Are Marigolds Toxic to Cats?

by Betty Lewis, Demand Media
    Petunias are colorful, cat-safe and repel some garden pests.

    Petunias are colorful, cat-safe and repel some garden pests.

    Marigolds are sunny little flowers that many people use to brighten their gardens and repel pests. However, they may not deter cats, who sometimes enjoy snacking on the flowers despite their pungent aroma. If you garden naturally, there are many flowers that help repel pests with no risk to Tabby.

    Are Marigolds Safe?

    If you've been researching to learn whether marigolds are safe for Tabby to eat, you've probably come across conflicting information. Some websites list marigolds as toxic to cats, while others list them as safe for cats to ingest. For example, the Cat Fanciers' Association lists marigolds as poisonous, while the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center lists the flower as nontoxic.

    Toxicity Depends on the Plant

    The confusion may lie with the type of marigold you're reading about. The ASPCA lists the calendula officinalis, commonly known as the pot marigold, which is not considered to be harmful to cats. However, there's also the tagetes form of marigold, which can be toxic to cats. If Tabby encounters this form of marigold she may experience some skin irritation, particularly in and around her mouth if she's been chewing on it. If you see signs that she's been frolicking in marigolds, wash the affected area of her coat with some mild soap and water. It's also a good idea to contact your vet to learn what other reactions you may want to look for. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.

    Pretty Alternatives for the Garden

    If Tabby spends time outside, it's a good idea to minimize the use of chemicals in your garden that may make her sick. You also may decide to steer clear of marigolds just to be on the safe side. Quite a few cat-friendly plants can double as pest repellents and beautiful bloomers. Petunias, nasturtiums and sunflowers all are beautiful plants that will add color and repel pests, such as aphids, away from your veggies. Basil and lavender are aromatic alternatives that also can help with pest control without making Tabby sick.

    A Garden for Tabby?

    The University of Maryland Cooperative Extension recommends creating a garden space just for your cat. In "Creating Garden Spaces for Cats" the group recommends setting aside an area for Tabby that includes catmint, catnip and valerian, as well as a variety of cat grasses. Her garden should have some sun, a comfortable place to sleep and a bowl of water. She'll likely be just as happy to oversee her own garden and leave yours alone.

    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

    • David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images