Is Bird’s Nest Fern Toxic to Cats? Our Vet Explains

What is a bird’s nest fern?

  • Family: Aspleniaceae
  • Botanical name: Asplenium nidus
  • Common names: Birds nest fern, Bird’s nest fern, bird’s-nest fern, nest fern, bird’s nest spleenwort, wild birds nest fern, new world birds nest fern
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic
  • Toxic parts: – N/A
  • Severity: – N/A
  • Toxic principle: – N/A

Bird’s nest fern is a species of fern native to tropical Southeast Asia and Australia. It is commonly grown as an indoor houseplant and enjoyed for its unique rosette shape and bright green, shiny fronds with contrasting dark midribs and a ‘bird’s nest’ like center.

Cultivars

  • Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’: Sword-shaped ruffled leaves
  • Asplenium nidus ‘Osaka’: Narrow, strap-like leaves with rippled edges
  • Asplenium nidus ‘Antiquum’: Wavy leaf-margins
  • Asplenium nidus ‘Victoria’: Long, wavy, tongue-shaped fronds

Care

Bird’s nest ferns prefer indirect sunlight, humidity, and plenty of water, especially during the growing season. Avoid covering the center of the plant in water which can cause rotting and mold. Bird’s nest ferns thrive on high humidity, therefore growing in or near a bathroom and away from drafts is the optimal environment.

Fertilize once a month during the active growing period.

Safety

While bird’s nest fern is non-toxic, fertilizers and pesticides can leech out of the soil when the tree is watered which can pose a danger if the cat drinks the contaminated water (and cats love to drink out of planter trays). Placing pebbles in the tray beneath the plant allows water to safely drain from the pot and reduces the risk of a cat drinking water that has leached from the pot.

Most cats will ignore bird’s nest fern, but some cats will chew on houseplants. Ingestion of large volumes of plant matter can potentially cause gastrointestinal upset. Remove the plant if necessary, and keep it in a room the cat cannot access, or grow in a hanging pot. Cat grass and catnip are recommended in homes with cats.

Is bird’s nest fern toxic to cats?

Bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) is non-toxic to cats and is safe to grow in homes or gardens with cats. It’s easy to care for and the beautiful leaves make it an ideal indoor plant. 

Toxicity class – how dangerous is it for my cat?

A bird’s nest fern is non-toxic to cats so no harm should come if your cat were to ingest pieces of the plant. 

What happens if a cat eats a bird’s nest fern plant?

While this plant is non-toxic, ingestion of plant material can make cats sick. The most common side effect of ingestion of plant material is vomiting. Sometimes drooling and diarrhea can be seen. 

How much would a cat need to eat to experience serious issues?

No amount of this fern ingested will cause toxicity. Consumption of larger amounts of the plant may cause your cat to vomit. 

What should I do if my cat eats a bird’s nest fern plant?

No action needs to be taken if your cat eats this plant. Just monitor them closely for tummy upset. 

Do I need a first-aid kit at home?

First aid kits are ideal for any pet owner. Discuss what you should have on hand with your family veterinarian. 

Signs you need to see the vet / How can the vet help?

You should seek veterinary advice if your cat vomits more than 3 times, stops eating, or seems lethargic. Your veterinarian will perform an exam and discuss diagnostics if necessary. Otherwise, your cat may just need an injection of anti-nausea medication and a bland diet for a few days. 

Could my cat die if they eat a bird’s nest fern plant?

No, ingestion of this plant is not lethal. 

Prognosis

Excellent! Most cats will be unaffected by Bird’s Nest Fern ingestion.

Should I keep bird’s nest fern plants? How to keep them safely?

Bird’s Nest Ferns make wonderful houseplants, especially because they are easy to care for and non-toxic to pets. If your cat is a plant eater, it is still important to keep them out of reach to prevent trauma to your fern and tummy upset for your kitty.

How to care for bird’s nest fern

Bird’s nest ferns are native to tropical regions. They enjoy medium to bright indirect light but have been known to tolerate low indirect light. They should be watered weekly. The soil should dry out halfway between waterings. Water along the side of the fern, not in the middle. These plants prefer high humidity and the tips can become brown if humidity is too low. Indoor temperatures should be maintained from 65-75 degrees. 

Frequently asked questions

Is bird’s nest fern edible?

  • In Asia, these plants are commonly eaten! The shoots of the plant are edible. They are often blanched, stir-fried, and served as a vegetable dish. 

Why is my cat obsessed with ferns?

  • Cats are carnivores but in the wild, they often chew on plants as a way to supplement their nutrient intake or add fiber to their diets. 

What ferns are toxic to cats?

  • Asparagus Fern, Emerald feather/fern, sprengeri fern, plumosa fern, or lace fern
  • Fern Palm or Sago Palm
  • True fern species are non-toxic 

Feature image: terimakasih0, Pixabay

Author

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  • Dr Paula Simons, Veterinarian

    Dr Paula Simons graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) in 2019. She is currently working at 'Cornell University Veterinary Specialists' (CUVS) in Connecticut as an Emergency and Critical Care veterinarian resident (see her work profile). CUVS is a 24/7 Emergency and Critical Care Facility certified by the Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Society, indicating the highest level of patient care.

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