Living With Animals: Poisonous Plants

By Hope Bidegainberry on May 10, 2019
White cat fight green snake in untidy dirty garden, danger.

From Sheila C.: “I received, as a present, an Amaryllis.  As an indoor cat owner, I always check on plants and I was pretty sure I was right.  Yes, there it was, number 3 on my list of poisonous plants to cats.” While eating or even just chewing on any plant may result in vomiting and gastrointestinal upset, there is indeed a list of plants known to have caused systemic problems for cats and dogs. You are wise, Sheila, to do your best to keep them away from pets – but you might find that challenging, and here’s why. Of the more than 1,000 pet-unfriendly plants identified, some are so common (houseplants and outdoor landscaping) that even someone with a black thumb is likely to recognize many.

African Violet, Aloe, Amaryllis (yep!), Asparagus Fern (among several types of Fern), Avocado, Azalea, Baby’s Breath, Bamboo, Begonia, Bird of Paradise, Calla and many other types of Lily, Carnation, Coleus, Daffodil, many varieties of Daisy, Deadly Nightshade (duh!), Dieffenbachia, Gardenia, Geranium, Gladiola, Hibiscus, Holly, Hyacinth, Hydrangea, Ivy, Jade, Jasmine, Lantana, Lavender, Marigold, Nasturtium, Oleander, Parsley, Peony, Petunia, Philodendron, Pothos, Prayer Plant, Rhododendron, Rubber Plant, Sago Palm, Snake Plant, Spider Plant, Sunflower, Tulip, Wandering Jew, Wisteria, Yew, Yucca, and Zinnia. A simple web search will add many, many more plants to the list.

The good news is that, while not unknown, actual poisoning of cats from plants is exceptionally rare and kudos to Sheila since the fact that her cats are indoor-only animals is best for the health and wellbeing of both the cats and local wildlife. It also makes such poison-plant-proofing a far more manageable task. But since even the most benign plant can prove problematic if chewed by our pets, you might consider some tactics if you have an animal who loves leaves. Aside from carefully considering where plants are placed, one trick to help train them away from the habit is to make plants unappealing. Try spraying plants with cayenne pepper very diluted in water, or roll underarm deodorant on the leaves. A mouthful of that is sometimes enough to dissuade pets from looking at your plants as a snack.

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