Which House Plants Are Poisonous to Cats?

Cats are curious creatures that don't think twice about chowing down on indoor foliage. In most cases, this doesn't present a problem, but there are a number of indoor house plants that are poisonous to cats. If you suspect your cat has ingested a poisonous house plant, consider the situation an emergency and speak to a licensed veterinary medical professional immediately.

Cardboard Palm

The cardboard palm, also known as the zamia plant and known scientifically as Zamia furfuracea, is a tropical houseplant that is considered extremely poisonous to cats. Native to Mexico, this plant is not a true palm tree, though its appearance might suggest otherwise. The cardboard palm contains the toxic principle cycasin. A type of glycoside, cycasin causes vomiting, tarry or black stools, jaundice, excess water intake, and liver and kidney damage. The drug causes the rapid onset of fatal dehydration. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states that the cardboard palm also causes a lack of clotting and hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, a condition marked by the sudden onset of violent vomiting and diarrhea marked with blood. There is no known cure for the toxin contained in the cardboard palm. The cardboard palm grows 3 to 4 feet tall and has thick leaves that feel like cardboard to the touch and no notable flowers. The plant is short and stout, shooting out from a central stem to form a clump or rosette.

Dieffenbachia

The Dieffenbachia plant, Dieffenbachia amoena, is a tropical houseplant that is toxic to cats, according to the ASPCA poison control center. Known also as giant dumb cane or exotica perfection, Dieffenbachia sap contains calcium oxalate crystals that cats' systems can't process. These sharp crystals damage cats' digestive and nervous systems. Dieffenbachia also contains proteolytic enzymes, or substances that break down protein within the body. Ingestion of Dieffenbachia by felines results in a burning, itching or irritated sensation of the mouth, tongue and lips. Cats that ingest Dieffenbachia experience excessive salivation, nausea, vomiting, trouble swallowing, facial swelling, paralysis and death, according to the "Handbook of Poisoning in Dogs and Cats." The plant can grow up to 5 feet tall and has dark green and white variegated leaves. The leaves are broad and shaped like irregular ovals, falling from thin stems that shoot from a central spot.

Florida Beauty

The Florida Beauty plant, also known as the gold dust or spotted dracaena, is known scientifically as Dracaena surculosa. Florida beauty is toxic to felines, according to the ASPCA Poison Control Center website. The plant contains an unknown toxic principle. When ingested by cats, the plant causes dilated pupils and a dramatically increased heart rate. In addition to this, dracaena causes abdominal pain and excessive salivation. If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to dehydration, seizure and death, according to the "Handbook of Poisoning in Dogs and Cats." Growing 2 to 3 feet high, the Florida Beauty plant has long, thin leaves mottled with shades of green and yellow. Tiny clusters of white fragrant flowers appear within the oval-shaped leaves.

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About this Author

Elizabeth Tumbarello is an eclectic writer from Ohio. Tumbarello has ghostwritten for a number of years, and has just started to publish her own work. She is an avid animal lover who volunteers with her local Humane Society and is currently pursuing her associate's degree in veterinary technology.