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Toxic & Other Risks: Cat Specific

Written by: PetPlace Staff

Pet owners know that cats often have a penchant for eating strange things. Many cats chew on paper and plastic. And as almost every cat lover knows, they are also quite fond of plants both inside and outside the home. Whether garden plants, plants in the wild, or flowers from the florist, plants can provide a tasty and tempting diversion for animals, one that can be at odds with your cat’s health.

Even though they are carnivores, cats like the texture of certain plants, especially those that have grass-like leaves or fine texture, such as baby’s breath, fine ferns and dried flowers. You can make great efforts to plant a cat-friendly garden, but flowers you bring in or plants your cat finds around the neighborhood can still be very dangerous. Poisonous plants are some of the many dangers that create, generally speaking, shorter lives for outdoor cats.

There are some strategies you can take to handle cats who eat plants. But if your cat has already ingested the plant, and you see symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, difficult breathing, abnormal urine, salivation, weakness or any other abnormal condition, call your veterinarian right away.

When you contact your vet, make sure you tell them as much information as you possibly can. For example, do you know what plant your cat ate? If you don’t know the name, take some of it with you for identification. Try to get a sense for how much they might have chewed or eaten and how long ago they ingested it.

This list of dangerous summer plants is by no means exhaustive, there are a number of other toxic plants, including those that we covered in our article on the danger of 20 common houseplants, but this covers the top offenders in gardens, landscaping and parks in most areas.

Aloe Vera
This well-known staple of the south is very toxic to cats. If you have an aloe vera plant in your garden, or keep some in your home, make sure to keep it out of reach for your pets. It can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea and even tremors.

Baby’s Breath
In addition to growing in people’s gardens, baby’s breath is a summertime staple because of its presence in wedding floral arrangements. Be careful with it on all fronts, as it causes vomiting and diarrhea in cats.

This popular garden and container plant is toxic to cats. It causes oral irritation that creates intense burning in th mouth, tongue and lips. It can also cause excessive drooling and create difficulty swallowing for your cat. Additionally, it can lead to vomiting.

Carnations can be found the world over in landscaping, parks and floral arrangements. They are not highly toxic for cats, but can cause mild gastrointestinal problems and mild allergic dermatitis in cats.

Castor Bean
The castor bean plant is quite popular in landscaping, but it’s a known poison to people, animals and insects. In cats, small doses of its poison can cause abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. This can also lead to loss of appetite, excessive thirst and drooling.

In severe cases, poisoned cats can have dehydration, tremors, seizures and it can even lead to coma and death. Call your vet if you find your cat eating this plant.

This popular plant is fun to spell and say, but it’s not kind to a cat’s digestive track. It’s unlikely to be deadly, but it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, dermatitis and ptyalism (hypersalivation).

Cyclamen is often seen in gardens and sitting on decks and patios in pots. They are quite toxic, with the highest concentration of toxins found in the roots. So if your cat is a digger, look out. In rare cases, ingested cyclamen has led to fatalities. In most cases, it creates gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting (which can be quite intense). These can lead to loss of appetite and severe dehydration.

Daffodils are ubiquitous in the spring, but they last into the summer and are very toxic to cats, particularly the bulbs. They create a list of issues for cats, including diarrhea, vomiting and salivation; and with a large amount of ingestion they can cause convulsions, low blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias.

Gladiolus look great in gardens and are popular in floral arrangements. They are not as much of a problem as other plants on this list because it is the bulb that is toxic to cats, but if your cat likes to dig in gardens, keep an eye out for it. If your cat finds it, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling and bouts of lethargy are likely.

Grass Seeds
Early in the year and in the late summer you see a lot of grass seeds around. They are not poisonous to cats, but they are great at getting stuck the the throats and ears of animals, causing discomfort or gagging.

Hostas are the friend of many home gardens with their ability to power through the seasons and beautifully take up space. For many, it’s a surprise to hear that they are toxic to cats. While their leaves don’t seem to be as enticing to pets as others on this list, if your cat ingests some, vomiting and diarrhea are likely.

In certain areas of the U.S., ivy seems to grow everywhere. Most cats don’t seem that interested in eating it, but its foliage is fairly toxic — even more so than its berries. Cats who eat it will suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and hypersalivation.

This is one of summer’s most dangerous cat killers. Even ingesting very small portions can cause kidney failure in cats. Keep your cat away however you can.

Milkweed is a beautiful plant and it is finding a bigger audience because of how it helps support monarch butterfly populations. Unfortunately, it’s quite toxic to cats. It creates a list of symptoms that you won’t want your cat to suffer through, including: vomiting, depression, weakness, diarrhea, seizures, difficulty breathing, rapid, weak pulse and dilated pupils.

In severe cases it can cause kidney or liver failure, respiratory paralysis and can even lead to a coma or death.

Morning Glory
Morning glory is the psychedelic of this list. It can cause hallucinations in cats, in addition to gastrointestinal issues, tremors and an overall feeling of disorientation and confusion.

This evergreen shrub contains the highly-toxic cardiac glycoside, which can cause: diarrhea (possibly bloody), sweating, loss of coordination, difficultly breathing, muscle tremors, and, in extreme cases, death from cardiac failure.

Pet-owners have been told for years to keep poinsettias away from their homes and gardens to protect pets. Surprisingly, they are not nearly as toxic as some others on this list. But they can still cause irritation to the mouth and stomach, as well as vomiting.

