Are Calathea Toxic to Cats, Dogs, or Other Pets

Pets are known to take a bite out of everything they find – this is perfectly normal and is their way of determining what it is and whether it’s edible. Are Calathea toxic to cats, dogs, or other pets? This is a very valid question if you have pets in your home, as they’re bound to try them at some point.

In this article, I’ll take a closer look at the toxicity of Calathea plants, as well as how to recognize symptoms of poisoning in pets and what to do about it.

Is Calathea Toxic to Cats, Dogs, or Other Pets?

No Calathea variety has toxic properties that are harmful to cats, dogs, horses, or other pets. Although eating them may not be tasty, Calathea won’t cause poisoning.

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Are All Calathea Safe for Cats?

Just because Calathea aren’t toxic doesn’t mean that they’re safe for cats. Cats, just like dogs, are primarily carnivorous animals. They can take a bite of fruit, vegetable, or a plant. But their stomachs will have trouble digesting plants.

Although Calathea aren’t toxic, eating too much of them could cause some digestive issues – even food poisoning. Keep in mind that food poisoning isn’t the same as poisoning due to toxicity.

Most food poisoning cases (and this applies to humans, as well as all animals) are minor, and the animal will likely face some stomach ache – regurgitation and diarrhea at worst. More serious cases of food poisoning can cause lethargy, loss of consciousness, and even death.

Serious food poisoning is usually a result of harmful bacteria that is found in meat that’s gone bad, not a result of eating Calathea!

If you suspect food poisoning, you should take your pet to the vet (more on this in the ‘How Do I Know If My Cat Ate a Poisonous Plant?’ section).

The same could happen to an adult human if they ate too many raw Calathea leaves. However, it’s likely that a cat won’t eat Calathea after the initial bite as it will taste disgusting to the animal.

Are All Calathea Pet-Safe?

No specific variety of the Calathea plant has been reported as having toxic properties at this point in time. However, the food poisoning rule still applies to all varieties.

What Causes a Plant to be Poisonous?

A poisonous plant (or a toxic plant – these two terms are synonymous) has material properties that can cause anything from minor stomach aches to severe psychedelic reactions and extreme physical reactions, including coma and death.

Most plants developed these properties as a form of self-defense in the wild. After an animal eats some of the plants and becomes sick, it will remember not to eat that plant anymore. It’s a method of self-preservation.

The most common toxic minerals in plants are lead, fluorine, selenium, copper, and manganese. It’s common for plants to develop compounds created with different minerals for an even stronger poison.

Some plants do not need to be eaten to cause a reaction. It’s enough to touch them to get poisoned.

Different plants have different levels of toxicity. Taking berries as an example (there are hundreds of species of wild berries) — holly berries contain saponin, a compound that causes nausea, vomiting, and other digestive issues in humans if ingested.

A more extreme example is the pokeweed berry, which contains toxic compounds in every part of the plant, and it’s even capable of killing an adult human if a person ingests enough of the plant.

When it comes to plants that aren’t poisonous, they can cause a reaction in non-herbivorous animals simply because some animals (cats, dogs, and humans included) aren’t capable of digesting plants.

What Plants Are Harmful to Cats?

Although Calathea certainly do not belong on this list, here are the most common plants that are dangerous for cats (and other pets too).

Lilies – Lilies are extremely toxic to cats. They can easily cause kidney damage, even if they’re ingested in small amounts.

Tulips – Tulip bulbs contain toxins that are capable of causing severe digestive problems, problems to the central nervous system, and cardiac problems.

Oleanders – Oleander is capable of causing anything from minor digestive issues to death.

Chrysanthemums – Mums contain pyrethrins, which can cause digestive problems and problems with coordination, even depression.

English Ivy – Ivy is often considered a weed but commonplace in many yards, so it deserves a mention. It will cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain if ingested.

Aloe Vera – Aloe will cause vomiting and lethargy, but the gel is actually edible!

Begonias – Begonias cause vomiting and stomach irritation in cats and kidney failure in horses.

What Parts of a Plant Can be Toxic to Cats?

This depends on the exact plant species. Taking begonias as an example, although every part of the plant is toxic, roots are far more toxic than the parts above ground, meaning that an animal would have to dig to seriously poison themselves.

In the case of aloe, the gel itself is edible, but everything else will cause a reaction in ingested.

Therefore, there is no rule as to what part of a plant is toxic. It depends on the plant.

What to Do If My Cat Eats a Toxic Plant?

Most symptoms of poisoning appear very quickly, and however scary this might be, it’s possible for your cat to be completely fine one moment and to be uncontrollably twitching on the floor ten minutes later.

The first rule of any emergency situation is to not panic!

Call your regular vet to see if they can see your cat – if not, take it to the nearest vet available.

