✔ This article was written by a licensed veterinarian.
There are over 400 plants that are known to be toxic to cats. However, there are over 550 plants known to be non-toxic to cats, or “plants safe for cats.”
Both of these lists can be quite overwhelming to digest. So, we put together a guide on which common house plants and flowers are safe for cats, as well as those toxic to cats.
Although cats are obligate carnivores, they tend to investigate and eat plants at times. They often knock plants over too, but that’s a discussion for another day. You’ve probably seen your cat eat grass or small plants around the home if you’ve taken them outside.
When I was working at a veterinary clinic, a cat owner came to us with a kitten that was shaking, hyper-salivating, and lethargic. It appeared that the kitten had nibbled on some ornamental plants that she was keeping in the house. Despite our best efforts, the kitten did not survive. Since then, I have always kept my plants away from my cats’ curious eyes and teeth. You can never be too careful.
I know it can be hard to keep an eye on our cats constantly and see what mischievous things they are up to. So, for your peace of mind, we have put together an extensive guide so you can be sure you’re not putting your cat in harm’s way!
We cover the following items in this post:
- Common Plants Safe For Cats (Non-Toxic)
- Common Plants Toxic For Cats
- Flowers That Are Safe for Cats (If Ingested)
- Common Poisoning Symptoms in Cats
- How to Keep Cats Out of Plants
- What to Do If My Cat Eats a Poisonous Plant
- Final Thoughts on Plants Safe For Cats
Common Plants Safe For Cats (Non-Toxic)
When you bring a new plant home, always make sure to check the name of the plant to determine its toxicity. You can find the full list of plants listed as non-toxic for cats by ASPCA here.
If your cat is more curious by nature or the plant has an attractive smell, your cat can nibble on it just to taste it. Some plants attract cats so much that they won’t stop nibbling; they will continue eating the whole leaf or flower. Or they may just knock it over and leave the mess for you!
Regardless of toxicity, the ASPCA recommends that cat owners keep their pets from nibbling on any houseplants.
Below are the most common house plants that are safe for your cat. This list doesn’t include all safe plants but it provides an overview of the most common houseplants.
- African Violet (Saintpaulia spp.) – Also known as Cape Marigold.
- Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) – Also known as Golden Butterfly Palm, Cane Palm, Golden Feather Palm, or Yellow Palm.
- Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) – Also known as Golden Bamboo, Fishpole Bamboo.
- Calathea (Calathea spp.)
- Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) – Also known as Easter cactus.
- Common Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)
- Jade Plant (Crassula Ovata) – Also known as Baby Jade, Dwarf rubber plant, Jade tree, Chinese rubber plant, or Japanese rubber plant.
- Lady Palm (Rhapis flabelliformus)
- Maranta (Calathea insignis)
- Paddys Wig (Soleirolia soleirolii) – Also known as Japanese moss, Peace-in-the-home, Corsican Carpet, Angel’s Tears, Irish Moss, Mind-your-own-business, or Pollyanna vine.
- Pony Tail (Beaucarnea recurvata) – Also known as Elephant-Foot Tree, Pony Tail Plant, or Bottle Palm.
- Rubber Tree (Hevea brasiliensis) – Natural rubber is produced from its sap.
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum spp.) – It is also called Ribbon Plant, Anthericum, or Spider Ivy.
- Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula)
This video does a great job overviewing some common houseplants safe for cats:
Common Plants Toxic For Cats
Regardless of the number of toxins ingested, toxic plants can lead to painful symptoms for cats. In horrible circumstances, the consumption of toxic plants can lead to death in cats.
Prior to purchasing and bringing home a new plant, spend time performing research on the plant to ensure it is safe for your cat. You can find the full list of plants listed as toxic for cats by ASPCA here.
Similar to the list of safe plants above, the below list doesn’t include all toxic plants but provides an overview of the most common houseplants that are toxic to cats.
The most common plants that have been reported to have systemic effects on cats and/or intense effects on their digestive system include:
- Aloe (Aloe vera) – The toxic principles of this plant are saponins and anthraquinones. Consumption of this plant can lead to vomiting, lethargy, and diarrhea.
- Azalea (Rhododendron spp.) – Also known as Rosebay and Rhododendron. The toxic principles are grayanotoxins. Ingestion of this plant can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and/or cardiac failure.
- Begonia (Begonia spp.) – This family has over 1,000 species and 10,000 hybrids. The toxic principles are soluble calcium oxalates. The most toxic parts of this plant are the underground tubers and roots. If ingested it can lead to vomiting and salivation.
