Is Monstera Toxic to Cats? Our Veterinarian Explains

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    • Family: Araceae
    • Botanical name: Monstera spp.
    • Common names: Swiss cheese plant, Cheese plant, Mother-in-law, Fruit salad plant, Ceriman, Hurricane plant, Mexican breadfruit
    • Toxicity: Toxic to cats
    • Toxic parts: All
    • Severity: Moderate
    • Toxic principle: Insoluble calcium oxalate crystals

    Is Monstera spp. toxic to cats?

    Monstera species are some of the trendiest houseplants and are highly desired. These plants are extensively featured on social media as well as in many home and garden magazines.  Unfortunately, Monstera spp. is toxic to cats, and the toxic principle is insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that penetrate the oral mucosa causing acute pain and burning. Calcium oxalate crystals are produced by specialized cells known as idioblasts and are arranged in bundles known as raphides. They act as a defensive mechanism against herbivory. When a cat chews on or ingests the plant, the crystals embed in the tissues, which results in pain, throat swelling and even breathing difficulties. But exactly how dangerous is Monstera for your cat, and how likely is your cat to chew on the plant? To find out, we interviewed our veterinarian lead at Cat World, Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, director of Kingsgate Animal Hospital in TX:

    Exactly how dangerous is it for my cat? (Toxicity rating)

    According to the University of California, the Monstera spp. plants are categorized as both class 3 and 4 toxicity levels. This system breaks down toxicity into four levels. Level 1 plants are the most toxic and may cause death. Level 2 plants may cause mild illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhea.

    • Level 3 plants contain oxalate plants, which have irritating crystals in their stems and leaves (which can result in mouth and throat irritation with “throat swelling, breathing difficulties, burning pain, and stomach upset.”)
    • level 4 plants are known to cause dermatitis if they encounter skin (which can result in skin rash and irritation)

    How much would a cat need to eat to experience serious issues? Is there a real risk this might happen?

    Most cats will stop chewing in response to the bitter taste and acute pain. Because of the pain experienced when a cat bites onto a Monstera leaf, it would be exceptionally rare for them to eat the plant. Also, cats will react to varying degrees to the calcium oxalate crystals. As always, if you have concerns, you should contact our veterinarian.

    Could my cat die if they eat a Monstera plant?

    It would be rare, but it is possible for a cat to die after eating a Monstera plant. Luckily, because the plants are very unpleasant to chew on, this is unlikely.

    What happens if a cat touches a Monstera plant but does NOT eat it?

    Though Monstera spp. are classified as level 4 plants, meaning they may cause dermatitis if touched, this is rare. Most cats are covered in fur, which protects their skin. Cats are unlikely to have any adverse effects from merely brushing against a Monstera plant. However, if the cat lies directly on a plant or if your cat is hairless, irritation may occur.

    What happens if my cat chews on Monstera? (clinical signs)

    Clinical signs relate to acute oropharyngeal pain from contact with needle-sharp calcium oxalate crystals, and include:

    • Oral pain and intense burning
    • Pawing at the mouth
    • Anorexia (loss of appetite)
    • Hypersalivation (drooling)
    • Soft tissue swelling
    • Vomiting
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Swelling of the mouth and throat
    • Difficulty breathing (rare)

    Although the response can look extreme to cat owners, symptoms are rarely life-threatening unless swelling develops, which can lead to breathing difficulty.

    What should I do if my cat eats Monstera?

    If you come home to find that your cat may have eaten a Monstera spp. plant, you should first ensure that the cat did not eat anything else that may have been toxic. Because the most common issue with cats nibbling on these plats is oral irritation and pain, you can try to give the cat a drink of water or offer them canned or moist food. These things will aid in flushing the mouth. Watch for signs of swelling or difficulty breathing. If you have any concerns, take your cat to the veterinarian immediately.

    Treatment for Monstera ingestion in cats

    Contact your veterinarian or pet poison helpline for advice. They may recommend a wait-and-see approach. If the cat is experiencing difficulty breathing, seek immediate veterinary attention.

    There is no specific antidote for Monstera spp. ingestion and symptoms typically resolve quickly. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms, but in more severe cases, it may include fluid therapy to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, pain-relieving medications, and managing the cat’s airway.

    Do I need a first-aid kit at home?

