9 Common Houseplants Every Cat Owner Should Avoid
They may be pretty…but they’re also pretty toxic to our furry friends.
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Cat owners: Beware
Plants can bring a room to life, and that’s likely what you’re thinking about when you buy them. But if you’re a pet parent, there’s something else you absolutely need to consider: A lot of plants are incredibly toxic to cats. In minor cases, a toxic plant can cause gastro upset or skin irritation, but in serious cases, it can lead to organ failure, seizures, or even death.
Cats nibble on plants to get extra nutrients and fiber, just like humans do, but unfortunately, they don’t always know the difference between bad plants and good plants. For that reason, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your feline doesn’t have access to potentially dangerous plants. With expert help, we’ve outlined some of the most common houseplants every cat owner should avoid—and provided some suggestions for the perfect non-toxic replacement. While you’re at it, make sure you also know the foods you should never feed your pet.
The plant: Lily
This indoor plant may be beautiful, but it is highly toxic—even life-threatening—to cats, says Shelly Zacharias, DVM, a veterinarian and the vice president of medical affairs at Gallant. It contains oxalate crystals, which can ultimately cause kidney failure.
What to do: If you suspect that your cat has eaten or chewed on a lily, head to a veterinary hospital—immediately. “At the hospital, your cat will be made to vomit using appropriate drugs, be given activated charcoal, and placed on aggressive intravenous fluid therapy for one to three days minimum,” says Dr. Zacharias. “Lab work, including blood and urine, will be checked at various time points over a span of several days. Depending on these results, the veterinarian will discuss a monitoring plan for kidney function or long-term therapy, if needed, from kidney damage.”
Swap it: In lieu of lilies, opt for a beautiful white orchid. They’re non-toxic to pets, gorgeous, and easy to take care of. Amazon delivers fresh orchids to your door via its partnership with DecoBlooms. Here are more household items that are seriously hazardous to your pets.
The plant: Alocasia (Elephant’s ear)
Leafy and exotic looking, it’s no wonder that the alocasia is one of America’s most popular houseplants. Unfortunately, it’s a no-go if you have a cat because, like lilies, it contains insoluble calcium oxalates that cause kidney failure, notes the ASPCA.
What to do: Seek immediate veterinary assistance if your cat has chewed on or consumed alocasia. The protocol we outlined above also applies here.
Swap it: The calathea medallion offers the same tropical vibes and rich green foliage that the alocasia does, but it’s completely safe for your kitty. It is also a low-maintenance plant that even those without a green thumb can keep healthy. Bloomscape sells this plant and even offers real-time assistance for how to keep it looking vibrant and healthy. Also, be aware of these other dangerous mistakes cat owners should never make.
The plant: Jade
Consuming this plant will cause vomiting, neurological symptoms such as incoordination, and sometimes even depression, says Dr. Zacharias.
What to do: “Immediately go to a veterinary center. Treatment will consist of vomiting only if the patient is not neurologically impaired (i.e., if not acting “drunk” or uncoordinated), activated charcoal, intravenous fluids to help support the patient and flush the toxin more rapidly from the body, monitoring, and symptomatic support.”
Swap it: Though not quite as broad and leafy, the haworthia retusa (a succulent) offers the same thick and juicy leaf structure as jade. You can nab one at your local Walmart.
The plant: Aloe vera
Though aloe vera is often a household staple—especially in the kitchen, where its healing powers can be employed at the ready—it’s toxic to cats. The gel itself is actually considered edible when extracted, but the thick plant material that surrounds the gel can cause gastro upset (including vomiting), lethargy, and diarrhea, says the ASCPA.
What to do: Though not quite as toxic as some other plants, it’s still best to keep aloe out of reach. Call your veterinarian or a hotline if you suspect your cat has consumed aloe, and you’ll be given instructions based on how much was ingested and whether your cat is displaying symptoms. In mild cases, you may be asked to wait it out or administer Pepto Bismol, but severe diarrhea can be life-threatening and may require a veterinarian’s assistance.
Swap it: The haworthia zebra succulent is technically smaller, but it offers nearly the same aesthetic as an aloe plant. You can buy them in varying sizes and colors—Home Depot sells a three-pack with different varieties—and because they’re also succulents, they’re just as easy to care for.
The plant: Devil’s ivy
This plant goes by a few different names, including pothos, golden pothos, and taro vine. Dr. Zacharias says, “It contains insoluble calcium oxalates that cause mouth, throat, tongue, and lip irritation, [as well as] intense burning, excessive drooling (hypersalivation), vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.”
