Here's a little something to chew on...
I'll never forget the first time I sprayed my kitten, Hobbes, with water. It hurt me more than it hurt him…and I told him that, out of fear he would never ‘head-boep’ me the same way again.
As I aimed the spray bottle, I clearly explained to him why I was doing what I was about to do. I closed my eyes…and…kssht kssht kssht. Hobbes hightailed it out the room in a blur, leaving my Delicious Monster leaf dangling by a thread.
Why was my cat acting like my Monstera was cat nip when in fact it’s known to be slightly toxic to cats? Are animals not meant to be naturally deterred by things that are bad for them?
Like everything on the planet - bugs with poisonous bites, cats with sharp claws, chameleons with colour changing skin, plants too have found a way to defend themselves.
Now, there’s no need to toss out your poor Snake Plant, no one is hinting at a Stranger Things episode here, but what you do need to know is that on a certain level, some of your houseplants may be considered harmful to pets and small children…should they ingest a fair amount of the plant.
What are Calcium Oxalate crystals?
Indoor plants considered toxic contain insoluble crystals of Calcium Oxalate. It’s a biomineral found in plant tissue that helps the plant function. Sometimes the crystals are arranged in such a way to make the plant harmful to grazing animals. In this case crystals look like needles, and when the plant is damaged these needles embed themselves in the oral cavity.
If an animal or human swallow them the signs can often be seen immediately.
Symptoms include: Pawing at the face, drooling, vomiting, swelling of the lips and upper airway.
Now, although these symptoms can be serious, a LOT of these crystals would have to be ingested for it to be severe. Mostly the leaf munching culprit will just feel irritation, which explains why your pet will continue its aphid-like behaviour.
But, wanting to leave no garden pebble unturned, we grabbed coffee with our local vet to ensure we weren’t missing something. Was Hobbes a “special” cat munching to his demise? Or did he know something we didn’t?
Veterinarian, Jeanine Holt dishes the dirt:
"I wouldn’t say that we often get animals coming in because they’ve eaten houseplants, more often what’s dangerous to pets in the house is human medication or food, like xylitol toxicity, chocolate and marijuana.”
"Some common things that are known to be poisonous like avocados – we see pets eat them all the time and are fine, so it also depends on the animal. Clinical signs depend on what the toxin is but most commonly include vomiting and diarrhea, salivation, excessive tearing, swelling of the lips and mucosa when they’ve touched a plant and it’s burning them.”
Plants to keep out of reach
From Jeanine’s experience she advises that most plants with a white sap should be kept away from curious pets, including Euphorbias, Rubber Plants and the African Milk Tree, and of course Cycads.
Cats, dogs and small humans do occasionally chew things, but unless they are ingesting a large portion of your plant, it shouldn’t be a major concern besides owning a decent pooper scooper and pressure hose.
But if you have curious little humans or animals around that love putting things in their mouths, it’s best to keep the toxic plants out of reach.
When it comes to the balance of plant care & keeping your loved ones safe, we’ve got you covered and are thrilled to know that you care enough about both to have read this far down our blog!
Some plants that are 100 % safe for your pets & kids:
- Bamboo Palm
- Pilea peperomoides
- Staghorn Fern
- Bird’s Nest Fern
- Tillandsia air plant
- Hoya Carnossa
- Money Tree (Pachira)
- Lipstick Vines
- Blue Star Fern
- Maidenhair fern
- Boston Fern
- Goldfish Plant
- Old man’s beard
- Rhapis Excelsa (Lady Palm)
- Stromanthe triostar
Plants that may make your pets’ lips tingle:
- Aloe vera
- African Milk Tree
- ZZ Plant
- Snake Plant
- Delicious monster
- All Philodendrons
- All Ficus plants, including the Lyrata
- All Pothos plants
- Flamingo flower
- String of Pearls (and they look like peas!)
- String of Bananas
- All Begonias
- Asparagus fern
- Cycads!! Cycad cones are dangerous.