Is Amaryllis Toxic to Cats?

by Susan Paretts, Demand Media Google
    Cats and many types of flowers don't mix.

    Cats and many types of flowers don't mix.

    Kitties are curious by nature and may find your pretty amaryllis plants especially interesting. Unfortunately, felines tend to explore things they are curious about, like plants, by tasting them. Amaryllis plants are toxic to kitties and should be kept out of your home and garden to protect your furry friend.

    The Amaryllis

    Amaryllis plants are a type of lily, sometimes referred to as a Belladonna lily or Saint Joseph lily. The plant, whose scientific botanical name is Amaryllis sp. contains lycorine, a substance that is toxic to cats if ingested, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The plant produces trumpet-shaped flowers that usually appear red or scarlet, but can come in a variety of colors, including white and pink, according to University of Minnesota Extension Program. The amaryllis is found commonly in floral arrangements, especially during the holidays, so ask your florist which flowers she has included in your decorative bouquets. Note that other common names for the amaryllis include the cape belladonna and naked lady.

    Nibbling on Flowers

    Your kitty can become poisoned by nibbling on the flowers, stems or leaves of an amaryllis plant. The extent of the poisoning and severity of his symptoms depends on how much of the plant he has ingested. All parts of this type of plant, especially the bulb, contain the toxic ingredient lycorine, a type of phenanthridine alkaloid that causes gastrointestinal upset. Symptoms of amaryllis poisoning include excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and a loss of appetite, according to Infovets.com. Bring your kitty to the vet immediately if you believe that he has been chewing on any amaryllis plants.

    Veterinary Treatment

    Possible poisoning by an amaryllis plant is a serious medical emergency which requires treatment by your vet. If your vet isn't available, you'll need to go to an emergency veterinary clinic or contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Bring cuttings of the plant you believe your kitty has been munching on to the vet so that she can identify it properly. While there isn't a cure for amaryllis poisoning, your vet may induce vomiting to rid your little one of the toxins in his system. She also may provide intravenous fluids to keep him hydrated and some activated charcoal to absorb the toxins from his system, according to PetMD. The care she'll give will depend on your particular kitty and the amount of the plant he has eaten.

    Prevention

    All types of lilies, including all species of the amaryllis plant, are very toxic to kitties and should be kept away from them. Keep any floral arrangements you receive as gifts in rooms that are off-limits to your furry friend; you don't know exactly which flowers were included in them. If your furry companion has access to your outdoor garden, keep amaryllis plants out of there as well. Remember that your kitty is able to jump to high places so even plants placed on windowsills or counter tops aren't out of reach for your furry companion. If your kitty likes plants, provide him with some healthy barley grass to nibble on. Consult with your vet if you aren't sure if a plant is toxic or not before displaying it in your home or in your garden.

    About the Author

    Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.

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