Spring has sprung here in the Northeast US.  Along with the longer days and warmer temperatures, plants have made their appearance. All of the weekend gardeners have emerged after the long winter, too!

 Even if we can't plant an outside garden, many of us choose the blooms that are readily available in the landscape departments. That way we can still bring a little bit of the outdoors into our homes. 

So, how do we know which plants are safe?  The answer is not so easy. Poinsettia is usually the first plant on everyone's "toxic to pets" list.  Although Poinsettia can cause an upset stomach, it's far from the most dangerous plant for cats. 

Different types of plants have different levels of toxicity for dogs, cats, and humans. What could be fine for dogs, might be poisonous to cats.  Many plants are poisonous to both.  Cats are a lot more particular about what they put in their mouth than dogs.  Sorry, Rover.  I doubt that any self-respecting kitty would gulp down a bunch of marigolds once he smells them. That doesn't mean cats won't eat something that's not good for them.  Why do cats eat plants, anyway?  There are several reasons.  Some of those reasons are known only to the cats.  However, there are several reasons they might be fond of the frond. 

First, they eat it because it tastes good.  Second, they eat it because it feels good. They might like the texture or it soothes them. They might even eat a plant out of boredom. (Get out those toy mice and play!)  Finally, check to make sure they are eating their cat food.  They might prefer the plants to the brand in the dish.

So, what are the most poisonous plants?  Again, that depends.  Toxicity can be mild, moderate, or severe. 

Mild toxicity could cause rashes, or stomach upset.  Or there could be no symptoms at all. 

Mildly toxic plants include:

  • Cactus,
  • Chrysanthemums,
  • Marigolds,
  • Poison Ivy,
  • Oak,
  • Sumac

Moderately toxic plants could cause vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, drooling, stomach upset, lethargy. Moderately toxic plants include:

  • Aloe,
  • Amaryllis,
  • Carnation,
  • Daffodil (only the bulbs, but even Squirrels don't eat them),
  • DumbCane, 
  • Freesia,
  • Holly,
  • Hydrangea,
  • Ivy,
  • Morning Glory, 
  • Poinsettia,
  • Tulip

Severe toxicity could cause organ damage, seizures, coma and death. Those plants include:

  • Azalea,
  • Crocus,
  • Foxglove (everything on the plant, including the water, if it's in a container),
  • Juniper,
  • Lily,
  • Oleander,
  • Sago Palm, 
  • Rhododendron.

Grass Awn, sometimes called Cheatgrass or Foxtail is another common hazard outdoor pets can encounter.  The danger is in the arrowlike seedpods that can get stuck in your pet's footpads or even in their eye. The seeds can enter the body and cause an abcess or infection that can require a trip to the vet. How can you make sure your cat is not going to eat a poisonous plant?  The easiest way is to remove it.  If you have a cat that goes outside, consider a cat-friendly garden.  Plants like Wheat Grass, Oat Grass, and Catnip could be a dream buffet for your kitty.      

Although these are some common poisonous plants, the toxic effects are not necessarily the same for all cats.  The aloe vera plant is listed as mild to moderately toxic.  Years ago, one of my cats ate a whole aloe plant and came away none the worse for wear. Aside from the fact that my aloe plant was destroyed, I would not take that chance again. 

Don't forget that anything you spray on your plants can wind up inside your kitty, too. It won't matter if a plant is poisonous, if it's treated with poison, it becomes poisonous. Please be careful and use earth-friendly products for fertilising insect control.

If your cat does ingest any of these plants, call your vet or poison control office.  Keep those numbers handy, it will save time and might save your pet's life. 

For a more complete list of poisonous plants, check:  www.shadesofgreenplants.com or www.fabcats.com

Poison Control in the US: #1-800-222-1212  

Poison Control in the UK: www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk - 0845 4647 or 111

www.nhs24.com - 08454 24 24 24


In the Middle of a World...

"In the middle of a world that has always been a bit mad, the cat walks with confidence."

Roseanne Anderson

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