So, you have a cat. Chances are, you also have little teeth marks on your paperwork, your ornaments, your furniture and your plants. This is not good for your stuff and sometimes really not good for your feline friend.
It seems our kitties didn’t get the memo about curiosity killing the cat. Some of the things that cats get into can be lethal and I’m not just talking about the obvious poisons, medications and the like. Some of the greenery we grow in our homes and gardens are really bad news for cats, but luckily there’s also a long list of house plants safe for cats that we can exercise our green thumbs all over instead.
Carnivorous Plant Munchers
Cats are going to chew on things, and there’s not a lot we can do about this. Just like little baby humans, cats learn about their world by putting bits of it in their mouths, with little regard for the consequences.
This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you consider that cats are obligate carnivores. They don’t need plant life as part of their diets, so this leaf munching is not to fulfil a nutritional requirement. But when you think about it, plants are pretty tempting for cats – they swing in the breeze, there’s lots of tasty dirt to dig around in, they smell pretty and they probably taste great.
So why do cats like to chew on plants? Simply because they can. But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
What’s The Big Deal?
If plants could talk, they’d tell you what the big deal is. Nobody wants to go through life looking like they’ve been in a fight, but in this battle, it’s often the plants who come out on top. Vegetation in your home may look pretty and harmless, but there are many plants that are poisonous to cats.
Here’s my favourite, Dr Karen Becker from Mercola Healthy Pets, with some information on common plants that are toxic to cats (and dogs. We love dogs, too!).
What happens when your cat comes into contact with a poisonous plant depends on what the plant is, and what kind of contact your cat has made with it. If your cat has brushed up against something toxic, you might be able to get away with giving him a good wash and keeping a close eye on the situation. If your cat has eaten a toxic plant you can call the ASPCA’s poison control hotline and/or get to the vet as soon as possible.
Ingesting poisonous plants can cause reactions in your pet ranging from mild to very, very serious. Keep an eye out for the following and definitely get to the vet if you notice:
- Difficulty breathing
- Drooling or excess salivation.
- Excessive thirst and urination.
- Irregular heartbeat.
Keeping Plants and Cats Safe
Obviously, prevention is better than the cure, so checking that your plants are safe for cats is the number one thing to do. Keep any toxic plants well out of your kitty’s reach – difficult, considering cats can reach just about anywhere their little heart’s desire.
Some plants are fatal for cats, no matter how quickly you act to get the situation fixed. Please, do your research before bringing any plants or flowers into your home. Here’s a quick list of the most common, dangerous plants that should be avoided:
- Lillies – any kind.
- Peace Lilly
- Sago Palm
- English Ivy
- Castor Bean
- Azaleas and Rhododendrons
Please note this is not an extensive list, just an overview of the most common toxic plants. Consult the ASPCA’s big list if you’re unsure.
The easiest way to avoid disaster is to keep your cat inside and keep the poisonous plant life outside, but if this isn’t possible high shelves and hanging baskets (for the plants, not the kitty) are a good option, as long as they’re high enough that your cat can’t jump up.
If you do take this option, it’s a good idea to have a few safe plants at lower levels to occupy your cat and keep him out of the dangerous stuff. Keeping the safe plants within reach and the dangerous plants out of reach is a good way to give your cat something green to munch on that isn’t going to kill him. Yes, it’s that serious.
What to do When Plants Attack
If you see or suspect that your cat has eaten a toxic plant, there are a couple of things you can do before rushing off to the vet.
- Remove any remaining plant life from your cat’s hair and skin.
- Bathe your cat to remove any pollens etc that may have landed on his coat.
- Identify the plant. Take a photo of it to show your vet, or better yet, take the plant to show your vet, if possible.
- If your cat has vomited, collect a small sample to take to the vet. This can be used to help identify what the problem is and which part of your cat is in danger.
- Call the pet poison helpline or your local animal emergency hospital for more information.
Your vet will be able to make the best diagnosis and recommend treatment by positively identifying the plant and giving your cat a thorough physical examination, before ordering tests to determine the overall health of your cat. These tests are especially important if the poisonous plant is known to damage specific organs.
Treatment will depend on the severity of the poison and may include activated charcoal to absorb any of the remaining toxins. It’s likely that your kitty will need to stay in hospital under observation and medical care until the situation is under control. Some plants may cause enough damage that long-term medication or a special diet is required, so it’s important to follow the vet’s instructions and keep a close eye on your sick patient if this is the case.
Cats and plants can live in harmony together, as long as you follow the rules and keep the toxic greenery out of reach. Consider keeping only cat-friendly plants in your home, just to be on the safe side. It’s a really easy problem to prevent if you have the right information.
Are you a green thumb? How do you keep your plants and your cats safe from each other? Head to the comments and share your thoughts…