- Cardboard Palm (Zamia spp.) – Also known as cycads and zamias. The toxic principles are cycasin and B-methylamino-l-alanine. Consumption can lead to (bloody) vomit, dark stools (due to the digested blood), jaundice, increased thirst, bloody diarrhea, bruising, liver failure, and/or death. 1-2 seeds of cardboard palm can be fatal for your cat.
- Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) – Also called Pinks, Wild Carnation, or Sweet William. Its ingestion can lead to mild gastrointestinal disorders and dermatitis.
- Caladium (Caladium hortulanum) – Also known as Malanga, Elephant’s Ears, Stoplight, Seagull, Mother-in-law Plant, Pink Cloud, Texas Wonder, Angel-Wings, Exposition, Candidum, or Fancy-leaved Caladium. The toxic principles are insoluble calcium oxalates. If ingested it can lead to oral irritation, pain and swelling of the mouth (including tongue and lips), hypersalivation with excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.
- Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) – Also called Pig Lily, White Arum, Trumpet Lily, Florist’s Calla, Garden Calla, or Arum Lily. The toxic principles are insoluble calcium oxalates. It has the same clinical signs as Caladium.
- *All plants from Araceae family are toxic to cats and lead to the same reactions.
- Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum spp.) – It is also known as Daisy or Mum. It has many varieties. The toxic principles are sesquiterpene, lactones, pyrethrins, and other potential irritants. If ingested by cats, it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, incoordination, and dermatitis.
- Cyclamen (Cyclamen spp.) – Also known as Sowbread. The toxic principles are terpenoid saponins. It can cause salivation, vomiting, and/or diarrhea if ingested. If your cat consumes large amounts of tubers, heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, and/or death can occur.
- Crassulaceae Family – All plants from this family are toxic to cats. If ingested, they can cause nausea, vomiting, depression, incoordination, and sometimes tremors.
- Dahlia (Dahlia spp.) – If consumed by cats, it can lead to mild gastrointestinal disorders and dermatitis.
- Dracena (Dracaena spp.) – Also known as Corn Plant, Cornstalk Plant, Dragon Tree, or Ribbon Plant. The toxic principles are saponins. The ingestion of this plant can lead to (bloody) vomit, depression, anorexia, hypersalivation, and dilated pupils.
- English Ivy (Hedera helix) – It is also called Branching Ivy, Glacier Ivy, Needlepoint Ivy, Sweetheart Ivy, or California Ivy. The toxic principles are triterpenoid saponins (hederagenin). The foliage is the most toxic part, and its ingestion can lead to vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, and/or diarrhea.
- Ficus (Ficus benjamina) – Also called Weeping Fig or Indian Rubber Plant. The toxic principles are proteolytic enzymes and psoralens. Its ingestion leads to gastrointestinal disorders and dermal irritation.
- Gladiola (Gladiolus spp.) – The highest concentration of toxins is in the bulbs. Its consumption can lead to salivation, vomiting, drooling, lethargy, and/or diarrhea.
- Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) – Possibly narcissus-like alkaloids as toxic principles. The ingestion of hyacinth can cause intense vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and tremors.
- Lily (Lilium spp.) – All plants from the Liliaceae family are toxic to cats, causing kidney failure if they consume it.
- Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) – Also known as Indian hemp. The toxic principles are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It can cause prolonged depression, vomiting, incoordination, sleepiness or excitation, hypersalivation, dilated pupils, low blood pressure, low body temperature, seizure, coma, and, in some rare cases, even death.
- American and European Mistletoe – The toxic principles are toxalbumin and pharatoxin viscumin. Their ingestion can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and/or low heart rate.
- Narcissus (Narcissus spp.) – Also called Daffodil, Jonquil, or Paper White. The toxic principles are represented by lycorine and other alkaloids. Bulbs are the most toxic. Ingestion usually leads to gastrointestinal signs, but consuming large amounts can cause convulsions, high blood pressure, tremors, and cardiac arrhythmias.
- Orange (Citrus sinensis) – The toxic principles are essential oils and psoralens. Besides the fruit (without the skin), which is edible, anything else is toxic. Consuming the plant can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.
- Lemons (Citrus lemon) – The toxic principles are limonene, linalool, and psoralens compounds in lemon fruits and trees. Consuming the plant can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and depression
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) – Also called Italian Parsley, Hamburg Parsley, or Turnip-rooted Parsley. The toxic principles are furanocoumarins. Ingesting parsley in large amounts can lead to photosensitization (sunburn and dermatitis).
- Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) – The Toxic principles are irritant sap. If consumed, it may irritate the mouth and stomach, sometimes causing the cat to vomit.
- Tomato plant (Solanum lycopersicum) – Solanaceae family (includes the potato). The toxic principles are solanins. Green tomatoes and plant parts are toxic for pets (ripe tomatoes are safe). Their consumption can lead to hypersalivation, loss of appetite, severe gastrointestinal disorders, depression, weakness, dilated pupils, and a slow heart rate.
- Tulip (Tulipa spp.) – The toxic principles are tulipalin A and B. The highest concentration of toxin is in the tulip bulb. The ingestion of tulips can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, and hypersalivation.
Flowers That Are Safe for Cats (If Ingested)
How many times have you brought flowers home and wondered if they are toxic to cats or not? Most people are more concerned with whether or not their cats will ruin the flowers once they get home.
The most common flowers that are safe to keep around cats include:
- Evergreen rose – All plants of the Rosa genus are classified as non-toxic to cats.
- Orange Star
- Peruvian lily
Common Poisoning Symptoms in Cats
The symptoms related to poisoning in cats can differ as they depend on what the cat has consumed and how much of it they’ve consumed. Symptoms can be as minor as some aches and the desire to be secluded, and as major as difficulty breathing and emergency trips to the vet. Below are some common symptoms associated with a cat consuming something poisonous:
- Skin irritation (excessive itching)
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Irritability (more so than usual)
- Depression (the desire to be alone, weaker body language, change in vocalization)
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased thirst
- Inflammation around the mouth
- Excessive urination
- Dilated pupils
In rare cases, plants can be so toxic to cats that even if they ingest a small amount, it can kill them.
Whether we are talking about plants or anything else with toxic potential, in general, the severity of the clinical manifestations depends on the amount of poison ingested. You know your cat best, so be on the lookout for any changes in behavior.
Many cats prefer to be alone when feeling ill, so it can be hard to determine that they are sick if you aren’t around them often.
How to Keep Cats Out of Plants
The easy answer is to limit the plants you have to only those proven to be safe for cats. If your love for plants is similar to your love for cats, and you need both in the home, you should take the following precautions to protect your cat:
- Create barriers to your plants. This can be done by ensuring plants are in rooms that the cat can’t access. Or, if necessary, place the plant in a room where the cat has access, but in an area the cat can’t get to. These can be extremely tall structures the cat can’t scale or can’t get to by jumping from another structure.
- Weight your plants. Put heavy objects, like stones, in your plants to weigh them down so cats can’t knock them over.
- Create a negative association. This one isn’t ideal, but if your cat can get to the plant, begin to make that event an inconvenience. For instance, spray them with a water bottle.
- Use a spray to deter cats. There are air sprayers like the PetSafe SSSCAT Spray Deterrent that assist in keeping your cat away.
- Make it smelly! Not for you, but for the cat. There are certain scents most cats hate, and you can use these to protect both the plant and the cat. Examples include lavender, rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus, orange, lime, grapefruit, and pepper. You can place these scents around your plants to deter your cat(s).
If all of the above fails – it may be time to get rid of that plant!
What to Do If My Cat Eats a Poisonous Plant
If you suspect your cat ate any part of a toxic plant, it is best to:
- Contact your veterinarian immediately.
- If you are unable to get in contact with your vet, contact the Animal Poison Control Center. Their information can be found here, or call (888) 426-4435. They are available 24/7, 365 days a year.
- Keep your cat away from the plant.
- Document as much information as you can gather on the incident. Note the time you think your cat ate from the toxic plant, the symptoms you’re seeing, and anything else worth noting.
Do not make your cat vomit!
In general, the clinical manifestations appear about 20-30 minutes after ingesting a toxic plant.
Keep in mind that any plant material your cat consumes can cause gastrointestinal disorders.
Final Thoughts on Plants Safe For Cats
Cats are mischievous creatures that may try things for the sake of trying them. This can be concerning when you have a house full of plants, or a garden that your cat has access to, as many plants can be dangerous for cats.
The best thing you can do is be vigilant and informed. If you can avoid an incident by simply ridding your home of the poisonous plants, that is your best bet. No matter how cute you think your plants are, or how much you enjoy plants in general – the risk isn’t worth the reward.
You brought this little, vulnerable, creature home. Now you must protect it!
If you want to learn more about poison risks with cats, check out our article on foods poisonous to cats.