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Prevention and management of plant poisoning in cats

In general, cats are fairly careful about what they eat and plant poisoning is quite rare. However, young, curious or bored cats may nibble on plants, and any cat can ingest pollen, plant needles or seeds when grooming. This article gives you an overview of plant poisoning in cats – for more information, download our infographic. And if you think your cat may have eaten something toxic, don’t hesitate to contact your local Healthy Pet Club practice immediately – if you wait for signs of poisoning to develop, it may be too late.

Indoor vs outdoor plants

Indoor plants are a greater risk than outdoor plants simply because, when cats are outside, they usually have more interesting things to do than eat unusual vegetation. Remember, too, that you cannot completely control the outdoor environment: even if you remove all toxic plants from your garden, this will not affect your cat’s risk when it leaves your property. Even taking this into account, however, the risk is higher indoors than outdoors.

Types of poisonous plants

Numerous plants are toxic – this includes outdoor plants, houseplants, and many of the flowers that are frequently used in bouquets (see list below). One of the most toxic is the lily – all parts of lilies are toxic – the stamens, pollen, flowers, bulbs and even the water in the vase. Lily pollen brushes off easily on cats’ coats, and they may be poisoned when they lick it off.

Signs of plant poisoning

If your cat has eaten a toxic plant it may show:

  • Irritation of the skin, gums or eyes
  • Twitching
  • Salivation/drooling
  • Confusion/incoordination
  • Vomiting
  • Fits/seizures
  • Diarrhoea
  • Collapse/coma
  • Increased thirst
  • Lethargy/depression
  • Sneezing or difficulty breathing
  • Poor appetite.

What to do

If you suspect that your cat may have eaten a poisonous plant, you must act quickly:

  • Prevent your cat (and other pets) from eating any more of the plant
  • Note the time the cat ate the plant and any symptoms
  • Contact your vet for advice immediately, even if your cat seems well
  • Take your vet’s advice; this may involve taking the cat, the plant (and/or the plant label) to the vet
    • If your cat vomits, a sample of the vomit may also be useful, particularly if it contains plant material

What not to do

  • Make your cat vomit.

Prevention

Prevention of plant poisoning centres around ensuring that your cat cannot access any toxic plants. This is particular important for indoor plants/flowers such as:

Cut flowers

  • Chrysanthemum
  • Cornflower
  • Delphinium
  • Iris
  • Ivy
  • Lily
  • Marigold
  • Peony
  • Poppy
  • Sweet pea

Greenery/foliage

  • Fern
  • Holly
  • Mistletoe

House plants

  • Dumb cane
  • Poinsettia
  • Rubber plant
  • Umbrella plant

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