What plants can harm my outdoor cat?

Whether you have a cat that is outside all the time, or one who is allowed to come and go, the garden can be a hazard. Many plants that we look forward to seeing every spring and fall can cause major illnesses in our pets. While it’s best to avoid these plants all together, we are offering some tips to allow you to enjoy beautiful green spaces, while making sure your outdoor kitty stays safe.

Eight Common Plants Harmful to Cats

While PetMD offers a video catalog of plants that can make your kitty sick, we’ve highlighted more common ones below:

  • Azaleas. Shrubs with lovely flowers in colors such as white and pink.
  • Mums. Pom pom like flowers that can come in hundreds of variations.
  • Lily. With a somewhat exotic look, lilies range from white to a stunning gradient of colors.
  • Daffodils. Bright yellow varietals with a droopy flower that blooms in the spring.
  • English Ivy. Can be used as a green ground cover or creeping accent along a brick wall.
  • Hyacinth. Growing from a bulb, these distinct smelling plants have an elongated shape with an abundance of small flowers.
  • Tulip. Perky and with a perfect cup shape, tulips are a bright addition to a spring garden.
  • Marijuana. If you’re in a state where growing a few weed plants is legal, be aware that if your cat starts chewing on one, it can cause problems.

Signs and Symptoms of Toxicity in Cats

When a cat ingests one of the above, or any other plant that might be toxic, it’s possible to see any of the below symptoms. So, in any scenario, if your cat is exhibiting any of the following, it is time to call the vet.

  • Itching, sneezing
  • Swelling of the eyes or mouth
  • Difficulty breathing (urgent)
  • Diarrhea or significant change in bowel movements
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat that seems faster than normal
  • Abnormal tiredness

If Your Cat Eats A Plant

If you believe your cat has ingested a plant that cannot be identified as safe nor toxic, collect the plant, and call your veterinarian and/or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 immediately. 

If kitty is showing symptoms, follow the same protocol—gather the plant so it can be identified. This will speed up treatment, and assure the best decisions are made.

Activated charcoal may be used to absorb toxins, and fluids will likely be given via IV, while your fur baby recovers. It’s important to seek treatment immediately, as some plants can cause fatality.

Editor's Note: Technology has increased access to pet medical care faster and more efficient than ever—via virtual veterinarians and telemedicine for dogs and cats.

Safe Plants for Cats

Before we get into ways of keeping your cat away from the garden, you should know there are a wealth of beautiful plants which are safe for cats. The ASPCA has an extensive list of both toxic, and non-toxic plants for cats. Beautiful, wispy baby’s breath and clean, calming bamboo are just two, of hundreds. Consider creating a non-toxic, worry free outdoor garden.

Ways to Deter Cats from the Garden

While you may not want your poor feline to get wet or alarmed, remember that measures are put in place for their protection. Be mindful that some products are definitely not the most humane way to protect your cat. The below are reasonable solutions.

  • Invest in an ultrasonic cat deterring device that will sound if they come too close to harmful plants. This can also prevent more destructive fuzz balls from paying your oasis a visit.
  • Install motion detecting sprinklers.
  • Place a pain free scat mat around the border of the garden space—cats wont like stepping on the textured material. (Never use any unapproved material that would cause any kind of pain.)
  • Consider removing things from the space, that may tempt kitty, like the bird feeder.
  • Be sure your outdoor fluff balls have a nice, clean space to potty, so the temptation to wander the garden will be less.

Keep in mind: Dried plants may remain toxic for months. Veterinarian Dr. Lee recommends burning or burying plant material after you prune or remove the shrubs, and dig up and give away any lilies on your property.

When there is a problem, there is usually a solution! You can have your gorgeous garden, while keeping felines safe too. Use a common sense approach when it comes to keeping pets safe among all outside spaces.

Editor’s Note: From Amaryllis to Christmas Cactus, here are common holiday plants and the potential risk they pose to curious cats.


Karyn Wofford is a “Mom” to her fluffy, sweet dog Halli. She spends much of her time traveling and advocating for Type 1 diabetes—and Halli sometimes accompanies her on her adventures. You’ll find Karyn’s work on sites like Mother Earth Living, and in magazines such as Diabetes Forecast.

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