Arrangements of flowers and various plants can brighten up a home or add color to your garden. However, many of these plants or flowers can seriously injure or kill your cat. It’s important to be aware of the different plant species common to your area to prevent the illnesses or even death that can result when your cat eats them. Learn about the types of plants in Ontario that can be toxic to cats as well as common signs of poisoning to watch out for.
Potentially toxic plants for cats
This list covers just some of the plants common to Ontario, Canada, that should be avoided. Monitor your cat closely if any of these plants are in or around your residence. Always keep cats in a separate room from any potentially poisonous plants and take care that their leaves, stems, pollen, or petals do not contaminate other rooms or water that is accessible to your cat. Here are a few plants to be aware of that can be toxic for cats.
Every part of this common flowering plant is extremely toxic to cats, meaning it doesn’t take much exposure to be lethal. If a cat ingests even a small quantity of pollen or water from a vase of cut lilies, it can lead to kidney failure in just a few days. Avoid keeping cut or planted lilies in or near your home if you have a cat.
Only a tiny amount of these plants is needed to cause symptoms of toxicity if ingested by your cat. Eating even a few leaves can cause vomiting and larger quantities can lead to abnormal heart function As with most toxic plants, ingesting greater quantities increases the likelihood of life-threatening problems.
Foxglove has the potential to be extremely toxic to cats. The toxic compounds are present in all parts of the plant and can affect a cat either directly when the plant is consumed or indirectly if the cat only drinks water from a vase that’s held cut foxglove flowers. Ingestion of foxglove may disrupt normal functioning of the heart in cats. As such, symptoms of foxglove toxicity can include weakness, fainting, and collapse along with the usual GI signs associated with plant ingestion like vomiting and diarrhea.
Castor beans are the source of the poison ricin. In order to release the poison, the beans must be chewed up or somehow pulverized prior to entering the stomach. Fortunately, cats aren’t big on chewing and consuming dried seeds like some animals are, so they’re not common victims of castor bean poisoning. The symptoms of ricin poisoning vary widely and depend on the amount ingested, but can include severe vomiting and diarrhea, heart problems, and seizures.
Sago palm or cycad palm
The toxin in this small palm tree plant is called cycasin. It impacts the liver and nervous system and can lead to a variety of severe symptoms including stroke. Sago palms are extremely toxic to cats and should be avoided.
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Lily of the valley
This “Lily” is actually not a lily at all. It is part of the asparagus family which also includes other garden plants like hostas and bluebells. Although garden asparagus is safe for us to eat, Lily of the valley can be harmful to cats. Much like foxglove, it contains cardiac toxins, and as such, even drinking water from a vase of cut flowers has the potential to cause life-threatening heart problems.
Oleander is popular because it is beautiful and relatively easy to grow, but it is toxic to most animals, including cats. Oleander poisoning can be fatal for cats.
This evergreen tree is toxic to cats. It can cause seizures and respiratory distress when even small amounts are consumed. Accidental ingestion of yew by cats can even lead to fatal cardiac failure.
Ivy is moderately toxic for cats and can lead to a variety of symptoms including vomiting, fever, and breathing difficulty. The symptoms usually associated with English ivy toxicity are not typically fatal. Since this plant is common in gardens and porches, you should take care to keep your cat away from it.
Cats can end up with an upset stomach when they eat holly. While not expected to be deadly, holly ingestion can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and appetite loss. Avoid this decorative plant in or around your home if you have cats.
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Common Signs of Poisoning in Cats
Any unusual symptoms your cat may be exhibiting could be cause for concern. Many household plants can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like drooling, diarrhea, and vomiting. If your cat has any of these signs, do not ignore them and seek veterinary help immediately. If your cat starts vomiting for an unknown reason and you see plant material in the vomit, be suspicious of poisonous plant ingestion and do your detective work accordingly. These are the most common signs of poisoning in cats:
- Appetite loss
- Weakness and collapse
- Trouble breathing
- Loss of coordination
- Seizures and tremors
What to do if your cat ate something toxic
As in all matters of poisoning, it is important to remember: the dosage makes the poison, and cats are no exception. More serious symptoms are expected when a greater quantity is consumed, and sicker, younger, or smaller cats are more likely to be seriously affected. While some plants, such as lilies, can be deadly when even trace amounts are ingested, other plants have to be consumed in large amounts to produce any symptoms at all. Regardless, any time a cat consumes any type of plant, even one that is considered non-toxic or safe, it’s still possible for an upset stomach to result.
If you believe your cat may have had access to a toxic plant, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Visit Vetster 24/7 to find an online vet in Ontario or call the poison control helpline. If you saw your cat consume a potentially harmful plant, take a sample of the remaining plant matter and place it in a plastic bag for identification. If you know the plant was toxic, do not wait for your cat to display symptoms of poisoning before calling for help. When it comes to ingesting something toxic, fast action can save the life of your cat, but preventing exposure in the first place is the better strategy. Poisoning may not always cause immediate symptoms but it can be fatal if left untreated. If you witness your cat consume a toxic or poisonous substance, call poison control or your local emergency center immediately.