Is Hippeastrum Toxic to Cats?

Last Updated on October 18, 2021 by Julia Wilson

Is hippeastrum toxic to cats?

Hippeastrum is toxic to cats, the toxic principles are lycorine and other alkaloids which cause vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and tremors.

What is hippeastrum?

  • Family: Amaryllidaceae
  • Scientific name: Hippeastrum spp.
  • Common names: Hippeastrum
  • Toxic parts: All parts are toxic, bulbs contain the greatest amount of toxins
  • Toxic compounds: Lycorine and other alkaloids

Hippeastrum is a flowering bulb native to Central and South America popular for its huge trumpet-shaped flowers which grow in brilliant red and red and white stripes. Due to its ease of care, hippeastrum is a popular indoor bulb that flowers for three weeks over Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere.

Note: Hippeastrum is often erroneously labelled as Amaryllis, however, they are two different plants. Also known as Naked Lady, Amaryllis is native to South Africa and has pink flowers on a leafless stem. Hippeastrum is a popular red or red and white flowering bulb that blooms at Christmas time.

Hippeastrum vs Amaryllis belladonna

Clinical signs

Symptoms will vary depending on the route of exposure (skin or ingestion), the amount ingested and which parts of the plant the cat has consumed.

Phenanthridine alkaloids

Lycorine is the primary alkaloid responsible for gastrointestinal signs which include:

Other alkaloids are present in smaller amounts, and can cause:

  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Lethargy
  • Respiratory depression
  • Tremors

Treatment

If your cat has ingested hippeastrum, contact your veterinarian. They may recommend a wait and see approach if the cat is not displaying clinical signs.

There is no antidote to hippeastrum toxicity, the goal of treatment is to prevent further absorption and manage clinical signs.

If ingestion was recent, the veterinarian can induce vomiting to remove plant matter from the gastrointestinal tract. Activated charcoal may also be administered to bind to any remaining material in the stomach.

Fluid therapy for cats with vomiting and diarrhea, to treat dehydration and correct electrolyte derangements.

Where necessary, medications to treat cardiac arrhythmias and tremors.

Prevention

The only way to prevent hippeastrum toxicity is to keep them away from cats. Kittens are especially at risk due to their curious nature.

If you do grow hippeastrums, do not leave the hippeastrum bulbs lying around as the bulbs contain the highest levels of toxins. Ensure plants are in a sturdy pot that cannot be knocked over easily.Keep cats out of the way when repotting.