10 Plants Toxic to Cats

Beautiful but deadly to feline foragers.

by Jackie Brown
April 1, 2021
cat sniffing a plant

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Before you made the (best ever) decision to become a cat mom or dad, you may have been one of countless people who eased into parenting by trying to keep a fiddle-leaf fig alive. If you succeeded, you might want to sit down to hear this: much of your urban jungle may have to be rehomed — beloved ‘it’ tree included. Even though cats are carnivores, they enjoy nibbling on plants and flowers from time to time, many of which are toxic to them.

Moving your plants out of reach would work...if your cat was a dog. If this feels like picking a favorite kid, you could try supervising your cat in the company of your plants 24/7 (remember, they are nocturnal) but it’s probably not worth the risk, plus there are plenty of green thumbs who would love to adopt them. Below, a record of flora’s worst offenders (to cats and dogs if you’re a multi-species household).

Autumn Crocus

This autumn-blooming plant is extremely toxic to not only cats, but people too. It’s thusly not a common houseplant so only poses a risk if you have an outdoor cat. It’s also referred to as ‘meadow saffron’ or ‘naked ladies’.

Lilies

Lilies are beautiful and smell amazing, but it’s ironic that the flower that symbolizes rebirth can also spell death to your cat. All it takes is a lick of the water in a lily vase to cause irreversible kidney failure. At the risk of sounding alarmist, uninformed cat parents often don’t know what the culprit is until it’s too late.

Azaleas

Historically, gifting someone with azaleas in a black vase is a not-so-thinly-veiled death threat (their nectar and leaves are deadly). Need we say more?

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Cyclamen

Small bites of this common houseplant, often labeled Persian violet, can induce vomiting. But in large quantities, especially of the tubers or roots, cyclamen can cause seizures and even death. 

Daffodils and Tulips

Don’t be fooled by daffodil symbolism (hope, luck, prosperity, joy). The flowers and leaves of flowers in the narcissus and tulipa genuses can make cats sleepy and wobbly, but the bulbs are poisonous and can lead to respiratory distress, heart irregularities, and depression. 

Ficus, a.k.a. Fiddle-Leaf Fig

If ingested, ficus foliage causes drooling, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and dehydration — all precursors to kidney failure.

Oleander 

Oleander is so deadly that Meryl Streep starred in a movie about it. From the laundry list of clinical signs, heart arrhythmia, seizures, and shock should be all you need to hear to steer you cat clear.

Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachia , a.k.a. ‘dumb cane,’ might not kill your cat but it will burn their mouth, causing difficulty swallowing, choking symptoms, and ultimately organ damage. If you can’t induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide, give them a 25mg Benadryl tablet to stop the inflammatory response.

Marijuana

Know your cannabinoids: CBD is found in hemp, which has a host of mental and physical benefits for animals. But THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. Even if your cat doesn’t inhale, their heart rate can rise, they can suffer seizures, or even slip into a coma. So, when your cat wants to get high, stick with catnip.

If your cat has ingested any of the above, see a vet ASAP. Check out the ASPCA’s Toxic Plant List for more plants and flowers toxic to cats.

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Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown lives in sunny Orange County, CA, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. When she’s not on deadline, you can find her paddling her outrigger canoe in the Pacific Ocean or hiking in the foothills with her miniature poodle and two young boys.