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Which Plants Are Toxic to Cats?

Don't let kitty's curiosity get the best of her when she munches on your greenery.

February 22nd, 2012

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Which Plants Are Toxic to Cats?

Our pets are like family members who can help us psychologically and physically, according to research. Pet owners have enhanced self-esteem, exercise more and are less lonely. That’s why keeping our pets healthy are essential to keeping us healthy and happy, too.

Cat-proofing your home can be a challenge, especially when frisky felines get access to every nook and cranny of the house. Start by limiting access to stringy items such as dental floss, shoelaces or yarn that can get caught in a cat’s intestinal system. It also pays to remove toxic items from your home, particularly plants. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals operates a poison control hotline (1-888-426-4435) that handles more than 160,000 calls each year for accidental poisoning. Many of the calls involve consuming potentially toxic plants. According to the ASPCA, these are the most toxic plants to cats. (You can find a full list with photos at ASPCA.org).

Lilies (Lilium sp.): Easter lilies, stargazers and Oriental varieties can cause vomiting, severe kidney failure and death. If your cat ingests any part of a plant from the Lilium family, call your veterinarian immediately.

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Daylilies (Hemerocallis): True to the name, these lovely plants bloom for only one day. While daylilies differ from members of the Lilium family, they still pose a health risk. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause kidney failure.

Insoluble calcium oxalate plants: Needle-like calcium oxalate crystals dig into a cat’s tongue and gums, causing drooling, swelling and vomiting. Unfortunately, a large group of hardy plants contains these crystals. Avoid dieffenbachia, devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum), philodendrons, peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) and calla lilies (Zantedeschia).

Sago palm: This striking, cold-hardy plant features long feathery leaves that contain a toxin called cycasin, which causes liver damage.

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Desert rose: Native to tropical regions of Africa and Arabia, these succulents make great house plants in the United States. But they contain toxic chemicals called glycosides that can affect a cat’s heart rate and cause vomiting.

Corn plants: Dracaena can tolerate extreme weather conditions, making them a popular indoors and outdoors. If your cat likes chomping on plants, this one goes on the “do not purchase” list. Corn plants contain toxic compounds called saponins that can cause dilated pupils, excessive salivation and vomiting.

Bulb plants: Daffodils and tulips add a pop of color to any landscape. Keep cats away during planting season because bulbs of these plants present the biggest threat. Toxins such as lycorine in daffodils and tulipalin A and B in tulips can cause convulsions, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Azaleas: With more than 250 species in the United States, azaleas can flourish from California to Georgia. But the presence of grayantoxin can lead to coma, cardiovascular collapse and even death.

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