Birds of paradise are toxic to cats, but they aren't feathered friends that Kitty catches and devours. If you also share your home with a dog, keep Fido away from the plant as well. Several varieties of plants go by the name bird of paradise -- none are safe.
Birds of Paradise
Not to be confused with the plant, birds of paradise are avian lovelies native to New Guinea. There's always a remote possibility that if your cat roams outdoors and a bird of paradise escapes from a zoo, the latter will be eaten by the former. But they're not toxic to the cat.
Bird of Paradise Plants
Since more than one plant goes by the nickname bird of paradise, it's always important to know the scientific name of any plant in your house or garden. You don't want to inadvertently allow a plant indoors that can hurt your pets, or plant or leave one in your yard if your cats can access it.
Strelitzia reginae, the bird of paradise, is a South African native plant. It's called a bird of paradise because of the orange flower's resemblance to a beautiful bird in flight. Other names include bird's tongue flower and crane flower. It's a tropical plant, so you will find it outdoors only in year-round warm climates. A version with a smaller flower is the juncea bird of paradise, Strelitzia reginae variant juncea, while the Mandela's Gold version is a yellow shade. You might also find the larger, treelike white bird of paradise, Strelitzia alba. There's also a giant bird of paradise, the Strelitzia nicholai. It's a tree that can grow up to 30 feet high.
Also known as by the scientific name Caesalpinia gilliesii, Poinciana gilliesii goes by other nicknames, such as poinciana, peacock flower, pride of Barbados or Barbados pride. It's not truly a bird of paradise, but is often called by that name. No matter what it's called, it's poisonous to felines.
If your pet ingests the seeds or fruits of the Strelitzia reginae or any of the Strelitzia species, he might vomit or lose his appetite. He could also become lethargic. While not as toxic as some other plants bearing the bird of paradise name, it's not safe to have around your kitties. If your cat ingests Poinciana gilliesii, he'll show signs of severe mouth irritation and burning, along with excessive salivation. Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and loss of coordination. According to the ASPCA, rabbits have succumbed after consuming this plant.
What to Do
If you suspect your cat has eaten any part of a bird of a paradise, take him to the veterinarian at once. You should have the number of a regional or national pet poison control hotline handy. Call the number for additional information or if for some reason you can't get your cat to the vet immediately. The ASPCA's poison control hotline number is 888-426-4435. Fees apply.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.