10 Common Plants Toxic to Cats

Last Updated on February 10, 2021 by Julia Wilson

At a glance

  • Swiss cheese plant
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Fiddle leaf fig
  • Philodendron
  • Devil’s ivy
  • Ivy
  • Snake plant
  • Rubber plant
  • String of pearls
  • Pothos

Indoor plants have seen a huge resurgence in popularity over the past few years, and it is easy to understand why. They are great for apartments with no gardens and add interest to the home. But, not all plants are safe around cats, and some can even be deadly.

Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals are one of the most common toxic properties in plants. Clusters of needle-sharp crystals known as raphides are contained within the plant tissues. When the plant is chewed, these needle-sharp crystals penetrate the oral mucosa causing extreme pain and burning. While this can look dramatic, most cases are self-limiting and should resolve without incident. In rare cases, swelling can develop which can lead to difficulty swallowing and breathing, this is a medical emergency.

My go to resources are ASPCA, Pet Poison Helpline, Royal Horticulture Society and the University of California toxic plant list to ensure the accuracy of the content. Swiss Cheese plant (Monstera delicosa) is commonly referred to as Philodendron or even Monstera Philodendron, and while split-leaf philodendron has a similar appearance with its large fenestrated leaves, they are different plants.  For the layperson, the Swiss cheese plant has smooth edges, and split-leaf philodendron has wavy edges.

Spp. denotes there are several species.

Related: Full list of plants toxic to cats

Common plants toxic to cats

Monstera delicosa

  • Common names: Swiss cheese plant, Tarovine, Fruit salad plant, Mexican breadfruit
  • Toxic principle: Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals
  • Symptoms: Hypersalivation, anorexia, vomiting, oral pain, soft tissue swelling, vomiting, difficulty breathing (rare)
  • Level of toxicity: Mild to moderate

Aglaonema spp.

  • Common names: Chinese evergreen, Philippine evergreen, Poison dart plant, Diamond bay, Emerald bay, Moonlight bay, Stripes
  • Toxic principle: Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals
  • Symptoms: Hypersalivation, anorexia, vomiting, oral pain, soft tissue swelling, vomiting, difficulty breathing (rare)
  • Level of toxicity: Mild to moderate

Ficus lyrata

  • Common names: Fiddle-leaf fig
  • Toxic principle: Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals
  • Symptoms: Hypersalivation, anorexia, vomiting, oral pain, soft tissue swelling, vomiting, difficulty breathing (rare)
  • Level of toxicity: Mild to moderate

Philodendron spp.

  • Common names: Philodendron, Heartleaf philodendron, Lacy tree philodendron, Fiddle leaf philodendron, Split-leaf philodendron, Philodendron Xanadu, Red-leaf philodendron
  • Toxic principle: Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals
  • Symptoms: Hypersalivation, anorexia, vomiting, oral pain, soft tissue swelling, vomiting, difficulty breathing (rare)
  • Level of toxicity: Mild to moderate

Epipremnum aureum

  • Common names: Pothos, Golden pothos, Devil’s ivy, Taro vine, Ceylon creeper, Ivy arum, Money plant, Hunter’s robe
  • Toxic principle: Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals
  • Symptoms: Hypersalivation, anorexia, vomiting, oral pain, soft tissue swelling, vomiting, difficulty breathing (rare)
  • Level of toxicity: Mild to moderate

Hedera spp.

  • Common names: Ivy, English ivy
  • Toxic principle: Triterpenoid saponin and polyacetylene compounds
  • Symptoms: Hypersalivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, dermatitis
  • Level of toxicity: Mild

Sansevieria spp.

  • Common names: Snake plant,
  • Toxic principle: Saponins
  • Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Level of toxicity: Mild

Ficus elastica

  • Common names: Rubber plant
  • Toxic principle: Irritant sap
  • Symptoms: Skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia
  • Level of toxicity: Mild

Curio Rowleyanus

  • Common names: String of pearls
  • Toxic principle: Pyrrolizidine alkaloids and irritant sap
  • Symptoms: Ingestion of large volumes can cause liver failure, but this is unlikely in cats. Dermatitis can develop due to exposure to the irritant sap, and ingestion can cause gastrointestinal signs including vomiting and diarrhea
  • Level of toxicity: Mild to moderate

Dieffenbachia

  • Common names: Dumbcane, Mother-in-law’s tongue, Poison arum
  • Toxic principle: Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals
  • Symptoms: Hypersalivation, anorexia, vomiting, oral pain, soft tissue swelling, vomiting, difficulty breathing (rare)
  • Level of toxicity: Mild to moderate

What to do if your cat eats a toxic plant

Contact your veterinarian of pet poison helpline for advice. The treatment will depend on the type of plant ingested and clinical signs. You may be asked to wait and watch to see if clinical signs develop and if they do, bring the cat in for treatment. Cats who have ingested highly toxic plants such as Lilium species (Easter lily, stargazer lily), immediate veterinary treatment is critical.

Call ahead so that the practice knows you’re on your way and has time to prepare. Bring along a sample of the ingested plant for identification.

Questions you will be asked:

  • How old is the cat?
  • How much of the plant was ingested?
  • How long ago was the plant ingested?
  • Is the cat displaying any clinical signs?
  • Does the cat have any underlying health conditions?

Do not induce vomiting at home, there is no safe way to do this with cats and vomiting can cause potential problems especially if the cat is displaying neurological symptoms.

There is no antidote for most plant toxins and treatment is aimed at decontaminating the gastrointestinal tract if ingestion was recent, to prevent further absorption and supportive care which may include fluid therapy to treat or prevent dehydration and correct electrolyte imbalances.

How to stop a cat eating plants

You can try deterrents such as bitter apple, but their effectiveness is limited and a determined cat will still chew on a plant if he or she wants to. Kittens are at increased risk as they explore their environment which often includes biting, chewing and ingesting non-food items.

Hanging pots can make it more difficult for cats to access the plant as long as there is no furniture nearby to enable the cat to reach the plants.

As cat owners, it’s important to understand your own cat. Some will completely ignore plants, but others will be fascinated by them.  The good news is that cats tend to be less prone to chewing plants than dogs, and when they do, they’re often attracted to plants with strappy leaves such as Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant), cat grass and Nepeta cataria (catnip), but there’s always those who like to prove us wrong.

Some cats will chew plants out of boredom, especially cats who are kept indoors. Enriching the environment can divert their attention towards something more cat-friendly. This can include interactive puzzles, cat-friendly plants, empty cardboard boxes, cat trees and perches and even a cat enclosure.

Julia Wilson is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. She enjoys photography, gardening and running in her spare time. Full author bio Contact Julia