    Having a first aid kit available in your home is never a bad idea. However, there is nothing in a first aid kit that will be helpful in treating a cat that has ingested a toxic plant. It is essential that you seek veterinary care for your cat if they require treatment.

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

    The most concerning sign that signals that your pet must be seen immediately by a veterinarian is difficulty breathing. However, if the cat is experiencing difficulty swallowing, oral pain, or vomiting, they should also be taken to their veterinarian. Your cat’s doctor will be able to evaluate the severity of the situation and provide care such as intravenous fluids, anti-inflammatories, and airway support if necessary.

    Prognosis

    In most cases, the prognosis for a cat after being exposed to a Monstera plant is excellent. The oral pain and irritation from the plant are transient and typically resolve quickly. It is important to ensure that your cat is eating as cats are very prone to hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease) if they do not eat regularly.

    Should I keep Monstera plants if they are toxic? How do I keep them safely?

    If you are concerned about your cats interacting with a Monstera plant it is advisable to simply not have the plants in your house. It may also work to simply keep the plants in areas of your house that the cats do not access.

    How to stop your pets from chewing your Monstera?

    The easiest answer to this question is to simply not keep these plants in your house. You may also opt to keep them in an inaccessible area. There are suggestions from some advising the use of pepper or citrus sprays around the plants to deter cats; however, this is not foolproof.

    Prevention

    The only way to prevent Monstera toxicity is not to grow them in areas that cats can access. Some pet owners will find their cats pay no attention to the plants, but others, especially kittens, may be prone to chewing on them. There are plenty of cat-safe plants for animal lovers with green thumbs.

    The good news is that in most cases, signs are mild and usually limited to the oropharynx. However, plants such as lilies and sago palms can be life-threatening to cats and must be avoided altogether.

    What is Monstera spp.?

    Monstera spp. is a genus of 45 evergreen vines native to tropical regions of the Americas. Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) is the most well-known species and is popular as a houseplant. A healthy Monstera deliciosa plant is typically a beautiful, lush green color and has little holes between the plant leaves. This “holey” appearance is what gives the plant the nickname “Swiss Cheese plant.” This particular species has gained popularity all across the globe and may be found in many homes as a decorative plant.

    The size of Monstera spp. leaves can range from a few centimeters to 60 centimeters or more. Many Monstera leaves develop splits or holes (known as fenestrations) as the leaves increase in size.

    Popular Monstera species:

    • M. deliciosa – Swiss cheese plant
    • M. borsigiana – Monstera deliciosa ‘wrinkle’
    • M. variegata – Variegated monstera deliciosa
    • M. adansonii – Five holes plant
    • M. pinnatipartita -Monstera Pinnatipartita
    • M. dubia – Shingle plant
    • M. siltepecana – Silver monstera
    • M. obliqua – Swiss cheese vine
    Monstera adansonii
    Monstera adansonii (Julia Wilson)

    Cut-leaf philodendron, split-leaf philodendron and rhaphidophora tetrasperma are frequently referred to as “monstera” however, none of these plants belongs to the monstera genus, although the toxic principle is the same. All of these plants are toxic to cats due to the calcium oxalate crystals that the plants produce.

    Frequently asked questions

    Why are cats attracted to Monstera?

    • Many cats enjoy chewing on and even ingesting plants. Monstera spp. are not particularly attractive to cats over any other house plant, and due to the irritation experienced when a cat attempts to chew on the plant, most cats leave these plants alone.

    Are Monstera plants also toxic to humans?

    • Yes, these plants may cause the same issues in humans as they do in cats if chewed on or ingested.

    Are all Monstera toxic to cats?

    • Yes, unfortunately, all Monstera species are toxic to cats, dogs, and humans.

    Authors

    • 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

    • Dr Whittenburg, Hospital Director

      Dr. Jamie Whittenburg (DVM) is the director of Kingsgate Animal Hospital, a full service veterinary hospital in Lubbock, TX, and a medical director at Cat World. She graduated from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. Dr. Whittenburg then went on to pursue post-graduate training at Texas A&M University. She worked as an associate veterinarian in Fort Worth before the Hub City called her home. In Lubbock, Dr. Whittenburg continued her work as an associate veterinarian and in academia. On May 1st, 2013, she opened her own hospital, Kingsgate Animal Hospital, in her hometown of Lubbock, TX. She has a special interest in feline medicine and surgery.