Are Ferns Bad for Cats?

True ferns aren't toxic, but they're not good for your cat to eat.
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You know your cat is pretty smart, especially if you've watched her plot to get something she really wants. You'd think she'd be smart enough to avoid eating plants that are bad for her. But when it comes to nibbling on unsafe items, cats aren't always so intelligent.

True Ferns

Plants that are considered true ferns are generally safe to grow in a home with cats. This doesn't mean that it's good for your cat to eat them. It simply means that they are not considered toxic and are unlikely to cause permanent or serious damage if your feline friend nibbles them.

Popular true ferns include Boston, maidenhair, button, rabbit's foot, bird's nest and staghorn. Eating these ferns could give kitty an upset stomach, diarrhea and mild vomiting, but usually not severe enough to need medical attention.

Asparagus Fern

Asparagus fern, also known as lace, emerald or plumosa fern, deserves a special mention because it is such a popular houseplant. Unlike true ferns, it is considered toxic. In most cases it is mildly toxic, but the berries can be poisonous.

If your cat eats asparagus fern he's likely to have stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. The fern can also cause skin irritation and burning. Contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline for treatment instructions if your cat mistakes asparagus fern for a tasty treat.

Fernlike Plants

A lot of plants that look like ferns or have the word "fern" in their name are not actually ferns. Many are toxic for your cat. Among the most common of these are Sprengeri fern, fern palm and winter fern. Contact the Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian if your cat eats any of these plants.


It's best to keep toxic fernlike plants out of your house and yard. If you do have them, place them as far out of the cat's reach as possible. Keep a first aid kit on hand, as well as emergency phone numbers such as those for a pet poison hotline and your vet's emergency contact number.

Even if you remove all the plants from your house, your cat could nibble on a fern if he got out. It's a good idea to be prepared for a poisoning emergency even if it's not likely to happen.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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