Anyone who has searched for 'plants poisonous to cats' online will have seen intimidatingly long lists that seem to rule out nearly all garden plants, and a large proportion of house plants to boot. Our advice is not to panic: the reason why so many common garden and house plants are toxic to cats is because their livers
and kidneys have evolved to process only a very limited number of chemicals due to a restricted, meat-only diet (this is also the reason cats should never be fed human food).
The good news is, for a cat to be poisoned by a plant, they typically need to ingest it (bar a couple of exceptions, where skin contact is dangerous enough), and most cats will only ever ingest a plant if they were chewing on it out of boredom, or if the cat is a small kitten that doesn't know any better. Most cats will be fine among garden and house plants most of the time, but there are several plants that are too dangerous to chance it.
We have put together a list of the plants that are dangerous because not only are they highly toxic, but they are commonly found in our gardens or our homes as house plants or cut flower gifts, putting bored and/or inquisitive cats in close contact with them.
Poisonous plants for cats
Use this guide to ensure your garden and home is safe for your cat to enjoy without risk of poisoning or harm.
1. Lily: toxic to cats
Most species of lily are highly toxic to cats (think tiger lily, Easter lily, etc), and even ingesting a tiny bit of their pollen can be fatal, causing kidney damage. It really is best to avoid them altogether if you have a cat, and if you suspect your cat has ingested any part of a lily plant, you must take them to an emergency vet at once.
2. Amaryllis: poisonous to cats
Amaryllis is a popular house plant gift, but avoid giving it to cat owners: all parts of the plant are highly poisonous to cats, and ingesting it can cause changes in blood pressure, seizures, and severe vomiting.
3. Dieffenbachia: harmful to cats
Dieffenbachia's common name is 'Dumb Cane', and no wonder: chewing on a leaf can cause severe pain and numbness, as well as excessive salivation and difficulty swallowing. It won't kill your cat, but the effects are highly unpleasant, so avoid it in your home if you have a feline (or a puppy, or a toddler, for that matter).
4. Chrysanthemums: toxic to cats
Chrysanthemums are toxic to cats, especially if ingested in high amounts – potentially a problem in kittens and younger cats who may be enticed by their fluffy texture. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, dermatitis, or lack of coordination.
5. Foxglove: highly toxic to cats
Foxgloves are a common, traditional garden plant often used in cottage garden schemes, but it is highly toxic to cats, affecting their heart; in severe cases, ingestion can lead to cardiac failure and death. Although many cat owners grow foxgloves in their gardens without a problem, kittens and younger cats should be watched when around these plants.
6. Garden plants poisonous to cats: the most common
What to do if you think your cat has been poisoned
1. Take your cat to the vet immediately: time is of essence;
2. Give the vet as much information as you can on what your pet may have ingested (a sample is ideal);
3. If you've seen your cat eat a poisonous plant but can't see any symptoms, you'll still need to take them to the vet as a precaution.
- Agrostemma githago
- Angel’s Trumpets
- Angel Wings
- Bird of Paradise
- Black-eyed Susan
- Bloodroot Box
- Burning Bush
- Centaurea cyanus
- Cherry Laurel
- Conium majalis
- X Cupressocyparis leylandii
- False Acacia
- Giant Hog Weed
- Glory Lily
- Heracleum mantegazzianum
- Holly Horse Chestnut
- Juniperus sabina
- Lily of the Valley
- Lobelia* (except bedding Lobelia)
- Madagascar Periwinkle
- Mirabilis jalapa
- Nerium oleander
- Deadly Nightshade
- Woody Nightshade
- Persea americana
- Primula obconica
- Prunus armeniaca
- Prunus laurocerasus
- Rosary Pea
- Skunk Cabbage
- Solomon’s Seal
- Sweet Pea
7. House plants poisonous to cats
Shopping for house plants? We are big fans, but if you've got a curious kitten or a cat that tends to nibble on your house plants, here's what to avoid:
- Castor Oil Plant
- Devil’s Ivy
- Elephant’s Ear
- Epipremnum aureum
- Hypoestes phyllostachya
- Nerium oleander
- Seneciotar of Bethlehem
- Umbrella Plant
- Zebra Plant
8. Other cat poisons in your garden
Although cats are fastidious creatures and will rarely eat non-food items, there are a couple of things you need to keep out of your garden (and ideally ask your neighbour to remove those substances from theirs):
- Antifreeze: sadly, this is a common cat killer in our gardens, as cats are inexplicably fond of the taste. The worst is that it's often too late to save the cat by the time you notice the symptoms, so it's really best to avoid antifreeze altogether;
- De-icing salts: the most common form of salt used to de-ice pavements and driveways is sodium chloride, and it's toxic when ingested, most often after a cat has walked on a treated surface and licked the salt off its paws;
- Insecticides and herbicides, especially if large areas of the garden are treated.
Fortunately, many plants are completely safe for your cat and will make a great addition to your garden: