Are Philodendron Plants Toxic to Cats [Symptoms & How to Treat]

Gardeners who own a cat may wonder at some point if their plant choices are safe for their feline friend. After all, cats are known for chewing on plants and getting into all sorts of mischief. So, are philodendron plants toxic to cats?

Philodendron plants are toxic to cats if ingested or the sap gets into their eyes. The plants contain insoluble calcium oxalates (also known as raphides) in their stems, leaves, and roots. If your cat eats the plant, it can cause painful irritation to its mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach.

In this article, I’ll discuss the dangers of philodendron plants for cats, what to do if your cat ingests a poisonous plant, and some alternative plants that thrive in indoor environments and offer the same benefits without the risk.

Toxicity of Philodendron Plants to Cats

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists philodendrons as toxic to dogs and cats. And as I mentioned, these plants contain insoluble calcium oxalates, the sharp crystals in the plant’s stems, leaves, and roots.

Philodendron plants produce raphides as a defense mechanism against herbivores. If ingested, the sharp crystals cause cuts, scrapes, and severe irritation on their way down your cat’s throat.

The distribution of raphides in the plant is not uniform; some parts of the plant are more dangerous than others. For example, the leaves generally contain higher raphides than the stem.

The parenchyma cells of the leaf are especially rich in insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. These cells are located just below the leaf’s surface and are filled with a clear, colorless liquid.

Chewing or biting into the leaf will cause these cells to rupture and release the raphides, which are found in different concentrations depending on the species of philodendron.

There are more than 400 species of philodendron that vary widely in their toxicity. Some are more toxic than others because they contain higher concentrations of insoluble calcium oxalates. For example, the Philodendron erubescens, the red-leaf philodendron, is considered one of the most poisonous species.

The Philodendron domesticum, or heartleaf philodendron, is another example of a plant with high concentrations of insoluble calcium oxalates. You will commonly find this plant in households as a decorative houseplant.

As the philodendron plant grows, the concentration of raphides increases. Older, more mature plants are more dangerous than younger ones.

The severity of the symptoms depends on the amount of plant material ingested and the animal’s size. Smaller animals are more susceptible to the effects of raphides because they have a smaller esophagus.

Symptoms of Philodendron Toxicity in Cats

The symptoms of philodendron toxicity in cats can vary depending on the amount of plant material eaten and the severity of the toxicity.

If you think your cat may have ingested philodendron, look out for these symptoms:

  • Vomiting (with or without blood).
  • Diarrhea (with or without blood).
  • Signs of kidney failure ((increased thirst).
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Tremors.
  • Weakness.
  • Labored breathing.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Muscle twitching.
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Pawing at the mouth.

These symptoms can last several days, and philodendron toxicity can be fatal if left untreated. Read on to learn more about treating and preventing this dangerous condition.

How To Treat Philodendron Toxicity in Cats

If your cat is showing any of the above symptoms after coming into contact with philodendron, you can do a few things to help them feel better.

Try to remove any remaining philodendrons from their mouth and thoroughly rinse out their mouth with water.

Give them small amounts of chicken broth or tuna water to help ease any stomach discomfort. Water or milk may also help to dilute the toxins in their system.

Do not try to make your cat vomit because this could cause more irritation to its stomach and throat.

If the symptoms are severe, take your cat to the vet immediately. The vet will be able to provide treatment, which may include decontamination and aggressive supportive care.

The vet may administer an oral antihistamine to reduce any swelling or itching caused by philodendron toxicity.

There is no specific antidote for philodendron poisoning in cats, so the treatment plan aims to support the cat’s vital signs and help the kidneys and liver flush out the toxin.

Are Other Types of Plants As Toxic to Cats As Philodendrons?

Other types of plants are as toxic to cats as philodendrons, so identifying them is essential. These plants include:

  • Pothos.
  • Arrowhead.
  • Caladium.
  • Dieffenbachia.
  • Monstera.
  • Epipremnum.
  • Syngonium.
  • Albizia.

