Living Green With Pets: Flowers for Your Valentine

cat sitting behind vase of flowers

Sophie is not eating the flowers! "The Perfect Camouflage", pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Apparently, you can’t go wrong with roses, either for your Valentine or for your kitty—as long as they don’t have thorns! The roses, I mean.

Many of the cautions in this article apply to dogs as well, but cats are a little more sensitive to certain plants—lilies, for instance, may give a dog a tummy ache but they may kill a kitty—plus kitties can jump and climb and get themselves into truly amazing places, so I am focusing on cats for this article. But for any pet, please be cautious of flowers and plants and keep the list of toxic species linked at the end handy.

pencil sketch of cat with flowers

Would a cat eat a daisy? Namir did. "Conversation With a Daisy", pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

Cats aren’t necessarily particular in what greens they’ll nibble on; generally they’ll try anything green and fresh, and some cats will completely chew down a plant that can’t have tasted very good and wasn’t very easy to chew. They don’t stop with leaves, either, but will eat the petals off of a flower.

And while many pet owners know the dangers of various houseplants, most people don’t associate cut flowers with these dangers, yet many cut bouquets include flowers from  some of the most toxic plants for cats and dogs. What makes it complicated is that we recognize them when they are individual growing plants, but may not even notice them in a mixed bouquet.

Some plants cause gastric upset which can be a mess to clean up and is uncomfortable for your cat, but it can also have long-lasting effects such as ulcers in the mouth or digestive tract, and excessive vomiting or diarrhea can dehydrate and even kill a very young or old cat.

white lilies

Sunday Best

Other plants more seriously affect a cat’s organs and can be deadly within hours, even to a healthy cat.

Lilies in all their forms

Lilies in just about all their species can cause kidney damage in cats which is permanent and can lead to kidney failure within 48 hours if left untreated.

alstromeria

Alstromeria

Sure, we know the big white lilies at Easter, but consider an everyday small grocery story bouquet: a few yellow mums, some white daisies, pink carnations, fern, baby’s breath and—alstromeria, a South American lily, which comes in colors from white to scarlet.

Or a medium-sized get-well bouquet: Yellow roses, white mums, blue larkspur and—two big pink Stargazer lilies.

And what used to be part of my favorite backyard bouquets in spring: pink climbing rose, red rambler rose, Shasta daisies, blue widow’s tears and—big orange daylilies.

Bulb-forming plants

purple tulips

Purple Tulips

Instead of a bouquet of cut flowers we’ll often give or receive bulbs forced to bloom early in baskets and pots. I used to welcome the new year and the last long days of winter with forced bulbs all over my house as pots of paperwhite narcissus, trays of daffodils and baskets of mixed fragrant tulips, hyacinth and crocus along with squills and starflowers.

Then I learned that any part of these plants can not only cause gastric upset but also organ damage, specifically kidney damage and heart failure. I remembered a healthy fifteen-year-old cat I’d lost years before to acute kidney failure—her kidneys just failed one day and I had to put her to sleep the next. This can happen without an outside stimulus, but I’ll always wonder if that was the cause and I have never forced bulbs in any place my cats could get them since then.

In the same way, onion and garlic, also bulb-forming plants though they are considered food, are toxic to cats.

Other plants

rhododendron flowers

Rhododendron

While most plants are not that immediately toxic, other plants, such as azalea and rhododendron, lily of the valley, ivy and yew can be deadly to cats in impaired health or kittens, since they’re small enough to get a big dose with an enthusiastic bite. Though not deadly for adult cats in good health, they’ll often cause extreme abdominal pain, nausea, salivation and vomiting. Repeated exposure can be cumulative with some plants.

Sometimes cats have no sense

“Oh, she’ll stop eating if she gets sick,” or “she won’t eat this, it’s got little thorns”, don’t believe that. I’ve seen cats try to eat cacti, drool while they are chewing aloe and vomit up philodendron and go back to eating again. Don’t rely on their non-existent common sense, just remove the plant.

You can’t really punish them for following both a natural impulse and a physical need. We don’t really know why cats, obligate carnivores with no obvious need for greens, chew on grass, but some guess they help cleanse their mouth and digestive system, and to add fiber to their primarily protein diet to aid in elimination. An indoor kitty will take what she can get to simulate the natural outdoor environment she craves.

namir in plant

Namir in the arboricola.

The problem is that, while you may get some cats to stay away from your plants, most cats will return again and again, even if they suffer discomfort from their snack. The best way to keep your cats safe from plants is to put the plants completely out of reach—bearing in mind that cats can jump six times their height and can be ingenious about launching from strategic furniture to get into a hanging basket. Sometimes it is necessary to completely remove the plant from the house, no matter how much you like it.

Signs of plant poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling or pain inside the cat’s mouth. If you know or suspect which plant your cat has eaten, identify the plant by name when you call your veterinarian. Bring samples of the plant’s leaves or flowers when you take your cat to the veterinarian for treatment.

Keeping your cat out of your plants…?

black cat in plants

Loo-See of the Jungle

What happened to that nice spider plant you used to have? Oops—while enjoying the scene out the window, Fluffy forgot it wasn’t just a clump of grass and chewed it down to little nubbins. Then, because it really wasn’t grass and really wasn’t digestible by her little system, she deposited it back on your carpet in a most inelegant manner.

