Many common garden plants have some toxic elements that could prove dangerous to your cat. The majority won’t cause much more than skin irritation or an upset stomach, and it’s very unlikely that cats will intentionally eat plants that are poisonous to them. However, some plants can make cats very ill, even if they haven’t eaten the plant. It’s therefore important to identify the worst culprits, so you can avoid growing them.
As with all fear of toxicity, if you suspect your cat has eaten part of a toxic plant then seek veterinary advice immediately.
With help from Cats Protection, we’ve created a list of the most toxic plants to cats. All of these are plants can be lethal to cats and cat owners would be well advised to avoid growing them.
Alison Richards, Cats Protection’s Central Veterinary Officer, says: “whatever you decide to plant in your garden, it’s important to look out for signs of poisoning, including increased thirst, confusion, drooling, difficulty breathing, fitting/seizures and vomiting. If you suspect your cat is poisoned, take your cat to a vet immediately and give the vet information about what your cat may have consumed.”
For a complete list of plants that have varying levels of toxicity to cats, see the Cats Protection factsheet.
Browse our list of plants that are toxic to cats, below.
All parts of lilies are toxic to cats if ingested, and consuming small amounts can result in severe poisoning and kidney failure, which can be fatal. Although it’s unlikely that your cat will eat lilies, there’s a risk that they may come into contact with the flower’s pollen by rubbing up against it and then licking their fur. Alison Richards says: “As a vet, I’d always advise people to avoid planting lilies in their gardens if there are cats around. The best way to prevent your cat from being poisoned is simply to not have lily plants in your home or garden or home.”
Chrysanthemums naturally contain the botanical insecticide pyrethrin. Although most cats would need to ingest large amounts of chrysanthemum in order to be affected, particularly sensitive cats may develop skin irritation just by rubbing up against them. Other symptoms include vomiting, diahorrea and a lack of appetite.
All parts of poppies can be harmful to cats if ingested. The amount of alkaloids or opioids can vary, depending on the species, but all have potential to harm your cat. Symptoms of poisoning include dilated pupils, difficulty walking, lack of appetite and coma.
Marigolds (Tagetes sp)
Marigolds (Tagetes species) may cause mild stomach upset. The sap from the plant can also cause skin irritation. Pot marigold, Calendula officinalis, is not toxic to cats.
Mistletoe poisoning is most likely to occur at Christmas, when you bring plants into the house. Symptoms of poisoning include drooling, upset stomach, difficulty walking, low blood pressure, seizures and even death.
Another plant likely to be brought into the house at Christmas, poinsettia can harm your cat. However symptoms are usually mild, and can include stomach upset, drooling, and skin and eye irritation.
Tips for making your garden cat-friendly
“Grow cat-friendly plants like catnip, mint, cat thyme and lavender to encourage them to nibble non-toxic plants in the garden. It’s also important to clear away clippings when gardening, as these may intrigue curious cats.”
Alison Richards, Cats Protection’s Central Veterinary Officer