Rhodedendron (often known as Azalea)
This is an example of a plant that doesn’t get as much press as the poinsettia but is actually far more toxic to cats. Ingestion of just a few leaves can cause big problems for your cat or kitten, including excessive drooling, loss of appetite, diarrhea, colic, weakness and loss of coordination. In severe cases, it can cause leg paralysis and weak heart rate. If these symptoms occur and continue, there is a chance of death.

Sago Palm
The Sago palm, in pet terms, appears to be pretty tasty. This is bad news if you live in a temperate region where they are quite common. They are toxic to cats, especially the seeds. They cause vomiting, bloody/tar-like stool, jaundice, bruising and, in extreme cases, liver damage, liver failure and death.

Everybody loves the feeling of picking their own tomatoes out of their garden, and, in general, this plant is pretty safe for your cat. The ripened fruit is considered non-toxic, but the green parts do contain solanine, which ingested in large amounts, can result in poisoning. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness and even confusion.

Tulips are another plant found in nearly every bit of home and business landscaping. They are poisonous to cats, and the bulbs, in particular, have a high concentration of toxins. These toxins create a loss of appetite, drooling, convulsions and severe gastrointestinal irritation.

I hope this information keeps your cat safe from dangerous summer plants.

Six Common Summer Dangers
Written by: PetPlace Staff – Staff at PetPlace

Summer is in full swing across the U.S., and the heat has come with it. If you have an outdoor cat, you know she likes her independence and, other than some basic tick and flea prevention, you might think she’s OK on her own during the summer.

It is true that cats are pretty resilient, but summer provides dangers for all pets that she might not be prepared to handle. From heat stroke to poisons introduced by landscaping, there are new outdoor hazards all around her.

Here are six common summer dangers our veterinarians see. Know these exist to help you make a plan to keep your cat from getting sick this summer.

1. Heat stroke and dehydration

You know your cat is highly intelligent, and she is pretty good at keeping cool on her own, but she needs resources from you to protect herself on the hottest days.

While she can likely find her own shade, it’s best if you provide ample cool and covered areas near your home where she can find a breeze. Additionally, leave out plenty of water for her. Some cat owners will leave out two water dishes — one with water and the other with ice that will melt as the day goes on to provide cool water later in the day.

If possible, consider bringing your outdoor cat indoors during the hottest parts of the day (10 am – 4 pm). Keep an eye on the weather forecast to see spikes in heat. If you see your cat panting, make sure to bring her inside and, if it continues, consult your veterinarian.

One note for all pets in the summer: If you need to take them somewhere, do not leave them inside the car. A car’s temperature can reach 104 degrees in less than 15 minutes on a hot summer day. This is a formula for heat stroke.

2. Cars

This is obvious in all seasons, but in the summer there is more traffic and people tend to speed a bit more. We’ve covered this in the past, but in general outdoor cats have a shorter life expectancy than indoor cats. Car injuries are one of the leading reasons for this. You obviously cannot keep your cat safe all hours of the day, but try to give her safe shelter and play areas near the back of your home, away from traffic areas. Again, if you can bring her indoors, try to do so when the traffic near your home or apartment is highest.

3. Asphalt and Sidewalks (They get Hot!)

On hot days, it’s not uncommon to see the road steam. It’s likely you would never think to walk barefoot on such a hot surface, but your cat doesn’t really have a choice. Sure, as an outdoor cat she’s a little more accustomed to the rough surfaces than you are, but it can still be too hot for her. Remember that she is much closer to the ground than you are, meaning that she really feels heat radiating off surfaces.

She likely knows how to avoid the hottest surfaces, but again, if possible, help your cat by either bringing her indoors or providing an outdoor shelter area that will keep her cool. If there are paths to her food or water that require her to go over hot asphalt or concrete, try to give those areas some cover or shade to help protect her.

4. Fleas, Bees and Ticks

Warm summer weather means pests galore – and they are on the lookout for cats and dogs. Be prepared to manage summertime pet pests like fleas, ticks and even mosquitoes. In most cases, there are safe, effective ways to prevent or eradicate pest infestations that don’t involve dosing your pet with toxic chemicals. Always read the labels on any pest prevention tools you use to make sure they are pet safe.

Additionally, the buzzing of bees can seem quite attractive to your cat, which can get her stung. If there is a lot of swelling, call your veterinarian, who can suggest an office visit or prescribe an over-the-counter medicine. Watch how your cat responds to any swelling. She may scratch the stung area or pull at her fur. Bring your cat to the vet right away if you notice any abnormal behavior or swelling.

5. Cookouts and Parties

The warmer months are the time for block parties, picnics and family gatherings. Everyone loves a cookout, especially your pet, who can find all kinds of table scraps and, if she’s social, make lots of new friends. Some cats avoid parties and others love them!

Food that’s left out, fed or dropped at a cookout can be dangerous for cats. Staples of a BBQ, like onions and garlic, are dangerous for cats.

Even worse, some guests think it’s OK to give scraps to animals at a party. Talk to your guests about what your cat can have. Politely remind them if your pet has a special diet, is allergic to anything or if there are any foods on the table that could cause a health problem. You want to enjoy the party too, not worrying about a cat that’s vomiting.

6. Water

Domesticated cats, even outdoor ones, tend to avoid water. That doesn’t mean they can’t swim, but most of them are not accustomed to it. Still, summer pool parties or parties at the lake can attract your outdoor cat and, if they are mesmerized by the water or chasing something near the water, they may end up taking an unexpected dip. Keep an eye on them, as many will be able to swim, but may be shocked to be submerged in water.

If for some reason you have one of those rare cats that likes to swim, always rinse them off afterward. Chlorine in pools and bacteria in lakes can be harmful. Always offer them fresh drinking water when they’re done.