Snake Plant (Sansevieria) is Toxic to Cats: What You Should Do

Is snake plant (Sansevieria) toxic to cats?

Snake plant (Scientific name: Dracaena trifasciata syn. Sansevieria trifasciata) is toxic to cats (Source: ASPCA Pet Poison Control center). The toxic properties are saponins which can cause gastrointestinal disturbances in cats.

According to toxicity levels compiled by the University of California’s College of Agriculture Sciences (Source), snake plant (Sansevieria) can result in:

1- minor illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhea (when ingested)
2- skin rash and irritation (on contact with skin)

Symptoms

Although your cat will not suffer severe illness from the sansevieria plant, their gastrointestinal tract will definitely pay the price.

Clinical signs associated with snake plant ingestion include nausea, drooling, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and in some cases swelling of the lips and tongue. Most cats will not ingest large amounts as the hard leaves and bitter taste make them unappealing to chew.

What happens if a cat touches a snake plant/sansevieria plant?

Brushing against a sansevieria plant could be harmless because your cat is protected by a thick fur coat. However, it also could cause issues for your cat if the skin comes in contact with the plan – including skin rash or irritation. Since all parts of the plant are poisonous, it would be best to either remove the plant or place is somewhere inaccessible to the cat. Should a cat use the plant as a scratching post, the toxins would be transferred to their toes and toenails.

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

Since the sansevieria plant leaves a burning sensation in the mouth, it’s doubtful your cat would take a second bite. However, even the first bite could make your cat ill so it’s best to not have the plant where your cat can reach it.

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

The major problems from ingesting a sansevieria plant are gastrointestinal upsets and dehydration. The more your cat eats, the worse this can get. Your best bet is to call your vet for advice if your cat is showing symptoms.

Would my cat need veterinary help if they ate a snake/sansevieria plant?

If your cat eats a sansevieria 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.

There is no antidote for ingesting this type of poison, and your vet will most likely treat the symptoms until your cat is feeling better.

First aid

Obviously, if there is a piece of the plant stuck in your cat’s mouth, you should remove it. Remove plant material from the oral cavity if it is safe to do so. If your cat is cooperative, you can attempt to flush their mouth out with water. Wear protective gloves to prevent being bitten.

Contact a veterinarian if the cat develops gastrointestinal symptoms or oral swelling.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for snake plant ingestion in cats. If the cat has prolonged vomiting and diarrhea, intravenous fluids may be administered to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Chances are good that your cat will make a full recovery and will need only minor support when they come home. Your most important job will be to get rid of the sansevieria plant!

The bottom line: should I keep my snake plants if I have a cat? Is there really a risk?

If there is any chance of your cat getting into your sansevieria plants, it is not worth the risk. Although your cat will most certainly recover from the toxin, the accompanying illness and the veterinary costs can be stressful. If you absolutely must have plants, check out those that are safe for your feline friends.

What is snake plant? 

  • Family: Asparagaceae
  • Scientific name: Dracaena trifasciata. syn. Sansevieria trifasciata
    Common names: St George’s sword, Snake plant, Snake tongue, Mother-in-laws tongue, Viper’s bowstring hemp, Bow string hemp, Jinn’s tongue, Devil’s tongue, Golden bird’s nest, Good luck plant
  • Toxic parts: All parts of the plant are toxic to cats
  • Toxicity: Mild
  • Toxic principle: Saponins

Also commonly known as mother-in-laws tongue, snake plant is a hardy evergreen perennial native to Africa. Its sword-like leaves have a distinctive striping pattern along the length and can grow up to three feet long.  Due to its ease of care and interesting foliage, it is popular houseplant, office plant and outdoor plant in warmer climates. Sansevieria is a hardy plant tolerates shade, drought, heat and most soil types.

Snake plant was known as Sansevieria trifasciata, however, it has been subsumed into an expanded Dracaena. There are over 60 cultivars of Sansevieria trifasciata, including:

  • Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Futura Robusta’
  • Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Black Gold’
  • Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Futura Superba’
  • Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Golden Hahnii’
  • Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Cylindrica’
  • Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Black Robusta’
  • Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Black Jack’

 

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

  • 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.