Lucky Bamboo is Toxic to Cats – Our Veterinarian Explains

What is lucky bamboo?

The lucky bamboo plant is also known as a ribbon plant, cornstalk plant, dragon tree, and corn plant. It is actually not a bamboo at all, but rather a Dracaena. The plant is popular for its slender, palm tree-like trunks and branches. Some plants have striped leaves that appear in a multitude of colors and sprout from a thick main stem. The lucky bamboo is easy to care for and often purchased as an air purifier for the home.

Is the lucky bamboo plant poisonous / toxic to cats?

Unfortunately, the lucky bamboo plant is poisonous to cats, particularly the leaves. The ASPCA Poison Control center describes Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena) as toxic to cats (Source).

Toxicity class – how dangerous is it for my cat?

If a healthy cat ingests some of a lucky bamboo plant, the reactions will most likely be mild to moderate. Cats with pre-existing health conditions will likely be a bit more ill.

What happens if a cat eats a lucky bamboo plant?

A cat that eats a lucky bamboo plant could have several different reactions. These include:

  • Diarrhea 

Consistently watery stools can quickly lead to severe dehydration.

  • Vomiting or refusing food

Your cat might also begin vomiting in an attempt to purge the toxins from their body. This symptom can contribute to the severity of dehydration.

  • Dilated pupils

Although your cat’s pupils will change according to the light conditions they are exposed to, dilated pupils for an extended period of time could indicate your cat is in pain.

  • Increased heartrate

An increased heartrate in your cat could be caused by exercise, fear, or excitement. If none of these conditions are present, especially if you know your cat has ingested a lucky bamboo plant, this is an indication that something is wrong.

  • Weakness

If your normally active cat ingests a toxic substance, it can deplete their energy or cause incoordination.

  • Excessive Salivation 

Although cats under certain circumstances drool, it is not normally a behavior associated with felines. However, lucky bamboo poisoning can lead to excessive salivation—yet another contributor to dehydration.

  • Depression

You know your cat best. If they are usually up, around, and cheerful then suddenly become cranky or lethargic, this is another clue that something is not right.

  • Abdominal Pain

Your cat can tell you they are hurting by vocalizing more than often. They may also be restless or not be able to stay in one position for too long of a time. If a normally cuddly cat attempts to bite you when you try to pick them up, they are definitely in pain.

What happens if a cat touches a lucky bamboo plant?

Brushing against a lucky bamboo plant would most likely be harmless, but it could potentially cause an issue should your cat decide to take a nibble on the leaves.

Would my cat actually eat a lucky bamboo plant if I had it at home?
cat actually eat a lucky bamboo plant

Some cats just love to nibble on leaves. You know your cat best, so you are the best person to answer this question. If you feel there is any danger of your cat ingesting the leaves of your lucky bamboo, you’d best not test your luck! Your cat’s well-being is much more important than a plant.

How much would a cat need to eat to experience serious issues?

The major problem from ingesting a lucky bamboo plant is dehydration from diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive drooling. Your best bet is to call your vet for advice.

Would my cat need emergency veterinary help if they ate a lucky bamboo plant?

If you know for sure that your cat ate a lucky bamboo plant, or if your cat is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, an immediate call to the vet is necessary. The vet can give you the advice that you need based on your unique circumstances.

Signs you need to see the vet / How can the vet help?

If your cat is showing any signs of poisoning (lucky bamboo plant or otherwise) you need to see the vet right away. Persistent vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which requires fluid therapy from a vet.

Your vet will also examine your cat and may do bloodwork to check your cat’s internal organs. It’s important that you relate any and all information that you have about your cat and the ingested material. If you’re not sure about the type of plant, bring a small sample with you.

What should I do if my cat eats a lucky bamboo plant?

If your cat eats a lucky bamboo plant, your first instinct should be to call your vet with all the facts that you have. Your vet can advise you on how to handle the situation, and if your cat is exhibiting symptoms, the vet will most likely ask you to bring the cat in.

Your vet will be able to determine a plan, which will most likely include fluid therapy, to get your kitty back on track. With any case of poisoning, it’s best to let a professional handle it.

First-aid kits and supportive care

A first-aid kit is never a bad idea, however, do not attempt to administer first aid unless you have been instructed to do so by your vet. Obviously, if there is a piece of the plant stuck in your cat’s mouth, you should remove it.

Prognosis

Your cat’s chances of a complete recovery are good, however, any illness is stressful for both of you. Moving the plant out of reach or getting rid of it completely are considerable options.

The bottom line: should I keep my lucky bamboo plants if they are poisonous? Is there really a risk?

If there is any chance of your cat getting into your lucky bamboo plants, it is not worth the risk. Although your cat will most certainly recover from the toxin, the accompanying illness and the veterinary costs are stressful.

If you absolutely must have plants, make sure your cat cannot get at them and consider replacing them with plants that are safe for your feline friends.

Authors

  • Sue Murray

    Sue Murray owes her love of cats to two little domestic shorthairs named Scooter and Buttons who showed her that curtains are for climbing, litter is to scatter, nights are for running wildly through the house, and dogs are to hiss at. Sue has rescued or fostered more than 50 felines and enjoys writing about her experiences.

  • Dr Sara Ochoa, DVM

    Dr. Ochoa is a veterinarian for Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital in Whitehouse, Texas.