Are Succulents Poisonous To Cats?

My cats will try just about anything once. I was reminded of that last Christmas when Mr. Pickles went to town on an heirloom ornament halfway up the tree. Not long after that Mr. pickles gave my blue echeveria a munch and that got me wondering; are succulents poisonous to cats?

There are a few succulents that are poisonous to cats, but most succulents are non-toxic for them to touch or ingest. Succulents known to be toxic to cats include Euphorbias, Kalanchoes, Jade Plants, Aloe, and Senecio species. Be sure to research your succulent types before giving your pet access.

cat beside cactus succulentHere are all the succulents that came up in my research known to be toxic to cats.

Succulents That Are Toxic For Cats

Euphorbias

Euphorbias contain a white sap on their leaves commonly called latex. This milky latex is known to irritate when it comes in contact with human and animal skin alike.

Euphorbias are also known to be in what’s called the spurge family. It’s derived from the French word which means literally “to purge.”

The family name was given for good reason. When the latex is ingested, it is known to irritate the mouth and stomach. Moderate ingestion is known to cause vomiting, and when it is eaten in excess, it can cause liver and kidney issues.

The latex is secreted from its leaves, but that doesn’t mean it’s stalk is safe to touch or ingest for Mr. Whiskers. Plants in the euphorbias family should be nowhere near where a cat can have contact with it. Better yet, keep them away from your dwelling altogether if your cat is the curious sort.

The ASPCA claims that individual members of this family such as the pencil cactus are overrated and toxicity, but I feel it’s better to be safe than sorry. Please feel free to read for yourself. They are an excellent resource. Their website can be found at ASPCA.org

For more information on plants and euphorbias family, check out our article on succulents that are poisonous to humans. There are several pictures to help you identify a plant of the Euphorbia family there.

Kalanchoes

Kalanchoe flowers
Kalanchoe flowers are beautiful to look at, but can make cats sick.

Plants in the Kalanchoe family are known to be brilliantly colored and contain dozens upon dozens of flowers.

The vast majority of instances of ingestion lead to mild stomach and intestinal irritation in cats. If enough of the plant is eaten, however, this can lead to some more severe symptoms.

On the milder side, your cat could experience some excessive drooling, diarrhea, or vomiting. On the more moderate side, your cat could show symptoms such as an abnormal heart rate, general weakness, dilated pupils, or cardiac arrhythmias.

Two of the more severe symptoms include tremors and seizures, although these are very infrequent. If your cat is predisposed to seizures, however, this is something to keep an eye on.

Plants in the kalanchoe family are known to carry a toxin that affects the heart. The toxic nature of this plant is due to the fact that it contains bufadienolides. Bufadienolides are a steroid in glycoside form. This chemical also exists in some members of the animal kingdom, namely venomous toads. They secrete the venom from their skin so that when predators try to eat it, they become poisoned.

Jade Plants

jade plant
The Jade plant is useful to humans, but poisonous to cats.

This one took me completely by surprise. Although why is plant can cause side effects if ingested in your cat, I wanted to mention it as several other people reported that their cat appeared “drunk” after eating a few leaves off of a jade plant.

Side effects your cat may experience after ingesting a few leaves of the jade plant can include vomiting, uncoordinated movements, upset stomach, and some people of even reported that their cat had tremors even though this is said to be very rare.

There are over 1400 different types of jade plants, so it’s important to know if you have one in your possession. Some are extremely rare and very expensive, so if you plan on getting a cat before you drop a few hundred dollars on a jade plant, you might want to rethink your investment.

Most are not expensive at all, especially crassula ovata. Many people recognize this as the actual original jade plant. A close relative is the portulacaria afra, and it looks very similar.

Aloe Vera & True Aloe

Aloe Plant
The aloe plant is useful to humans, but poisonous to cats.

Even though several kinds of aloe vera is used for human consumption, it’s not good for your Kitty at all.

