Did you know there are a number of household plants that are poisonous to cats?
If you’re a burgeoning gardener, there are several precautions you absolutely must take in order to keep your pet safe, as ingesting certain plants can result in serious bodily harm.
What to avoid
These common houseplants are particularly toxic to felines:
Just one bite of a leaf could cause vomiting and lethargy. The symptoms can kick in within 12 hours, and if left untreated, could progress to kidney failure.
Calcium oxalate plants, including Chinese evergreens, dieffenbachia and philodendrons - These plants contain needle-like microscopic crystals that pierce cats’ gums and tongue, resulting in drooling and vomiting. Dairy products like milk and yoghurt help to ease symptoms and slow swelling.
Though these houseplants are extremely popular, cat owners are advised to avoid them. The fronds of a Dracaena plant can cause your pet to vomit violently, sometimes with blood. In addition, it could result in a loss of appetite and depression. Thankfully, these plants are usually not lethal. In most cases, symptoms dissipate within 12 to 24 hours’ time.
The foliage and seed pods of this plant are extremely toxic to cats, and even the tiniest amount can cause vomiting, diarrhea and seizures. If your cat consumes a bit of sago palm, take it to a veterinarian straight away, before liver failure occurs.
How to prevent poisoning
Start by removing potentially hazardous plants from your property, or at least placing them out of reach. Simply moving them outdoors isn’t enough, as your cat will still be able to access them. Elsewhere, your pet may come into contact with harmful plants, and unfortunately, protecting them wherever they go is impossible. Try to keep an eye out for potentially dangerous plants in your neighbours’ garden, as this knowledge can be used to cure your pet if poisoning is suspected.
Additionally, when pruning your garden, be sure to keep uprooted plants and hedge clippings away from your pets. Cats are naturally inquisitive and are always inclined to try new things- including things that are extremely bad for them, like bulbs, roots and some greenery.
What to do if your cat has been poisoned
If your cat is acting strange, drooling, having trouble breathing, vomiting, or having seizures, there’s a good chance your pet has been poisoned and should be taken to a vet immediately. Here’s what to do in this scenario:
Don’t panic. Have the presence of mind to remain calm - your pet needs you!
Take immediate action and call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Provide them with details of how and when the poisoning occurred, and if possible, tell them roughly how much of the toxin your cat has consumed.
Follow your vet’s advice to a tee. If you need to take your vet in for an emergency consultation, do so immediately, but remain calm.
With the exception of giving your cat a bit of milk to negate symptoms caused by calcium oxalate plants, do not attempt to treat the problem yourself. Leave it to a trained professional to medicate your pet, or you could end up making the problem worse.
Do not use salt water as an emetic. Stay calm and adhere to your vet’s instructions, no matter how bad things might seem.
As much as your cat may protest, thoroughly wash your pet’s skin and fur if it’s contaminated. Use mild shampoo and lukewarm water, making sure to rinse affected areas well. Pat them dry and your pet should start feeling a bit better in no time.
If you suspect your cat has consumed a toxic substance, a 24-hour hotline is available through the Veterinary Poisons Information Service. For poison advice call 020 7188 0200.
Before you find yourself in this dire situation, make sure your pet is insured - it’s the best way to prepare for emergency scenarios like poisoning and critical health problems.