Dangerous House Plants for Cats

House plants often add finishing touches to the rooms in a home. While plants and cats usually live together in harmony, some curious kitties are attracted to a plant's green foliage. Many common house plants are dangerous for cats to ingest. Cats showing symptoms of poisoning should be taken to the vet immediately.


Aloe plants (Aloe vera) are tropical, succulent perennials in the lily family (Liliaceae). Aloe plants contain toxins called saponins. Cats that have eaten aloe plants often show symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and depression. Aloe vera gel should never be used as a salve on cats.


Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are mildly toxic plants in the Euphorbiaceae family with showy red, yellow or pink flowers. Also called Christmas stars and Easter flowers, poinsettias have a thick, milky sap that irritates a cat's mouth, throat and stomach. Some cats start drooling, vomiting and acting lethargic after ingesting poinsettia plants. This plant is typically overrated as a toxic plant. Cats must ingest large amounts of poinsettia to show signs of mild toxicity. Treatment often includes preventing the cat from eating or drinking for several hours.


The daffodils (Narcissus), also called a jonquil and narcissus, is a spring-flowering plant in the Amaryllidaceae family with trumpet-shaped, yellow blooms. Daffodils contain toxic alkaloids that cause symptoms to appear within 15 minutes to 24 hours of ingestion. Initial symptoms typically include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. Large amounts might cause tremors, low blood pressure and convulsions. Bulbs are the most toxic part of daffodils, but cats can show signs of poisoning after eating the leaves or the flowers as well.


Various types of holly plants in the Ilex genus are toxic to cats. Dangerous plants include the American holly, Oregon holly, European holly, English holly and winterberry. The berries and leaves of these plants contain saponins that causes depression, diarrhea, vomiting and excess salivation.

Easter Lily

The Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum) is another member of the Liliaceae family dangerous to cats. Initial symptoms usually appear within 2 to 6 hours and include vomiting, loss of appetite and depression. Cats typically start having kidney problems within 2 to 3 days. Some cats suffer from kidney failure. Vets generally induce vomiting and begin intravenous (IV) fluid treatment to help flush out the cat's kidneys. Easter lily poisoning can be fatal if not treated immediately.


Hydrangea plants (Hydrangea arborescens) are shrubs that contain cyanogenic glycoside. This toxin causes cats to suffer from depression and gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea. More serious symptoms of hydrangea poisoning include congestion, decreased heart rate and seizures. Cats that ingest a large amount of hydrangea plants can die from respiratory failure.


Many plants in the Rhododendron species, including rhododendron plants and azaleas, contain a toxic substance called grayantoxin. Cats who ingest this toxin typically develop symptoms within 4 to 12 hours. Initial symptoms typically include vomiting, excess salivating, low blood pressure, diarrhea and muscle weakness. Rhododendron poisoning can also lead to heart dysfunction, coma and death. Even ingesting just a few leaves can cause a cat to develop serious symptoms.

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About this Author

Cat Carson has been a writer, editor and researcher for the past decade. She has professional experience in a variety of media, including the Internet, newspapers, newsletters and magazines. Her work has appeared on websites like eHow.com and GardenGuides.com, among others. Carson holds a master’s degrees in writing and cultural anthropology, and is currently working on her doctoral degree in psychology.