Is Cyclamen Toxic to Cats?

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  • Is cyclamen toxic to cats?

    Cyclamen is toxic to cats. The toxic principle is triterpene saponins which cause gastrointestinal disturbances and heart rhythm disorders if large amounts of the tubers are ingested. The degree of toxicity experienced is dependent on the amount and part of the plant ingested. Ingestion of large amounts of the plant can be fatal so veterinary care is advised.

    What is cyclamen?

    • Family: Primulaceae
    • Botanical name: Cyclamen spp.
    • Common names: Sowbread, Florist’s cyclamen, Ivy-leaved cyclamen, Persian violet
    • Toxicity: Toxic to cats
    • Toxic parts: Leaves, flowers, stems, tubers are the most toxic
    • Severity: Mild to severe
    • Toxic principle: Triterpene saponins

    Cyclamen are a genus of 23 species native to alpine woodlands in parts of Turkey, Israel, northern Africa, and some Greek islands. The cyclamen produces beautiful heart-shaped flowers in late winter and early spring, making them popular indoor plants.

    All parts of cyclamen are toxic to cats, however, the underground tubers contain the largest amount of toxin.

    Toxicity class – how dangerous is it for my cat?

    Cyclamen is considered a 2 and 4 toxicity class by the University of California. It can potentially cause death so is considered quite dangerous.

    What happens if a cat eats a cyclamen plant?

    The most common clinical signs are discussed below. Symptoms range from non-apparent to potential vomiting which can progress to more serious side effects like seizures or even death.

    Clinical signs

    The most common signs of cyclamen ingestion are gastrointestinal disturbances which include:

    • Loss of appetite
    • Hypersalivation (drooling)
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea

    Terpenoid saponins are at their highest concentration in the rhizomatous tubers which grow below the soil. Large ingestions can lead to serious heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, and death. Thankfully, ingestion of the tubers is unlikely (but not impossible) due to their location beneath the soil and their unpleasant taste.

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

    The severity of clinical signs is dependent on the amount and part of the plant ingested. Eating the tubers poses the most risk due to the high concentration of Terpenoid saponins. Leaves and flowers contain lesser concentrations of toxic compounds, so greater ingestion is needed. Ingestion of 0.2% of your cat’s body weight can cause poisoning.

    Treatment/What should I do if my cat eats a cyclamen plant?

    If the cat has ingested a small number of leaves or flowers try to flush any remaining plant material out of the mouth with water. Contact your veterinarian for further advice and consider contacting ASPCA Pet Poison Control. Remove the plant immediately.

    Immediate veterinary care is essential for cats who have ingested large amounts of the plant or the tubers.

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

    Any cat who has ingested a large amount of the plant should seek veterinary care. If you have any doubt before heading to the veterinarian, you can contact ASPCA Pet Poison Control who will give you advice on the next steps. Any cat who is having vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, anorexia, weakness, collapse, or seizures needs veterinary intervention right away.

    There is no antidote to cyclamen toxicity and treatment is aimed at preventing further absorption of the toxin and supportive care. If ingestion was recent, the veterinarian can induce vomiting to remove plant matter from the gastrointestinal tract and administer activated charcoal to prevent further absorption. Induction of vomiting at home is not recommended.

    Intravenous fluids will be administered to prevent dehydration and electrolyte derangements if the cat is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. Cardiac disturbances may require ECG monitoring and medication to treat arrhythmias. Seizures will be treated with anti-epileptic medication.

    Do I need a first-aid kit at home?

    While first aid kits are amazing resources that all pet owners should have on hand, they are unlikely to be beneficial in the event of cyclamen toxicity and prompt veterinary intervention is recommended.

    Could my cat die if they eat a cyclamen plant?

    Unfortunately, yes, cats can die from ingesting this plant. Consumption large enough to cause death is unlikely but always a possibility. This is why veterinary intervention should be sought as soon as possible to begin early decontamination and treatment.

    Prognosis

    Prognosis is variable depending on the amount of ingestion, decontamination, and treatment elected. The prognosis is fair with prompt treatment.

    Prevention

    The only way to prevent cyclamen toxicity is to avoid growing them in homes with pets.  Avoid leaving the tubers exposed when re-potting or planting in the garden and mulch well to reduce prevent accidental ingestion.

    Should I keep cyclamen plants if they are poisonous? How to keep them safely?

    Given the potential of severe toxicity associated with these plants, keeping them within reach of cats is not recommended. If you do wish to have them within your home, keep them in a room away from cats or stored within a growing cabinet that your cat cannot access.

    How to recognize cyclamen

    Cyclamens are popular indoor and outdoor plants that have beautiful blooms that come in pink, red, white, and purple varieties. Their leaves are heart-shaped and dark green with a lighter green outer portion. Their petals resemble shooting stars with swept-back petals.

    Frequently asked questions

    Is cyclamen toxic to humans?

    • Yes. This plant can cause poisoning in humans and lead to vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, and paralysis.

    Can I have flowers in my house with a cat?

    • Ownership of the plants with cats in the household is not recommended unless you can absolutely ensure your cat has no access to the plant. Use of a growing cabinet is advised or keeping the plant in a room out of reach.

    Can cyclamen kill cats?

    • Though lethal ingestion is rare, it is possible. Ingestion of large amounts of the plant, especially the tuber can lead to death.