Cats love chewing on plants and herbs. This is natural -- maybe even good for them -- but some common varieties of flora are harmful. Research every plant in your home and garden to see if it's cat-safe, and call a veterinarian immediately if your cat eats poisonous plants.
High-risk Plants and Your Cat
Tiger lilies are particularly poisonous to cats, according to the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. They recommend keeping your cat clear of azaleas, chrysanthemums, daffodils, hydrangeas, irises, ivies, lantanas, lilies, marigolds and wisteria, all of which are toxic. About a dozen plants and herbs are responsible for the majority of poisoning calls to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's teaching hospital. These include lilies, lily of the valley, anemome, aloe vera, amaryllis, asparagus fern, daffodil, philodendron, jade plants, chrysanthemums, cyclamen and cycads. If you can't get rid of these plants, you can wet their leaves with water and cover them in cayenne pepper to make them less pet palatable.
Other Poisonous Plants
Some common plants are highly toxic to cats but few felines eat them. According to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, a few plants in this category are angel's trumpet, caston bean, daphne, deathcamas and meadow deathcamas, English yew, foxglove, jimson weed (devil's trumpet), nicotiana plants, oleander, poison hemlock, pokeweed, tree tobacco, Western water hemlock and yew. If you can't get rid of them, try to keep your cat away from them. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a lengthy list of "frequently encountered plants," both toxic and non-toxic, online at www.aspca.org. Search for "plants toxic to cats." It's probably worthwhile to invest in cat-safe plants so your feline friends can satiate herb and plant munchies without risking poisoning
Cat Poisoning Symptoms
It's not always easy to tell whether your cats poisoned or just sick. Many common symptoms -- including diarrhea, lethargy, depression, excessive salivation and vomiting -- appear mild at first, only later escalating to dangerous levels. If your cat looks ill, retrace the animal's steps and see if it came into contact with any potential poisons. Note plants and herbs in the vicinity and recheck their toxicity status. Early poisoning symptoms may worsen or expand to convulsions, tremors and weakness. In some cases,your cat may not show serious symptoms for several hours.
If you think your cat is poisoned, call your veterinarian or an emergency pet poison hotline. It helps if you know what plant she or he probably ate. If your cat eats a toxic plant or herb but doesn't show symptoms, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine still recommends calling for help "because in some cases of poisoning, by the time symptoms appear it is too late to save the animal." That's because such symptoms may indicate organ failure. You can call the National Animal Poison Control Center 24 hours a day at 888-426-4435. Fees apply.
- UC Davis School Veterinary Medicine: Center for Companion Animal Health -- Pets and Toxic Plants
- Americian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: What to Do If Your Pet is Poisoned
- University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Fredic County Master Gardeners: Creating Garden Spaces for Cats
- Glenda Moore's CatStuff: Plants That are Toxic to Cats
- A cat laying in the garden. image by Saskia Massink from Fotolia.com