Cats love plants. Though they're strict carnivores, cats like to eat plants even though doing so can make them ill. The consequences can range from simple vomiting to liver failures, seizures and even death. And while most animal species learn to stay away from things that make them sick, cats will eat plants over and over with the same results.
A wide variety of plants are poisonous to cats. Some of the more dangerous are castor bean, foxglove, lily-of-the-valley, Japanese yew, oleander, azalea, rhododendron and hydrangea. One castor bean seed can kill, and mistletoe is deadly.
Flowers such as amaryllis, daffodils, iris, hyacinth and honeysuckle also are poisonous. Christmas trees, pine needles and even water from around the base of Christmas trees can produce oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, trembling and hind end weakness. Poinsettias aren't seriously poisonous, though they can cause gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting.
According to Patricia Talcott, a veterinarian and toxicologist at the University of Idaho, and Robert Poppenga, a veterinarian and toxicologist at the University of Pennsylvania, a plant family that causes serious problems – but is often left off lists of poisonous plants – is the lily family, including the Easter lily, tiger lily and star-gazer lily. "This is a major cause of acute kidney failure in the cat," Talcott says.
To Protect Your Cat
If Your Cat Eats a Bad Plant
In order to treat a plant-poisoning problem, it's important for you and your veterinarian to know specifically what plant your cat consumed. Since both common names and scientific names are used, make sure the identity is correct. If you're unsure, it might be good to go to a nursery or florist, or bring the plant to your veterinarian for identification.