Are Snake Plants Safe for Cats? What Do I Do If They Eat One?

The snake plant is a popular decorative houseplant with long, thin leaves that grow vertically. This plant is also called mother-in-law’s tongue, magic sword plant, or viper’s hemp plant. They are common in plant-loving households because they are hardy and easy to maintain. They don’t require much maintenance and can easily survive periods of neglect, such as low light and drought.

But no matter what name you use for these plants, they are not safe for cats. They are toxic to cats and dogs, according to at ASPA. The good news is that the toxicity of this plant is relatively low. However, depending on the amount your cat eats and the symptoms they experience, you will need to contact your veterinarian for advice and possible treatment if your cat eats this herb. Some cases will not require any treatment, while other cases could be fatal.

Why Are Snake Plants Poisonous To Cats?

brown potted snake plant
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Unsplash

Snake plant contains mild toxins called saponins. These are irritating to human skin if you come into contact with the sap of the plant. Cats can get the sap on their fur and lick it off. They may also bite or chew the leaves and ingest the saponins that way. They may be discouraged from eating too much of the plant as it tastes bitter.

Saponins provide a natural insecticide and fungicide for the plant, but they can be harmful to cats. Any contact with saponins can irritate their skin. In severe cases, cats may experience an allergic reaction by eating this plant which can cause the throat and esophagus to swell.

Symptoms of illness to look out for after discovering that your cat has ingested part of a snake plant are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the face, lips and tongue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drool
  • Depression

If you notice any of these signs, take your cat to the vet immediately. If you don’t notice these signs, you should still call your vet to let them know what happened and ask if there is anything you need to do for your cat at home. Treatment varies according to symptoms.

Snake Plant Poisoning Treatment and Recovery

veterinarian checks maine coon cat's mouth
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Shutterstock

If your cat needs medical treatment after eating a snake plant, your veterinarian will first assess her condition. They can rinse the cat’s mouth to remove any remaining bits of the plant that might still be leaking toxins. If your cat’s condition is severe, he may need to induce vomiting or pump his stomach to stop any further digestion of saponins.

Your veterinarian can give your cat fluids to combat dehydration and certain medications to soothe the stomach and help it breathe better. Treatment varies from cat to cat, but cats are generally expected to make a full recovery within a few days.

However, the longer the cat goes without treatment, the worse the condition can get. Although snake plant poisoning is not usually fatal, the symptoms it causes could be. If your cat is dehydrated and unable to eat, it could become life threatening within days. It is important to get your cat treated as soon as you see that he has eaten the plant.

Final Thoughts

Snake plants are toxic to cats, but luckily the toxicity is low. If your cat eats this plant, he may be poisoned by the saponins it contains. Monitor your cat to see if it begins to show symptoms and talk to your veterinarian about what to do if it appears.

If you need to keep a snake plant in your house with a cat, make sure the cat can’t reach the plant and won’t have access to it. Keep it on a high shelf or in a room where your cat cannot enter to ensure its safety.

Featured image credit: Pixabay

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