Herbs & Plants That Are Poisonous to Cats

Many herbs and plants are poisonous to cats. Some are well known, others aren't.

Many herbs and plants are poisonous to cats. Some are well known, others aren't.

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.

Your Call

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.


About the Author

Nicholas DeMarino is a journalist and former newspaper associate editor and reporter. His work has appeared in "The Arizona Republic," "The Billings Gazette," "San Antonio Current" and in other publications. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.

Photo Credits

  • A cat laying in the garden. image by Saskia Massink from Fotolia.com