These plants can be just as toxic to cats if ingested. If you have any of these plants in your home, keep them out of reach of your cat.

And if you’re unsure whether a plant is poisonous, it’s always best to do your research before bringing it into your home.

Tips To Keep Your Cat Safe From Toxic Plants

Cats are curious creatures, and they love to explore. This tendency towards adventure means they risk coming into contact with toxic plants.

Here are a few tips to help keep your cat safe:

  • Keep all plants out of reach of your cat, including houseplants, potted plants, and cut flowers.
  • Spray all plants with a bitter-tasting deterrent like cayenne pepper spray or lemon water.
  • If you’re unsure whether a plant is poisonous, it’s always best to do your research before bringing it into your home.
  • Be extra cautious if you have a kitten because they’re more likely to put everything in their mouth.
  • Call the vet immediately if you think your cat has ingested a poisonous plant.

These tips will help to keep your cat safe from toxic plants. By being vigilant and taking some simple precautions, you can help to ensure that your cat has a happy and healthy life.

Alternative Non-Toxic Plants for Cat Owners

While there are many toxic plants in the US, there are also plenty of safe ones that your cat can enjoy.

Some of these plants include:

Boston Ferns

Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) are one of the best houseplants and are safe for cats. These hardy plants can tolerate low light and neglect, making them ideal for busy pet parents.

Boston ferns are known to help purify the air, so they’re an excellent choice for homes with multiple pets.

These plants thrive in moist, humid environments. They are native to Florida and commonly found in other parts of the southeastern US.

Catnip

Catnip is a well-known plant for its effects on cats. Most cats love the taste of catnip and will chew on the leaves or roll around in it. It is known to relieve stress and anxiety in cats and can even help to ease an upset stomach.

In North Carolina, catnip grows wild and is also cultivated commercially for use in cat toys and products. Nepetalactone, the main active ingredient in catnip, is what attracts cats to the plant. This substance is similar to the feline pheromone, which is why manufacturers of cat toys often use the plant to make their products more appealing to cats.

Valerian

Valerian is another plant that’s popular with cats. It has a strong, distinct smell that some people find off-putting, but most cats love it. This plant can help calm and relax your cat, making it the perfect choice for a cat prone to stress or anxiety.

Chamomile

People often use the chamomile plant in herbal teas. It has a sweet, floral smell that’s appealing to many cats.

The chamomile plant is known for its calming properties, so it’s a good choice for anxious or stressed cats. It is also known to help with digestive issues and can be helpful for cats suffering from stomach problems.

Lavender

Lavender is a plant that’s known for its relaxing scent. It’s often used in aromatherapy to help people relax and de-stress. Cats love the smell of lavender, which can help calm them down if they’re anxious or stressed and your home will smell sweeter for the exercise!

Spider Plant

Spider plants are non-toxic and sometimes irresistible to your feline companions. Rochester Cat Vet claims that when your kitty nibbles this plant, they may experience a mild hallucinogenic ‘high,’ which explains why they are so fascinated with this plant. Spider plants are also great for purifying the air in your home.

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Other Safe Plants for Cats

Peperomias are known for their trailing habits and beautiful, variegated leaves. They’re non-toxic to cats and make a great addition to any home.

Fortunately, many other plants are safe for your cat, including:

  • Orchids
  • Impatiens
  • Bromeliads
  • Christmas cactus
  • Begonias.

Adding some of these plants to your home can create a safe and inviting space for your feline friend.

When you doubt a plant’s safety, check this ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants for cats to see if it’s safe for your cat.

Conclusion

Philodendron plants are toxic to cats and can cause serious health problems if ingested. Most cat owners are unaware of these plants’ dangers to their furry friends. It’s essential to be aware of the dangers of these plants and take steps to keep them out of reach of your cat.

While there are many poisonous plants, there are also plenty of safe ones that your cat can enjoy. Adding some of these plants to your home can create a healthy and inviting space for you and your cat.

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