9 Popular Houseplants That Are Toxic to Cats

9 Popular Houseplants That Are Toxic to Cats

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Houseplants are a common sight in nearly every home. They brighten your living space, help purify indoor air, and have been shown to help reduce anxiety and depression – plus many people find caring for plants therapeutic. Unfortunately, if you have cats there are many houseplants that you should avoid bringing into your home due to their toxic properties – especially since cats are notoriously mischievous and prone to chewing on things. Here are some popular houseplants that you should avoid if you have cats.

20 Houseplants Safe for Cats and Dogs

Peace Lilies (Spathiphyllum)

Peace lilies are one of the most common flowering houseplants, particularly around Easter time. Their dark leaves, white flowers, and low maintenance needs make them a very popular choice for Spring décor. However, peace lilies contain calcium oxalates and if consumed, can cause vomiting, irritation of the mouth and GI tract, excessive drooling, and in severe cases, difficulty swallowing or breathing. They are only dangerous when ingested and are completely safe to touch.

Toxic Properties: Insoluble calcium oxalates

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera plants are a staple in many homes and gained popularity thanks to the medicinal properties of the gel from their leaves. Aloe vera is characterized by thick, succulent-like leaves with jagged edges that grow upwards from a rosette-like base. While Aloe may have therapeutic properties for humans, it is toxic to cats and can cause lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested.

Toxic Properties: Saponins, anthraquinones

Cutleaf Philodendron (Monstera Deliciosa)

Monstera deliciosa's are one of the most trendy tropical houseplants and are featured extensively on social media and in home decor thanks to their stunning tropical foliage. Also referred to as "Swiss cheese plants" or "Split-leaf philodendrons," Monsteras are relatively low maintenance, making them an attractive addition to any home. Unfortunately, Monstera deliciosa contains insoluble calcium oxalates making them highly toxic to cats. Symptoms include burning of the lips and mouth, excessive drooling, oral swelling, and vomiting.

Toxic Properties: Insoluble calcium oxalates

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Due to its low maintenance nature, pothos has become a very attractive houseplant for both amateur and experienced plant owners alike. The attractive drape and ease of care make it a tempting addition to your home, particularly when you’re trying to spruce up your home decor on a budget. Though pothos is completely safe to touch, if ingested, your kitty will experience burning of the mouth and lips, vomiting, and oral swelling.

Toxic Properties: Insoluble calcium oxalates

Jade Plants (Crassula)

Jade plants, also known as “Money plants” or “Dollar plants,” are a type of succulent that is easy to grow and thought to bring good luck and fortune to their owners. They are characterized by dark green fleshy leaves and thick, wooden-like stems. There are several different varieties of jade plants, all belonging to the family Crassula. Unfortunately, jade plants are highly toxic to cats, dogs, and horses, causing symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, depression, and incoordination if ingested.

Toxic Properties: Unknown

Snake Plants (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Snake plants, often referred to as “mother-in-law’s tongue,” is well-known as one of the best plants for low light conditions, and for improving air quality – which has made it an extremely common houseplant. While snake plants are non-toxic for humans, the ASPCA reports they are toxic for both cats and dogs and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested.

Toxic Properties: Saponins

Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)

Sago Palms are a fun and tropical addition to the home and can do wonders for indoor air quality. Their unique structure makes them a great talking point and a lovely accent piece. However, these plants have an ancient defense mechanism: they are highly toxic for our furry friends. When any part of the plant is ingested, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even liver failure and death. These plants should be avoided at all costs if you have cats at home.

Toxic Properties: Cycasin

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

English ivy has small, pointed leaves and makes for a delicate display. It has become popular as a houseplant grown in hanging planters thanks to its gorgeous drapery. This same feature can make it appear like an attractive snack to curious felines, which can be extremely dangerous as English ivy is toxic to cats. When ingested, it can cause a wide range of symptoms including weakness, vomiting, abdominal pain, excessive drooling, and diarrhea.

Toxic Properties: Triterpenoid saponins

Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)

Dumb canes, or Dieffenbachias, are a popular houseplant thanks to their stunning tropical foliage and low-maintenance needs. There are many different varieties of dumb canes, which vary in size from three feet high to over ten feet tall when grown in the right conditions. Unfortunately, dumb canes are highly toxic to cats when ingested, and their sap can even be a mild irritant to humans and should be kept away from bare skin. Symptoms of dumb cane poisoning in cats include vomiting, burning of the mouth, oral irritation, and in severe cases difficulty swallowing or breathing.

Toxic Properties: Insoluble calcium oxalates, proteolytic enzyme

Research is necessary when bringing new plants into a home with cats as there are many different plants that are toxic to cats. Though this can be remedied by putting the toxic plants up out of reach, it is better to find plants that are safe to keep in the home to help ensure the safety of your feline friends.

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Article Sources

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Lee, Min-Sun et al. Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. Journal of physiological anthropology, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 21, 2015. doi:10.1186/s40101-015-0060-8

Peace Lily. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.

Aloe. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.

Cutleaf Philodendron. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.

Golden Pothos. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.

Jade Plant. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.

Reduce Indoor Air Pollution with Houseplants Part 2: Golden Pothos and Snake Plant. Santa Fe Extension Master Gardeners.

Sago Palm. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.

English Ivy. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.

Magill, Alan J. et al. Poisonous Plants and Aquatic Animals, Hunter's Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Disease (Ninth Edition), pp. 923-937, W.B. Saunders, 2013. doi:10.1016/B978-1-4160-4390-4.00211-3

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