What Happens if a Cat Eats African Violets?

by Betty Lewis, Demand Media
    Sometimes, no matter where you put your plants, Missy will find her way to them.

    Sometimes, no matter where you put your plants, Missy will find her way to them.

    African violets are pretty houseplants that are popular with home gardeners. They're popular with cats, too, who sometimes like to chew on their foliage. If Missy decides your violet will make a nice snack, chances are the flower will see the worst of the damage.

    Appealing African Violets

    African violets are very appealing for gardeners of all types. Though they're called violets, they come in a range of colors, including blue, white and pink, with a variety of petal formations. They're easy to grow, so novice gardeners who take care to provide ample sunlight and proper watering can see great success with these pretty flowers. It's not unusual for house cats to give extra attention to violets. Although African violets don't have the particular allure that catnip does for cats, many felines enjoy chewing on the leaves, blooms or stems -- much to the dismay of gardeners.

    Non-Toxic for Missy

    African violets appear on many lists of "safe" plants for pets, so if Missy's mid-morning snack consisted of your favorite violet she should have no ill effects. VCA Animal Hospital notes that even when ingesting non-toxic plants, sometimes cats can experience some mild illness as a result because they're eating something unusual or may have ingested too much at once.

    Notes of Caution

    If you choose to fertilize your African violets, you should make sure you choose a fertilizer that won't harm Missy should she decide to snack on your plant. The African Violet Society notes that plants sourced from a grower who uses systemic insecticides may have toxic substances in them. If Missy takes just a nibble, she probably won't have an issue. However, the society warns that if cats eat treated violets over a long period of time, "a common kind of insecticide (organophosphates) could build up in their system to a toxic level and cause a problem." In this case you should watch for incontinence, salivating and tearing as her body tries to release water. This can be very serious and cause death by dehydration. However, it's highly unusual because such chemicals are generally used only by professionals instead of home growers. The society notes that the chemicals used by home growers tend to have a much lower risk.

    Better Safe Than Sorry

    If Missy snacked on your violets, chances are good the only way you'll know is by looking at your violet. If she's over-indulged, she may feel a little nauseous. However, if you treat your plants with chemicals, you should check the ingredients to learn of their potential toxicity. The best defense is to discourage Missy from snacking on your houseplants. You can try providing her with catgrass to snack on as an alternative; many cats love to chew on fresh grass, and pet stores sell grasses specially formulated for cats. If she's attracted to plants you don't want her to chew, try spraying them with bitter apple or something similar that will discourage her chewing. You can also try dissuading her from accessing your plants by putting double-sided tape around the perimeter of the flower pots.

    About the Author

    Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master’s degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images