Is String of Pearls Toxic to Cats?

Is string of pearls toxic to cats?

String of pearls (Curio rowleyanus, previously Senecio rowleyanus) 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 pearls?

  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Botanical name: Curio rowleyanus (formerly known as Senecio rowleyanus)
  • Common names: String of Pearls, String of Beads, Rosary Vine
  • Toxicity: Toxic to cats
  • Toxic parts: All parts
  • Severity: Moderate
  • Toxic principle: Pyrrolizidine alkaloids and irritant sap

Named after the British botanist Gordon Douglas Rowley, string of pearls is a succulent vine native to southwest Africa. The string of pearls has become popular as an ornamental houseplant due to its interesting pearl-shaped leaves and cinnamon scented flowers.  A healthy string-of-pearls can grow up to 3 feet long.

String of pearls flower (Julia Wilson)

Related plants: 

  • Curio radicans, formerly Senecio radicans – String of bananas, String of beans
  • Curio peregrinus, formerly Senecio peregrinus – String of dolphins
  • Curio herreianus, formerly Senecio herreianus – String of watermelons, String of beads, String of raindrops
  • Curio citriformis, formerly Senecio citriformis – String of tears
Curio citriformis – String of tears (Julia Wilson)
Curio radicans – String of bananas (Julia Wilson)
Curio peregrinus – String of dolphins (Julia Wilson)

Toxicity

Despite its name change, Curio spp. remains toxic to cats. Hopefully, this information will be updated by the necessary resources. The ASPCA lists Senecio spp., as toxic to cats. Meanwhile, 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.

Prevention

Unless the cat is ingesting large volumes of string of pearls and over a prolonged period, the risk of liver toxicity is extremely low. However, some cats will be attracted to non-food objects, including toxic plants and it is recommended that in this situation, the plant be removed from the house or placed in a room the cat can’t access.

Due to the cascading nature of string of pearls, these plants are usually grown in a hanging pot, which can make it more difficult for cats to nibble on the plant.

There are many cat-safe plants the green thumb can grow in the home.

Cat-safe succulents

There are plenty of non-toxic succulents for plant lovers who share a home with cats.

  • Sedum – Burro’s Tail, Horse’s Tail, Lamb’s Tail, Jelly Bean Plant
  • Beaucarnea – Elephant’s Foot, Ponytail Palm
  • Haworthia – Zebra Plant, Fairy Washboard, Star Cactus, White Ghost, Grey Ghost, Lime Green
  • Sempervivum – Live Forever, Hen and Chicks, Houseleek
  • Aeonium – Black Rose, Blushing Beauty, Sunburst, Zwartkop, Tree Houseleek, Aeonium black rose, Irish rose, Tree houseleek, Desert pinwheel rose
  • Echeveria – Mexican Firecracker, Afterglow, Glaucous Echeveria, Mexican Hens, Topsy Turvy, Black Prince, Moulded Wax Agave, Blue Echeveria, Painted Lady, Copper Rose, Wax Rosette, Plush Plant, Mexican Rosette, Mexican Snowball

Related: Succulents toxic to cats     Succulents non-toxic to cats