Is String of Dolphins (Curio peregrinus) Toxic to Cats?

Last Updated on November 17, 2021 by Julia Wilson

Is string of dolphins (Curio peregrinus) toxic to cats?

String of dolphins (Curio peregrinus, previously Senecio peregrinus ) is toxic to cats. The toxic principles are irritant sap and pyrrolizidine alkaloids which inhibit cell division primarily in the liver which can ultimately lead to liver failure if large quantities are consumed.

What is string of dolphins?

  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Botanical name: Curio peregrinus, formerly Senecio peregrinus
  • Common names: String of dolphins
  • Plant type: Succulent
  • Toxicity: Toxic to cats
  • Toxic parts: All
  • Severity: Moderate
  • Toxic principle: Pyrrolizidine alkaloids and irritant sap

String of dolphins is a flowering succulent vine native to southwest Africa. Curio species have become popular as ornamental houseplants due to their interesting dolphin-shaped leaves and cinnamon scented flowers. The most well known of the Curio species is the string of pearls, which shares the same toxic properties as string of dolphins.

Toxicity

The ASPCA lists Senecio spp., as toxic to cats and the University of California classifies the toxicity class of Senecio 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

Cats are unlikely to consume a large enough volume to develop clinical signs associated with liver failure. However, cats who are exposed to the irritant sap may develop localised mild skin irritation or rash and ingestion can lead to droolingvomiting and diarrhea.

Treatment

There is no antidote to string of pearls toxicity and treatment is aimed at managing clinical signs. Most cases are mild and self-limiting.

If the skin has been exposed, bathe the cat in a mild dishwashing detergent such as Dawn, Morning Fresh or Fairy Liquid. Rinse well and keep the cat warm until he or she is dry.

Prevention

Due to the cascading nature of Curio spp., these plants are usually grown in a hanging pot, which are more difficult for the cat to reach. If you are still concerned, there are many cat-safe plants the green thumb can grow in the home.