It’s no secret that cats like to explore their environment. And with all the new plants becoming popular in homes and gardens, it’s important to know if any of them are toxic to our feline friends.
Philodendrons are non-toxic but can cause stomach irritation in a cat if ingested. The leaves of the plant contain crystals of calcium oxalate, which can cause irritation to the digestive tract.
What are philodendrons and what do they look like?
Philodendrons are a type of evergreen tropical plant native to the Americas. They are a popular choice for houseplants because they are easy to care for and have attractive, eye-catching leaves.
There are many types of philodendron plants, but they all have large, heart-shaped leaves. The leaves can be green, yellow or variegated (a mixture of colors).
The most common varieties of philodendron include:
- elephant ear
- heart leaf
- pink princess
- velvet sheet
Calcium oxalate crystals in philodendrons
All philodendron plants contain calcium oxalate crystals. These crystals are found in the leaves, stems and sap of the plant.
Calcium oxalate is a natural substance found in many plants. It is not toxic, but may cause irritation if ingested.
When cats eat philodendron leaves, the calcium oxalate crystals can cause irritation to the digestive tract. Symptoms include vomiting, drooling and difficulty swallowing. In severe cases, this can lead to breathing difficulties.
If large amounts are ingested, they may cause more substantial harm. The salts are absorbed into the bloodstream and are not metabolized and are deposited in the kidneys. Oxalate stones are at risk of heavy or frequent ingestion of calcium oxalate crystals.
Symptoms of a Cat That Ate a Philodendron
If you suspect your cat has eaten a philodendron plant, watch for the following symptoms:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
- swelling of the mouth
If any of these symptoms occur, it is best to contact a veterinarian. In many cases, a small amount of philodendron will cause no symptoms, just mild stomach upset. In these cases, your cat’s immune system will deal with the unwanted digestive intruder.
What to do if your cat eats a philodendron?
If your cat has eaten a philodendron plant, it is important to watch for any signs of gastrointestinal upset. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea and lack of appetite.
If your cat exhibits any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. They will likely want to do a physical exam and may recommend bringing your cat in for x-rays to check for any blockages in the digestive tract.
The treatment for a cat that has eaten a philodendron will depend on the severity of the symptoms. In some cases, no treatment is needed and the symptoms go away on their own.
In more severe cases, hospitalization and IV fluids may be required. If your cat has a blockage in the digestive tract, surgery may be needed to remove it.
Tips to prevent your cat from eating houseplants
The best way to prevent your cat from eating houseplants is to keep them out of her reach. If you have philodendron plants in your home, make sure they are placed high up where your cat can’t reach them.
You can also try spraying the leaves of the plant with a bitter-tasting spray to deter your cat from chewing them.
Another option is to cover the pot with a layer of chicken wire to physically prevent your cat from reaching the leaves. However, it is not a particularly pleasant setting!
In the case of philodendron snacks, curiosity probably won’t kill the cat, but it might make her stomach ache! It’s best to keep all houseplants out of reach of your cats. That way, there’s no risk of them eating one they shouldn’t or damaging your favorite plant.
If your cat eats a philodendron plant, monitor it carefully for any signs of gastrointestinal upset and call your veterinarian if you’re concerned. Most likely, they’ll be fine, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
Featured photo courtesy: Pixabay