Is Ivy (Hedera)Toxic to Cats?

Is ivy toxic to cats?

Ivy (Hedera spp.) is toxic to cats. The toxic principles are hederagenin, a triterpenoid saponin and polyacetylene compounds which cause gastrointestinal disturbances and irritation to the skin and mucous membranes.

What is ivy?

  • Family: Araliaceae
  • Botanical name: Hedera spp
  • Common names: Ivy, English ivy, Branching ivy, Glacier ivy, Needlepoint ivy, Sweetheart ivy, California ivy
  • Toxicity: Toxic to cats
  • Toxic parts: All parts, leaves are more toxic than the berries
  • Severity: Mild
  • Toxic principle: Triterpenoid saponin and polyacetylene compounds

Ivy is a genus of 12-15 evergreen climbing vines native to Eurasia and North Africa. They are popular as an ornamental indoor plant as well as a climbing vine or ground cover when grown outside. Mature plants can reach a height of 20-30 metres.

English ivy (Hedera helix) is the most common species of ivy and is found throughout the world. The plant has two stages, juvenile and adult. In the juvenile stage, the leaves are made up of lobed leaves, however, once ivy reaches maturity, the leaves change to an oval shape. Flowers develop on adult plants that form berries in autumn and winter.


The University of California lists the toxicity of ivy as 2 and 4.

2. Minor Toxicity: Ingestion of these plants may cause minor illnesses such as vomiting or diarrhea. If ingested, call the Poison Control Center or your doctor.

4. Dermatitis: The juice, sap, or thorns of these plants may cause a skin rash or irritation. Wash the affected area of skin with soap and water as soon as possible after contact. The rashes may be very serious and painful. Call the Poison Control Center or your doctor if symptoms appear following contact with the plants.

Clinical signs

Symptoms can vary depending on the amount of ivy ingested. Most cats will stop consuming ivy quickly due to its unpleasant taste.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hypersalivation (drooling)
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dermatitis (blistering, redness and swelling)

Most cases of ivy ingestion are mild and self-limiting.

First aid

To prevent oral irritation, offer the cat something tasty to drink such as milk or tuna juice. Seek veterinary attention if clinical signs such as vomiting and loss of appetite develop.


The only way to prevent ivy toxicity is to keep plants out of the home and grow cat-safe plants.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    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