Updated: Jul 12, 2021
One of the most overlooked sources of risk for cat poisoning is found inside and all around your home: plants. Knowing ahead of time which plants--including some of the most strikingly beautiful plants--are a poison hazard will help you keep those potted beauties out of paw’s reach of curious kitty.
Who to Call if You Suspect a Cat Ingested Poison
The most important information we can give you is the "who to call list" should you suspect your cat has ingested poison. The following are phone calls you will need to make - immediately - if poisoning is suspected:
24-hour ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435)
Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680)
Your local Emergency Animal Hospital
Keep these phone numbers on your fridge, stored in your phone, and on an index card in the location where you keep your pet’s food and first aid supplies.
Common Plants that are Poisonous to Cats
This member of the Lily family (see more on dangerous lilies below). Autumn Crocus contains a plant chemical called colchicine, which is highly toxic if ingested. Colchicine causes severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, damage to the liver and kidneys, and respiratory failure.
Chrysanthemum (Daisy, Mum)
A fall favorite, the mum plant contains several chemical compounds that, when ingested, cause a variety of reactions in your pet. The chemical compounds within the plant include lactones, pyrethrins, and sesquiterpene. Lactones contain allergenic properties that cause oral and skin irritation. Pyrethrins are commonly used in insecticides as well as flea and tick medication used for pets. If your cat ingests the mum plant, symptoms may include gastrointestinal pain/distress, vomiting, diarrhea, change in appetite, inflammation of the skin including the mouth, and drooling. Immediate medical attention is required.
If you’re one of the few people who owns a cat that likes to dig in the garden, then don’t plant or even pot a cyclamen (aka Persian Violent) in or around the house. Cyclamen contains a chemical called saponin. This irritating substance is not just present below the soil, in tubers and roots where it is most heavily concentrated, but also in the flowers and stems.When any part of the plant is ingested, even chewed and spit out, it can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and lead to cardiac failure.
The stunning lily is so dangerous to cats that a national campaign has been implemented to warn cat owners: “No Lilies for Kitties.” The campaign describes the risk for cat fatality if you choose to keep any of the following varieties of lily in your garden or inside the home:
Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies contain oxalate crystals that cause irritation to the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus and this results in minor drooling.
Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show lilies have high concentrations of several plant chemicals that are toxic to cats.
Those vibrant, drooping trumpet-shaped blossoms that delicately hang from foxglove’s tall stalks are deadly to cats and many other animals as well. Foxglove is also known by the scientific name digitalis (just like the heart medication, which is made from this plant). Digitalis is a chemical that alters the heart rate by directly interfering with electrolyte balance within the heart muscle.
The aromatic Mountain Laurel is deadly to grazing animals and family pets. You will know when you are in the presence of mountain laurel because it has an intense floral scent that some consider "intoxicating"--and the scent intensifies as you move closer to the shrub. However, a dog or cat that ingests mountain laurel will experience drooling, committing, diarrhea, cardiac arrhythmia, tremors and may fall into a coma and die.
Plants that are Poisonous to Cats
Oleander plant - poisonous to pets. photo credit wikimed
Lily of the Valley
Learn more about these poisonous plants -- and discover safer alternatives--by visiting the ASPCA website.
Symptoms Seen in Cat Poisoned by Plant Ingestion
If you notice any of the following symptoms in your cat, seek immediate veterinary care:
Change in sleep pattern
Difficulty breathing (heavy breathing or slower rate of breathing)
Change in pulse (faster or slower)
Change in appetite including drinking water
Change in behavior around other animals and people
Change in color and odor of stool
Be Prepared for a Pet Poisoning Emergency
If you are a pet owner, it is important to be prepared for a pet emergency. In an upcoming blog post, we will report on pet emergency preparation, not just for poisonings but for a variety of urgent and emergency situations in which you need to be as prepared for your pet as you would be for family. Until then, we refer you to this resource on how to put together a pet poisoning emergency kit.