What to do: Call your vet right away, as prognosis improves with immediate veterinary care. Don’t induce vomiting yourself, but if your cat’s eyes are affected, flush them with water. And if the skin is affected, bathe your cat. “Treatment includes an anti-emetic to prevent vomiting, respiratory support if needed due to pain or irritation of the throat, [plus] monitoring and pain control. A calcium-containing dairy-based product such as milk, yogurt, ice cream, etc., can also be used to help bind the calcium oxalate crystals in the mouth and throat,” says Dr. Zacharias. Find out the things you do that your cat actually hates.
Swap it: The Chinese money plant of the Pilea genus family is considered non-toxic to cats and offers the same drooping aesthetic as ivy.
The plant: Snake plant
The snake plant, scientifically referred to as Sansevieria trifasciata, is a wildly popular indoor plant because it is super easy to care for. However, it’s toxic to cats, warns the ASCPA. Snake plants contain chemical compounds called saponins, which result in feline nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if consumed or chewed on.
What to do: Like aloe, snake plant is milder in toxicity to cats. If you suspect your cat has chewed on or eaten a snake plant and they’re exhibiting symptoms, call your veterinarian or a hotline immediately. You’ll be given instructions based on the severity of the symptoms. These are 14 cat health symptoms you should never ignore.
Swap it: The caeroba is a non-toxic plant that very closely resembles a snake plant. In fact, it’s sometimes called a “rattlesnake plant.” It’s less thick and more billowy versus staunch and upright, but it offers that same beautiful winding appearance.
The plant: Rose moss
This colorful flowering plant is also referred to as moss rose, rock moss, or purslane. Despite its beauty, it is toxic to cats and should be avoided. It can result in tremors, kidney failure, and hypersalivation.
What to do: Dr. Zacharias says immediate emergency treatment needed. “Treatment will include inducing vomiting, gastrointestinal decontamination with activated charcoal, intravenous fluid therapy often for one to three days minimum, monitoring, and any supportive treatment needed for kidney impairment or neurological signs such as tremors,” she says.
Swap it: If you’re craving a colorful plant, try the African Daisy instead. You might also know it as the Gerber Daisy or Barberton Daisy, which you can get potted or non-potted. Don’t miss these common “facts” about cats that are actually false.
The plant: Chrysanthemum
Often simply abbreviated to “mums,” this is another colorful flowering plant that’s off-limits to cats because of its toxicity. Dr. Zacharias says consumption can result in vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, incoordination, and dermatitis (a skin reaction).
What to do: “Immediate veterinary treatment is needed,” says Dr. Zacharias. “Treatment will include induction of vomiting only if the patient is not neurologically impaired (i.e., not acting excessively tired, uncoordinated, or “drunk”), controlling clinical signs with anti-emetics and anti-diarrhea medication, bathing if the skin is affected, and possibly intravenous supportive fluid therapy.”
Swap it: With their colorful flowers and rich foliage, African violets make a great, non-toxic alternative to mums. They are also inexpensive and easy to care for. By the way, this is what your favorite flower says about your personality.
The plant: Tulip
The tulip is commonly found in floral arrangements in springtime. Dr. Zacharias tells us that the bulb has the highest concentration of toxins, but the entire plant itself is actually toxic to cats. Reactions include vomiting, depression, diarrhea, and hypersalivation.
What to do: Consult your vet right away in order to control clinical signs and help prevent dehydration. “Treatment at a minimum will consist of an anti-emetic, anti-diarrhea medication, subcutaneous or intravenous fluid therapy, and any necessary supportive care,” says Dr. Zacharias. Learn the secrets your cat’s tail is trying to tell you.
Swap it: Instead of tulips, opt for another springtime favorite—peonies. This fluffy floral, technically known as camellia japonica, comes in many colors and offers that burst of pastel beauty we often crave once temperatures begin to rise.
General advice for what to do if your cat chews or eats a toxic plant
If you suspect that your cat has chewed on or ingested a potentially toxic plant in your home or garden, Dr. Zacharias recommends taking a picture of the plant and immediately heading to your veterinarian. It does not matter the quantity they consumed—it is better to be safe.
She adds, “Often, the ASPCA poison control hotline can be called en route to the hospital or once the cat has arrived. How quickly treatment is started often makes a significant difference in the patient’s health and outcome.” Also, note that the plant does not have to be eaten in order to be poisonous. Simply chewing on the plant can be toxic. And you shouldn’t attempt to induce vomiting in a cat by giving hydrogen peroxide or any other over-the-counter emetics such as ipecac, no matter what you’ve read on the Internet; a veterinarian’s expertise is needed here.
Also note that cats are very skilled at hiding their symptoms (it’s a defense mechanism), so call your vet or the ASPCA hotline if you suspect that your cat has eaten one of these poisonous plants even if they aren’t acting overtly sick. Still, symptoms such as diarrhea, lethargy, and vomiting are all difficult to hide, so be on the lookout for those signs, specifically.