Dangerous Summer Plants for Cats

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Pet owners know that cats often have a penchant for eating strange things.

Many cats chew on paper and plastic. And as almost every cat lover knows, they are also quite fond of plants both inside and outside the home. Whether garden plants, plants in the wild, or flowers from the florist, plants can provide a tasty and tempting diversion for animals, one that can be at odds with your cat’s health.

Even though they are carnivores, cats like the texture of certain plants, especially those that have grass-like leaves or fine texture, such as baby’s breath, fine ferns and dried flowers. You can make great efforts to plant a cat-friendly garden, but flowers you bring in or plants your cat finds around the neighborhood can still be very dangerous. Poisonous plants are some of the many dangers that create, generally speaking, shorter lives for outdoor cats.

There are some strategies you can take to handle cats who eat plants. But if your cat has already ingested the plant, and you see symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, difficult breathing, abnormal urine, salivation, weakness or any other abnormal condition, call your veterinarian right away.

When you contact your vet, make sure you tell them as much information as you possibly can. For example, do you know what plant your cat ate? If you don’t know the name, take some of it with you for identification. Try to get a sense for how much they might have chewed or eaten and how long ago they ingested it.

This list of dangerous summer plants is by no means exhaustive, there are a number of other toxic plants, including those that we covered in our article on the danger of 20 common houseplants, but this covers the top offenders in gardens, landscaping and parks in most areas.

Aloe Vera
This well-known staple of the south is very toxic to cats. If you have an aloe vera plant in your garden, or keep some in your home, make sure to keep it out of reach for your pets. It can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea and even tremors.

Baby’s Breath
In addition to growing in people’s gardens, baby’s breath is a summertime staple because of its presence in wedding floral arrangements. Be careful with it on all fronts, as it causes vomiting and diarrhea in cats.

Begonia
This popular garden and container plant is toxic to cats. It causes oral irritation that creates intense burning in th mouth, tongue and lips. It can also cause excessive drooling and create difficulty swallowing for your cat. Additionally, it can lead to vomiting.

Carnations
Carnations can be found the world over in landscaping, parks and floral arrangements. They are not highly toxic for cats, but can cause mild gastrointestinal problems and mild allergic dermatitis in cats.

Castor Bean
The castor bean plant is quite popular in landscaping, but it’s a known poison to people, animals and insects. In cats, small doses of its poison can cause abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. This can also lead to loss of appetite, excessive thirst and drooling.

In severe cases, poisoned cats can have dehydration, tremors, seizures and it can even lead to coma and death. Call your vet if you find your cat eating this plant.

Chrysanthemum
This popular plant is fun to spell and say, but it’s not kind to a cat’s digestive track. It’s unlikely to be deadly, but it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, dermatitis and ptyalism (hypersalivation).

Cyclamen
Cyclamen is often seen in gardens and sitting on decks and patios in pots. They are quite toxic, with the highest concentration of toxins found in the roots. So if your cat is a digger, look out. In rare cases, ingested cyclamen has led to fatalities. In most cases, it creates gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting (which can be quite intense). These can lead to loss of appetite and severe dehydration.

Daffodil
Daffodils are ubiquitous in the spring, but they last into the summer and are very toxic to cats, particularly the bulbs. They create a list of issues for cats, including diarrhea, vomiting and salivation; and with a large amount of ingestion they can cause convulsions, low blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias.

Gladiolus
Gladiolus look great in gardens and are popular in floral arrangements. They are not as much of a problem as other plants on this list because it is the bulb that is toxic to cats, but if your cat likes to dig in gardens, keep an eye out for it. If your cat finds it, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling and bouts of lethargy are likely.

Grass Seeds
Early in the year and in the late summer you see a lot of grass seeds around. They are not poisonous to cats, but they are great at getting stuck the the throats and ears of animals, causing discomfort or gagging.

Hosta
Hostas are the friend of many home gardens with their ability to power through the seasons and beautifully take up space. For many, it’s a surprise to hear that they are toxic to cats. While their leaves don’t seem to be as enticing to pets as others on this list, if your cat ingests some, vomiting and diarrhea are likely.

Ivy
In certain areas of the U.S., ivy seems to grow everywhere. Most cats don’t seem that interested in eating it, but its foliage is fairly toxic — even more so than its berries. Cats who eat it will suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and hypersalivation.

Lilies
This is one of summer’s most dangerous cat killers. Even ingesting very small portions can cause kidney failure in cats. Keep your cat away however you can.

Milkweed
Milkweed is a beautiful plant and it is finding a bigger audience because of how it helps support monarch butterfly populations. Unfortunately, it’s quite toxic to cats. It creates a list of symptoms that you won’t want your cat to suffer through, including: vomiting, depression, weakness, diarrhea, seizures, difficulty breathing, rapid, weak pulse and dilated pupils.

In severe cases it can cause kidney or liver failure, respiratory paralysis and can even lead to a coma or death.

Morning Glory
Morning glory is the psychedelic of this list. It can cause hallucinations in cats, in addition to gastrointestinal issues, tremors and an overall feeling of disorientation and confusion.

Oleander
This evergreen shrub contains the highly-toxic cardiac glycoside, which can cause: diarrhea (possibly bloody), sweating, loss of coordination, difficultly breathing, muscle tremors, and, in extreme cases, death from cardiac failure.

Poinsettia
Pet-owners have been told for years to keep poinsettias away from their homes and gardens to protect pets. Surprisingly, they are not nearly as toxic as some others on this list. But they can still cause irritation to the mouth and stomach, as well as vomiting.

Rhodedendron (often known as Azalea)
This is an example of a plant that doesn’t get as much press as the poinsettia but is actually far more toxic to cats. Ingestion of just a few leaves can cause big problems for your cat or kitten, including excessive drooling, loss of appetite, diarrhea, colic, weakness and loss of coordination. In severe cases, it can cause leg paralysis and weak heart rate. If these symptoms occur and continue, there is a chance of death.

Sago Palm
The Sago palm, in pet terms, appears to be pretty tasty. This is bad news if you live in a temperate region where they are quite common. They are toxic to cats, especially the seeds. They cause vomiting, bloody/tar-like stool, jaundice, bruising and, in extreme cases, liver damage, liver failure and death.

Tomatoes
Everybody loves the feeling of picking their own tomatoes out of their garden, and, in general, this plant is pretty safe for your cat. The ripened fruit is considered non-toxic, but the green parts do contain solanine, which ingested in large amounts, can result in poisoning. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness and even confusion.

Tulips
Tulips are another plant found in nearly every bit of home and business landscaping. They are poisonous to cats, and the bulbs, in particular, have a high concentration of toxins. These toxins create a loss of appetite, drooling, convulsions and severe gastrointestinal irritation.

I hope this information keeps your cat safe from dangerous summer plants.

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