17 Flowers Poisonous to Cats (Spoiler: No Poinsettias)

By: Melissa Breyer & Austin Henderson  | 
white lilies
Members of the Lilium species are considered to be highly toxic to cats. Yulia Naumenko/Getty Images

It's possible that poinsettias get the bummest rap in the plant world. They have a reputation as deadly beauties, but is the ubiquitous holiday plant actually one of the flowers poisonous to cats?

About 70 percent of the population will answer yes, but in reality, ingestion of excessive poinsettia may produce only mild to moderate gastrointestinal tract irritation, which can include drooling and vomiting. These 17 other plants, however, would provide a major cause for concern.


If you think your cat has eaten part of a poisonous plant, promptly bring your cat to your veterinarian. If you can, take the plant with you for ease of identification. If you think that your animal is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA 24-hour emergency pet poison helpline directly at 1-888-426-4435.

The Myth of Poisonous Poinsettias

It all started back in the early 20th century when the two-year-old child of a U.S. Army officer was alleged to have died from consuming a poinsettia leaf, says Snopes.

As these things have a habit of doing, the toxic potential of poinsettia has become highly exaggerated, and many a concerned cat parent now treat poinsettias as persona non grata (or, as the case may be, poinsettia non grata) in their households.


Keeping this plant out of the reach of your pet to avoid stomach upset is still a good idea, but according to the ASPCA, you don't need to banish the poinsettia from your home for fear of a fatal exposure.

As for the other holiday fave? Mistletoe has the potential to cause cardiovascular problems (and not just from forced smooches); however, mistletoe ingestion usually only causes gastrointestinal upset. There are, however, plenty of other poisonous plants that should be avoided.


Why Do Cats Eat Toxic Plants?

Cats, known for their curiosity, often nibble on plants for several reasons. They may be attracted to the movement of leaves, the texture of the plant material, or even the scent. This natural behavior can unfortunately lead them to ingest poisonous plants.

Despite their instinctive caution about what they eat, cats might not distinguish toxic plants from nontoxic ones, especially when it comes to house plants or other plants they encounter indoors. Young kittens are particularly at risk due to their exploratory nature.


Some common indoor plants, like mother-in-law plant, sago palm and others, can be enticing to cats. Outdoor plants, such as tulips and daffodil bulbs, can also pose a risk if cats have access to gardens.

It’s crucial for cat owners to be aware of which plants are toxic to cats, such as those in the lily family, and ensure they are not accessible to their pets. Recognizing the signs of plant poisoning in cats, like difficulty breathing, liver failure or acute kidney failure, is essential for prompt treatment.


17 Plants and Flowers That Are Poisonous to Cats

Here's the ASPCA's list of the 17 most toxic plants to steer your kitty away from.

1. Lilies

Members of the Lilium species are considered highly toxic to cats. Many types of lily, such as tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Easter, Stargazer and the casa blanca, can cause kidney failure in cats. While the poisonous component has not yet been identified, it is clear that even with ingestions of very small amounts of the lily plant, severe kidney damage could result.


2. Marijuana

Ingestion of Cannabis sativa by companion animals can result in depression of the central nervous system and incoordination, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate, and even seizures and coma, even if they don't inhale.

3. Sago Palm

All parts of Cycas revoluta are poisonous, but the seeds or "nuts" contain the largest amount of toxin. The ingestion of just one or two seeds can result in very serious effects, which include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and liver failure.

4. Tulip/Narcissus Bulbs

The bulb portions of tulips and narcissus contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.

5. Azalea/Rhododendron

Members of the rhododendron family contain substances known as grayantoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.

6. Oleander

All parts of Nerium oleander are considered to be toxic, as they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects including gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia and even death.

7. Castor Bean

The poisonous principle in Ricinus communis is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. Severe cases of poisoning can result in dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma and death.

8. Cyclamen

Cyclamen species contain cyclamine, but the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the root portion of the plant. If consumed, Cyclamen can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.

9. Kalanchoe

This plant contains components that can produce gastrointestinal irritation, as well as those that are toxic to the heart, and can seriously affect cardiac rhythm and rate.

10. Yew

Contains a toxic component known as taxine, which causes central nervous system effects such as trembling, incoordination and difficulty breathing. It can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.

11. Amaryllis

These common garden plants are popular around the holidays and contain toxins that can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia and tremors.

12. Autumn Crocus

Ingestion of Colchicum autumnale by pets can result in oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, damage to multiple organs and bone marrow suppression.

13. Chrysanthemum

These popular blooms are part of the Compositae family, which contain pyrethrins that may produce gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea, if eaten. In certain cases depression and loss of coordination may also develop if enough of any part of the plant is consumed.

14. English Ivy

Also called branching ivy, glacier ivy, needlepoint ivy, sweetheart ivy and California ivy, Hedera helix contains triterpenoid saponins that, should pets ingest, can result in vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation and diarrhea.

15. Peace Lily (aka Mauna Loa Peace Lily)

Spathiphyllum contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.

16. Pothos

Pothos (both Scindapsus and Epipremnum) belongs to the Araceae family. If chewed or ingested, this popular household plant can cause significant mechanical irritation and swelling of the oral tissues and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

17. Schefflera

Schefflera and Brassaia actinophylla contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.


Plants Poisonous to Cats FAQ

Do cats eat poisonous plants?
Cats are generally quite careful about what they sniff and eat, so instances of poisoning are rare. However, younger kittens tend to be inquisitive and may be less wary of poisonous plants.
What happens when a cat eats a spider plant?
The spider plant is nontoxic for both cats and dogs, but they may temporarily have diarrhea or vomiting since they’ll have an upset stomach.
What happens if my cat eats my snake plant?
If your cat ingests a bit of a snake plant, they may experience a mild reaction. They may have diarrhea and vomiting but should recover within a day or two. If you see signs of drooling, lethargy or reduced appetite after that, contact your vet.
Which plants are poisonous to cats?
Common plants that are poisonous to cats include Spring bulbs, lilies, marijuana, sago palm, amaryllis, autumn Crocus, azaleas and castor bean. Make sure that you don't have these plants in your home.
Which flowers kill cats?
Lilies and their varieties including Asiatic lilies, Easter lilies, Japanese show lilies, rubrum lilies, stargazer lilies, red lilies, tiger lilies, Western lilies, wood lilies and daylilies are quite poisonous for cats.