Cats love nibbling on plants. Yours may even nibble on hardwood furniture from time to time. If you research pet poisoning, this might worry you -- an alarming number of plants and trees, in nature and in your living room, can harm your cat. White birch, however, shouldn't be a concern.
Scratching and Chewing
Cats scratch, chew plants and lick or munch on furniture for three reasons: one territorial, one anatomical and one digestive. In some cases, they're marking with their scent to claim ownership. It's pretty much the kitty cat equivalent of calling "dibs." Another reason is to work out their claws, and another is to consume folic acid. These behaviors are instinctual -- cats do them with little to no prompting. They're natural behaviors that shouldn't be punished. Instead, make sure your cat has safe outlets for them.
A surprisingly large number of plants and trees are poisonous to cats. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals keeps a long, authoritative list of those toxic and nontoxic to cats. If you're not sure if a plant in your house is safe, simply look it up online. If you're wondering about white birch. You're probably also wondering about furniture made from white birch, as well. Unfortunately, that plant isn't on the safe list -- poisonous or not.
Considering White Birch
A quick survey of literature on white birch is a bit disconcerting. It's slightly toxic and can cause mild abdominal cramping or serious cardiac complications, according to the University of Arkansas. That's in humans, though. Cats' digestive systems aren't the same -- after all, they can eat raw meat, but get sick from grapes. Luckily, the ASPCA has weighed in on the issue. White birch, it notes in a brief Q-and-A, isn't particularly toxic to cats. It might cause an upset stomach or vomiting, but that's about it. As with any plant, though, you should discourage your cat from eating it by placing it out of reach. Also, Afford your feline friend appropriate scratching and chewing toys and grass. In the case of furniture, put white birch in an off-limits room.
Maybe your cat is sensitive to white birch. Or maybe he has come into contact with something that's more toxic. It's important to know poisoning symptoms: breathing problems, confusion, coughing, depression, diarrhea, dilated pupils, gastrointestinal irritation, salivation, seizures, skin irritation, tremors, vomiting and weakness, according to WebMD. Generally, the more severe symptoms take more time manifest, so it's important to watch your cat closely for changes if he starts to look sick. If he's eaten white birch, he might throw up, but that will probably be the end of it.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Tasmanian Tree Fern, Peter Pan, Rotundiloba and European White Birch
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Animal Poison Control FAQ
- UC Davis Veterinary Medicine: Pets and Toxic Plants
- University of Arizona: Pets and Poison
- University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research & Extension: Toxic Plants on Plant Meterials List
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images