When ingested, expect Kitty to become lethargic. If they eat quite a bit of it, get out the rag and spray, vomiting and diarrhea are probably not far behind.

This is a tough one because it’s one of the most common household succulents the world over. Not only is it beautiful and easy to maintain, it’s medicinal benefits for the skin are fantastic. My freckled self would never step outside in summer if I didn’t have aloe at my side.

The saponins and anthoraquinones found in the aloe vera are what do a kitties stomach wrong.

It’s important to note that it’s not only aloe vera that’s toxic to cats but true aloe is poisonous as well. Not only does it contain the same anthoraquinones as aloe vera, but it also contains anthracene and glycosides that will turn a cats stomach. These naturally occurring chemicals will also change the color of your cat’s urine red.

That can be one of the scariest parts of kitty ingesting this plant.

Red urine can signify a wide variety of ailments for our furry friends, so please don’t hesitate to take it to the vet if you spot this symptom. It’s important not to assume, but instead go ahead and get veterinary care as soon as you’re able.

Senecio rowleyanus

Senecio rowleyanus potted
Senecio rowleyanus potted. Also known as the string of pearls succulent.
By Forest and Kim Starr [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Senecio Rowleyanus, more commonly known as the string of pearls plant, has some very similar toxicity traits as the plants listed above.

It’s a mild irritant to the skin if touched, and if ingested, your cats could see symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion, drooling, and they could even appear to be intoxicated.

This lethargy will be seen as clumsiness, excessive laziness, and inability to focus their eyes on a fixed object and track it.

It’s too bad. This is one of my favorite succulents to look at.

It has small pod-like green leaves that look almost like grapes.

They really do look like a fruit, so please take care to have this plan around small children as well as your animals.

It looks great in a hanging planter, and it is a lush succulent vine, making it easy to care for and difficult to kill. It’s a tremendous hanging addition to your succulent garden, so long as care is taken to keep it out of reach if you have pets or small children around.

Succulent Cat Safety

Even though succulents may not be poison to your furry friend, some precautions should be taken to keep your Kitty as safe and healthy as possible.

  • Put your toxic plants up very, very high.
  • Put them in a hanging pot and remove any furniture from around them.
  • If you put them in a hanging pot, be sure to trim them before they get long enough to be reached by your frisky friend.
  • Call your veterinarian right away if you believe your cat has ingested any of the plants mentioned above. Please don’t sit by and wait for symptoms.  Call or take it into the vet as soon as you are able.
  • Find good alternatives that look similar, but are non-toxic to your favorite feline. Many great ones are listed below.

Safe Succulents For Kitty

Here are just a couple of our favorite safe succulents to have around your cat. Mind you, the vast majority of cacti are not at all poisonous to your cat. These are just a few notable ones that are super simple to care for and will bring out the best in your space.

  • Cushion Aloe
    • This is a tremendous outdoor succulent if you live in USDA climate zones 9 to 11, but perfect to grow indoors if you live in a climate with chillier or wetter winters. Native to South Africa, it develops an off-white color and like all other aloes, loves well-draining soil types.
  • Sedum morganianum – Burro’s Tail
    • The borough’s tail succulent has a very thick stem that produces plump oval-shaped leaves that are bluish green in color. This is an excellent alternative for the string of pearls plant.
  • Echeveria setosa – Mexican Firecracker
    • This short, beautiful succulent is excellent to grow indoors or out. It’s very tolerant, easy to propagate, and blooms gorgeous red flowers with yellow tips.
  • Wax Rosette – Mexican Snowball
    • This echeveria is native to Texas in Argentina grows excellent outdoors in the Southwest United States, but is simple to care for indoors and the rest of the continental US.
  • Hens and Chicks
    • Native to southern Europe and northern Africa, this hardy succulent adorns many outdoor and indoor succulent gardens throughout the world. They come in a wide variety of colors, many unique and eclectic to the variety.

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