Is Cyclamen Toxic to Cats?

Last Updated on August 9, 2021 by Julia Wilson

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.

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 genous 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 under ground tubers contain the largest amount of toxin.

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.

Treatment

If the cat has ingested a small amount of leaves or flowers try to flush any remaining plant material out of the mouth with water. Contact your veterinarian for further advice, he or she may recommend a wait and see approach if the cat appears otherwise well.

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

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.

Intravenous fluids will be administered to prevent dehydration and electrolyte derangements if the cat is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. 

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.