Cats and House Plants: A Toxic Combo

August 8, 2012

Do you know which house plants can harm your pet?  Cats often chew or sit on plants.  I never thought of this as a problem for the animal, as much as one for the poor plant, because my female cats never touched the plants.  But then 6-week-old Chico joined our family.  Chico was a “one-boy-wrecking-crew,” and nothing was safe from his reign of terror, especially plants.  At first, my concern was for the plants.

Three months later tiny little Jake, a rescued kitten who was recovering from a run-in with a golf cart, became a permanent resident in our home.  And I thought Chico was destructive?  Jake taught Chico to climb the tall plants on the lanai.  A thickly-foliaged plant is a wonderful playground for kittens.  The boys broke off pieces of the plants, carrying them through the house between their teeth.  That’s when I began to research safe versus toxic house plants.

I had thought I was fairly knowledgeable and had already made sure that the pots on my lanai didn’t include such things as Dieffenbachia or poinsettia, both known to be a problem for pets.  But it took Chico’s unexplained vomiting fit for me to learn that even the innocent-looking Philodendron can harm a kitty.  I have purchased plants in years past, including Philodendrons, and was told by sales clerks that they were safe for pets.  The only way to be certain is to do the research yourself.  There are many websites devoted to the subject.

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 cat to be poisoned just by climbing on a plant or sitting in the pot.  Cats clean themselves and any toxins on the plant could very well have ended up on their feet or fur.  Fortunately, our boy was fine once he purged himself, and I immediately  threw out the plant.

After some research, I removed 2 other plants from the lanai and between Jake and Chico, the remaining ones met an early and unfortunate demise.  Ours may be the only lanai in Southwest Florida that is barren of plants, but it is a small price to pay for the safety of our beloved pets.

Our pets depend on our knowledge and efforts to protect them.  Go through your house now and remove any potential hazards to Fluffy’s well-being.


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