Are Roses Harmful to Cats?

Call a poison hotline if you suspect your cat ate something toxic.
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A rose by any other name might smell just as sweet, but some plants with "rose" in their names are toxic to your cat, according to the Humane Society. Don’t let the word “rose” in a plant’s common name fool you into believing the plant can’t hurt Fluffy.


Roses are not toxic to cats, but they do have thorns. If your cat plays in a rosebush or tries to eat its leaves and stems, he could get an upset stomach and scratch up his skin and face. Also, if you've used topical chemicals on your bush, they could make him sick. But if your cat rearranges your lovely rose bouquet and even decides to nibble a few of the rose petals, the only harm he’s likely to encounter is a good tongue-lashing from you.

Christmas Rose

Christmas roses, also known as Easter roses or Lenten roses, have the scientific name Helleborus niger. This evergreen perennial reaches about 13 inches in height and blooms from December to April. These ornamental garden plants -- popular in Europe as Christmas decorations -- are poisonous, so keep your curious kitties away from them.

Desert Rose

The desert rose is also called the desert azalea, the Sabi star, the impala lily or the kudu lily. Its scientific name is Adenium obesum. This shrub can grow up to 4 feet high and produces white or lavender flowers with dark throats. The flowers look similar to azalea flowers. The desert rose's sap is poisonous; if you plant the desert rose in your yard, keep your shrub-chewing cats inside.

Moss Rose

Moss roses are annual succulents that thrive in heat, drought and poor soil. They are easy to care for and come in a variety of colors, which makes them popular as ground cover and for container plantings. They also go by the names portulaca, rock moss, purslane, pigweed and pusley. Their scientific name is Portulaca oleracea. Moss roses are toxic to cats.


The scientific name of this plant is Primula vulgaris. There are 450 species of this perennial in the wild, ranging in size from a few inches high to more than a yard tall. It grows easily and is a popular garden plant. Primrose oil has long served as an astringent and as a topical treatment for eczema and rheumatoid arthritis. Don’t use it on your furry friend, though; it is toxic to cats and can cause vomiting.


Rosebay, also called rhododendron, great laurel or azalea, is poisonous to cats. This flowering shrub grows from 15 to 30 feet tall. With over 250 species, the rosebay is popular in home landscapes because of its prolific blooms that come in a variety of colors. The leaves are the most toxic part of this plant, and a very small amount can kill a curious cat.

Rose of Sharon

Also called rose of China or althea, the rose of Sharon grows to 12 feet tall and nearly as wide. Its scientific name is Hibiscus syriacus. These deciduous plants have blue, pink, red, lavender, purple or white flowers that bloom during the summer and fall. You should keep your little mischief-makers away from this plant because it also is poisonous.

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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