Is Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata) Toxic to Cats?

Is fiddle leaf fig toxic to cats?

Fiddle leaf fig (Ficus Lyrata) is toxic to cats. The toxic principle is an irritant sap containing calcium oxalate crystals that can cause mild dermatitis as well as oral pain and mild gastrointestinal upset if ingested.

What is fiddle leaf fig?

  • Botanical name: Ficus Lyrata
  • Common names: Fiddle leaf fig, Banjo fig
  • Toxicity: Toxic to cats
  • Toxic parts: All parts
  • Severity: Mild
  • Toxic principle: Irritant sap

The fiddle leaf fig is a perennial houseplant popular for its unique leaves that are shaped like a violin.

Note: Philodendron bipennifolium is also referred to as fiddle leaf, however, this plant is a philodendron that contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which cause intense oral pain and burning if chewed.

Toxicity for cats

When chewed or broken the fiddle leaf fig exudes a milky sap which can cause skin or gastrointestinal irritation. Common signs include:

1- A rash on the affected area.
2- Oral irritation, drooling, mild vomiting and diarrhea if ingested.

The University of California rate the toxicity of the fiddle leaf fig as a “Four”. This means that “The juice, sap, or thorns of these plants may cause a skin rash or irritation. The rashes may be very serious and painful.” Luckily, the irritant factor is strong enough that most cats quit after one bite or chew.

Call the Poison Control Center or your doctor if symptoms appear following contact with the plants. Pet Poison Helpline 1-800-213-6680 or ASPCA Animal Poison Control 1-888-426-4435

First aid

If the cat comes into contact with the irritant sap:

1- Rinse areas on the skin with soap and water or with a mild dishwashing detergent such as Dawn – as soon as possible to remove any sap.

2- For cats who have ingested plant matter, offer milk, tuna juice or onion and garlic free stock to  dilute any sap in the mouth. You can gently flush your cat’s mouth with water to rinse any sap out.

Most cats will not ingest a large amount of this plant as it is an irritant. Watch your cat for any rashes or blisters on her skin. If she is vomiting and/or has diarrhea, or you see a skin problem, she needs to be seen by your veterinarian.

When to call your vet

If you see a skin problem or your cat continues to foam at the mouth, drool excessively or vomit or have diarrhea, she should be seen by your veterinarian. Other concerns are if your cat is pawing at her eyes or squinting from possible sap on her eyes or if she is hesitant to eat or drink (due to irritation in her mouth). A call to one of the pet poison centers (see numbers above) can help to tell if you cat has ingested enough plant material to need veterinary care.

How can the vet help?

Your vet will continue the home care you started – rinsing any spa off the skin, treating rashes or blisters and flushing the mouth.

If she feels you cat’s condition warrants it, a blood panel may be done to verify that all internal organs are fine. Most cats will not need that.

Prevention

Most cats will ignore houseplants, due to their curious nature kittens are at increased risk of chewing on non-food objects, including plants. The only way to prevent this is to keep toxic plants out of the house or in a room the cat can’t access. There are many alternative plants that are non-toxic to cats.

What should I do if I have a fiddle leaf fig tree?

Cats do enjoy chewing on plant material. Ideally, you should provide some safe greens for your cat to chew on You can grow catnip or a variety of “cat grasses” for your cat.

If you absolutely love your fiddle leaf fig tree, you need to make it unattractive to your cat. You may simply put the plant in a room that is inaccessible to your cat or try to block it off with some sort of gating. You can put pepper or citrus peels in the plant pot. Booby trapping with cans with pennies in them stacked near the tree may also deter a cat.

 

Authors

  • Dr. Debra Eldredge is a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) who graduated from Cornell University. She is an award-winning author of more than 20 books on pets, including the best-selling “Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook“.

  • Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She 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. Full author bio