Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Flower Dangers for Felines

A visit to the emergency vet is not your cat's idea of romance. If you're planning to give flower bouquets or plants to friends and family with cats this Valentine's Day, consider whether that colorful arrangement could be harmful to the cats before making a purchase.

Most Dangerous

Keeping plants and flowers that cause organ damage (and possibly death) to cats out of your bouquets should be your top priority. Lilies are a very common bouquet flower that is toxic to cats. All parts of the plant are dangerous when ingested and can quickly lead to kidney and liver failure. Even the pollen is toxic and could make your cat ill if inhaled or groomed from her fur. Avoid lilies and the following plants at all costs, unless your emergency vet has a frequent visitor punch card:

Cats + Lilies = VERY DANGEROUS!
Cardboard Palm
Sago Palms

Dangerous in Large Quantities

Quite a few plants and flowers cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy in cats. Mild-to-moderate stomach upset usually takes care of itself over a day or two, but keep an eye on your cat for persistent or worsening symptoms. These plants are known to cause GI tract problems in cats, with symptoms worsening as the amount ingested goes up.

What to Do

Contact a veterinarian right away if your cat ingests any of the plants on the Most Dangerous list above, and keep a close eye out for signs of distress if your cat eats any plant you didn't purposely give her. If you can, save a sample of the plant your cat ate and bring it with you if you need to visit a vet, as this can help the doctor more quickly identify and treat the problem. Always have your vet's phone number accessible, as well as that of a nearby emergency vet clinic. (Valentine's Day is on a Sunday this year, and not all vet offices are open on weekends.)

It's important to know that ingesting plant material can cause a small amount of vomiting or distress in any particular cat. Some are more sensitive than others. Be especially mindful of plants around kittens, as their small bodies can quickly be affected by even small amounts of plant material.

"Pet-safe" Options

"Cat grass" is a safe and tasty snack for cats.
The lists above are long, without even being comprehensive, so what are some safe flowers and plants for cats? If you like tradition, de-thorned roses are a safe choice for homes with cats and dogs, as well as bamboo arrangements and bonsai trees. African violets and daisies, begonias, Peruvian lily (not a true lily), and many ferns are safe for pets. When visiting a florist, it's good to mention that an arrangement is going to a home with animals and to have a list of plants you need to avoid ready. This will help your florist pick appropriate substitutions and avoid accidentally swapping one toxic plant for another.

Instead of spending Valentine's Day shooing your curious cat away from the beautiful (but dangerous) flowers, why not give her a Cat Grass bouquet of her own? Typically a mixture of wheat grass, rye, oat and barley, cat grass is a tasty treat that's safe for cats and something they'd eat in the wild anyway.

The Best Valentine's Day Option for Pets?

While we don't recommend giving animals as unexpected presents, why not skip the material gifts all together and spend a romantic day with your partner picking out a cat to adopt from your local shelter? Or spend a day playing with cats or walking dogs at a nearby rescue. Shelter animals deserve just as much love as those already in homes, and probably need love and encouragement even more. We prefer this option and would gladly take more time playing with cats and kittens over a fancy bouquet any day of the year!

Top: Bahador via Flickr, "N'Roses", CC BY 2.0
Middle: Samantha Durfee via Flickr, "lily and the lillies," CC-BY-NA-SA 2.0
Bottom: Judy M. Zukoski, used by permission, all rights reserved.

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