Are Your House Plants Toxic to Your Cat?

September 27, 2013

Nosy kittens get into trouble.Do you know which house plants can harm your pet?  Cats love to chew on plants.  When six-weeks-old Chico joined our family, we learned that nothing was safe from this one-boy wrecking crew, especially plants.

Three months later tiny Jake, a rescued Bengal-mix, came to us as a foster and eventually became a permanent member of the family.  Jake was the ring-leader and taught Chico to climb the tall plants on the lanai.  A thickly-foliaged plant seems like a wonderful playground for busy kittens.  The “boys” broke off pieces of plants and carried them through the house.  That was the day I began to research safe versus toxic house plants.

I knew of some plants that were toxic to pets, but I was surprised to learn that very common house plants, like the philodendron, are also a problem.  One day, Chico began an unexplained vomiting fit and coughed up pieces of the philodendron.  That’s when I realized that the two kitten’s wild behavior had to end, for their safety and my sanity.

The only way to be sure a plant is safe for pets is to do the research.  In the past, sales clerks in garden nurseries have told me that certain plants, including that seemingly innocent philodendron, are perfectly safe around pet.  Don’t believe them!  Some may be knowledgeable but your pet’s safety isn’t worth the risk.  There are several Internet websites that list hazardous house plants.  Check those out and confirm them with your veterinarian.

Should your cat come in contact with a potentially toxic plant, call your veterinarian immediately and ask what to do.  In Chico’s case, he actually chewed on the plant, but it is possible for a kitty to be poisoned just by climbing on the plant or sitting in the  pot, because cats clean themselves so vigorously.

Chico in the plants

Fortunately, our boy was fine once he purged himself of the offending philodendron, and I quickly threw out the plant.  After some research, I removed two more plants from the lanai and between Jake and Chico, the remaining ones met an early demise.

 Chico, all grown-up

Ours may have been the only screened lanai in Southwest Florid that was barren of live plants, but that was a small price to pay for the safety of our beloved pets.  In our current home, we don’t allow the cats to access the smaller lanai.  There are a few large, potted plants there that could be a problem, but Lucy and Chico will never be allowed to play there.

For a complete list of common toxic house plants, log onto

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