Is Geranium Toxic to Cats?

Is geranium toxic to cats?

Geranium (pelargonium spp.) is toxic to cats. The toxic principles are linalool and geraniol. Geraniol is an acyclic monoterpene alcohol found in several plants including geraniums, thyme, lemon balm, coriander and palmarosa. Its rose-like fragrance makes it a common ingredient in beauty products and as well as insecticides. Geraniol can cause allergic dermatitis in people and animals.

Linalool is a terpene alcohol that naturally occurs in lavender, bergamot, thyme, coriander, basil and neroli. Exposure is associated with central nervous system effects including ataxia (wobbly gait), depression, vomiting and diarrhea.

What are geraniums?

  • Botanical name: Pelargonium x hortorum
  • Common names: Geranium, Garden geranium, Zonal geranium
  • Toxicity: Toxic to cats
  • Toxic parts: All
  • Severity: Moderate
  • Toxic principle: Geraniol and linalool

Geraniums are species of more than 400 flowering plants native to South Africa and grown in garden beds, pots and hanging baskets. These hardy plants come in a variety of colours including red, white, pink and apricot.

Geraniums like full sun and well-drained soil.

Close up of a geranium leaf

Clinical signs

Symptoms vary depending on the amount of geranium the cat has ingested. Common signs of geranium toxicity include vomiting, depression, anorexia (loss of appetite) and dermatitis.

First aid

Offer the cat something tasty such as milk, tuna juice or stock to help flush the mouth.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis is based on presenting symptoms as well as a history of exposure to geranium. The veterinarian will obtain a medical history from you including the time of exposure, the amount of the plant consumed as well as any symptoms you have noticed.

A diagnostic workup will include a biochemical profile, complete blood count and urinalysis which provide information on the health of the cat.

Treatment

If you suspect your cat has ingested geranium, contact your veterinarian or pet poison helpline for advice. They may recommend a wait and see approach.

If ingestion was recent, the veterinarian may induce vomiting followed by the administration of activated charcoal which binds to any remaining plant matter in the stomach. Further treatments are aimed at managing symptoms and may include fluid therapy to prevent dehydration and electrolyte derangements as well as

Prevention

Geraniums tend to be grown as outdoor plants, therefore it is unlikely that an indoor cat will be exposed to geraniums. The only way to eliminate the risk is to not keep plants that are toxic to cats. Thankfully, most of these plants only produce mild and self-limiting symptoms. But the risks must be weighed up by green thumbs who share a home with cats.

The good news is that there are plenty of plants that are non-toxic to cats.