures of the plants in your house and any nearby that are on this list to help your vet narrow it down. If your cat ingested a toxic plant but the symptoms are not life-threatening, she/he may suggest inducing vomit at home via charcoal tablets, so it’s a good idea to have some on hand for emergencies. However, even if you suspect a poisoning, don’t just go for the charcoal without contacting your vet first.
If your cat ingests something more toxic, like lilies, your vet will most likely put it on intravenous fluids for a few days to flush out the toxins. If you don’t have a vet on hand, call the ASPCA’s 24-hour emergency poison hotline number at 1-888-426-4435 for help.