Make sure to take a cutting or remember the name of the plant that your cat ate (if possible) and tell that to the vet.

There is nothing you can do but get to the vet as soon as possible! However, there are a few things that you shouldn’t do under any circumstances.

Do not wait! Symptoms will likely appear out of nowhere and they’ll be very aggressive – waiting will only lower the chances of your pet’s survival. Unless minor food poisoning is the case, the symptoms will not alleviate on their own.

Do not shake, pull, or physically disturb your cat if it’s lost consciousness. Firstly – it most likely won’t wake your cat up. You are, in fact, more likely to injure it than wake it up from the poison-induced loss of consciousness. 

Secondly, there are no benefits from your cat being conscious during the entire ordeal. It will actually be more difficult to work with your cat if it’s awake as it will fight back out of fear and pain.

Do not try to make your cat vomit. The cat will vomit on its own if necessary – the only person who should force the cat to vomit is the vet but even that’s rare. Forcing salt water down the cat’s throat will only make the situation worse, and if you push your finger in its mouth to make it vomit you’ll most likely end up with stitches.

How Do I Know If My Cat Ate a Poisonous Plant?

Depending on the levels of toxicity, eating a poisonous plant can cause anything from minor digestive issues to death. Therefore, the symptoms can range from something undetectable to the owner (such as stomach ache) to something extreme (such as convulsions).

Symptoms, ranging from least to most extreme, include:

  • stomach ache and abdominal pain
  • lack of appetite
  • lethargy (all animals become lethargic because of pain)
  • diarrhea
  • drooling
  • increased thirst (usually caused by diarrhea and vomiting)

From this point onwards you have to take your cat to the vet:

  • vomiting gums and skin irritation (redness, itchiness)
  • confusion
  • difficulty breathing (some plants can cause the mouth to swell)
  • twitching
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness (happens often after seizures)

Symptoms most often appear out of nowhere and follow one another in quick succession. If your cat was poisoned, it can go from lethargic to vomiting to losing consciousness very quickly.

How Do I Stop My Cat from Eating My Houseplants?

The most effective method would be keeping your houseplants in a location inaccessible to your cat. However, given that cats are great climbers, this is almost impossible.

Just like humans, if your cat has already tried a houseplant, it likely won’t try the same houseplant again as they simply don’t taste good to them. However, there are animals that do develop a taste for houseplants which can lead to them actually liking them.

Here are a few proven methods.

Spray a Lemon-Water Solution on Your Plants

Cats can’t stand lemon – it’s likely that they won’t eat their own food if you spray a lemony solution on it. Make a 1:1 lemon-water solution and spray it on your plants. If your cat even licks a leaf, it will be deterred away instantly.

After this happens a few times (you’ll have to keep spraying it for a while), it will learn that the plant is disgusting and it won’t try to eat it anymore.

An alternative to lemon is using chili powder. Although it might seem cruel to some owners, chili will most definitely deter your cat away from plants as animals generally hate spicy food.

The biggest flaw of this strategy is that some cats are so stubborn that they might come back again and again, checking whether the plant is still lemony/spicy. In that case, you’re either stuck spraying lemon water/chili on your plants for the rest of the cat’s life, or you can try other methods.

Draw Its Attention with Edible Plants

Catnip is called catnip for a reason – cats can safely eat it. Giving your cat some catnip might be enough to stop if from going at other plants. However, keep in mind that cats are still primarily carnivorous and they shouldn’t have too much catnip.

Draw Its Attention with Edible Plants

The catnip should, obviously, be kept far away from other plants.

Cat grass is another edible plant. This grass is specifically made for cats and they’re naturally drawn to it as they would be in the wild. You can find it in pet stores, but make sure to follow the instructions on the label when feeding your cat.

Train Your Cat to Leave the Plants Alone

Although they can’t be trained as easily as dogs, cats can still be trained. Compressed air is a good idea, as it will definitely scare your cat away from the plants, but it won’t hurt the animal.

It’s important that you don’t punish the cat yourself, as your cat will start fearing you (or in the spirit of cats – it will start hating you). Instead, buy booby-trapped compressed air in a pet store.

How Do I Make My Houseplants Pet-Safe?

The only thing you can do to keep your plants safe from your cat is to hang them from the ceiling and get them out of the cat’s reach. However, cats are very agile animals and it’s possible that your cat will still find a way to get to the plants.

FAQ Calathea Toxicity

Final Thoughts On Cats and Calathea

While Calathea aren’t toxic to pets, eating too much can cause food poisoning. Luckily, most food poisonings only cause stomach aches and diarrhea, but more serious cases are possible.

If you suspect that your cat suffered food poisoning or that it consumed a toxic plant, take it to the vet. Some plants are so toxic that they can cause serious health issues, even death.

The best way to keep your cat safe is by preventing it from eating plants, regardless of their toxicity.