And that wandering jew? She used it for a bed? I’ll bet she looked sweet.

A determined cat will do what she wants. Remember, you have to sleep some time.

As for the non-toxic flora, even though Fluffy won’t suffer if she chews on it (unless you get your hands on her), you still don’t want her shredding your greenery. Several commercial sprays will give the plant a bad smell and/or taste without damaging the plant with recommended use, and a nibble by Fluffy will not harm her. One product is “Bitter Apple for Plants”, a stronger version of which is available for dogs learning not to chew on everything. Other products are named “Off for Cats” and such like, and simply smell bad.

You can also try your own home brew by dabbing hot sauce on the tips of some of the leaves, or rubbing a citrus peel on the leaf. For the sake of your plants, however, just try it on one or two leaves to make sure you won’t fry the whole plant in an effort to keep Fluffy from eating it.

You could also place “Sticky Paws” on the countertop around the arrangement or plant so that when she steps close to the plant she steps on the product and backs off; please read the instructions on the Sticky Paws package for what surfaces are appropriate for its use.

Distractions

peaches with cat greens

Peaches with her Cat Greens

One other thing to help the situation—and it’s a nice thing to do for your cat even if you don’t have a plant problem—is to plant her own pot of greens and make it available to her at all times. Don’t use regular plant seeds such as grass seed because some seeds are treated with chemicals, at least check before you use them; instead, purchase “cat greens”, usually a mixture of wheat, oats and barley grains, all three of which are not only a pleasure for your cat, but full of nutrition. Some other commercial “cat greens” mixtures contain catnip, a sure winner, sage, parsley, chickweed, colt’s foot grass, and other herbs and wild plants that your cat would eat if outdoors.

Most of these plants can be grown in a small container on a windowsill, and if you keep two containers growing, one available to the cat and one just sprouting, you can have a constant treat for her. These plants need a good bit of sunlight to thrive, so try to find a sunny spot that your cat can get to. It will serve two purposes: because she tends to chew when she’s gazing at the outdoors, you’ve provided exactly what she needs for her little interlude.

Keep toxic plant and flower information handy

Your local veterinarians and shelters often have lists of toxic flora has handouts, and plenty of resources exist on the internet.

And as far as those flowers, you just can’t go wrong with roses!

17 Common Poisonous Plants

ASPCA Searchable Database of Plants

—————————————

All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Easter…Roses?

pastel painting of cat with flowers

The Perfect Camouflage

For kitty’s sake, this Easter get a big bouquet of nice white roses for the house and plant that Easter lily outside!

You can’t go wrong with roses in any bouquet either for the recipient or for your kitty, but lilies, along with other plants grown from bulbs, are often deadly to cats.

My cats will eat anything green I bring into the house, whether it’s cut flowers or house plant. Most cats aren’t necessarily particular about what greens they’ll nibble on; generally they’ll try anything green and fresh, and some cats will completely chew down a plant that can’t have tasted very good and wasn’t very easy to chew. They don’t stop with leaves, either, but will eat the petals off of a flower, the stems, it’s all a potential snack.

And while many pet owners know the dangers of various houseplants, most people don’t associate cut flowers with these dangers, yet many cut bouquets include flowers from some of the most toxic plants for cats and dogs. What makes it complicated is that we recognize them when they are individual growing plants, but may not even notice them in a mixed bouquet.

Some plants cause gastric upset which can be a mess to clean up and is uncomfortable for your cat, but it can also have long-lasting effects such as ulcers in the mouth or digestive tract, and excessive vomiting or diarrhea can dehydrate and even kill a very young or old cat.

white lilies

Sunday Best

Other plants more seriously affect a cat’s organs and can be deadly within hours, even to a healthy cat.

What to do

So read about the plants below, learn to identify them, and instead of bringing them into your house, try the following:

  • Don’t try to put them in an out-of-the-way or high place in your house! Cats can jump several feet straight up and are agile climbers, especially when they have the incentive of that vase of flowers on top of your entertainment center where they’ve never gone before. They may injure themselves in the attempt, break a ceramic or glass vase creating a hazard for the whole house, or may actually succeed in getting to the plant and eating it despite your attempts to keep it away from them.
  • Look over the bouquet and remove anything that is potentially toxic. Instead of tossing them, take them to the nearest nursing home, personal care home or other public place that might appreciate cut flowers on display.
  • If it’s warm enough, put them in a vase on your front porch.
  • Plant live plants, such as lilies, tulips and other forced bulbs, hydrangea and azalea, or display them in their pots on your porch or in your yard instead of bringing them indoors.

Lilies in all their forms

Lilies in just about all their species can cause kidney damage in cats which is permanent and can lead to kidney failure within 48 hours if left untreated.

alstromeria

Alstromeria

Sure, we know the big white lilies at Easter, but consider an everyday small grocery story bouquet: a few yellow mums, some white daisies, pink carnations, fern, baby’s breath and—alstromeria, a South American lily, which comes in colors from white to scarlet.

Or a medium-sized get-well bouquet: Yellow roses, white mums, blue larkspur and—two big pink Stargazer lilies.

And what used to be part of my favorite backyard bouquets in spring: pink climbing rose, red rambler rose, Shasta daisies, blue widow’s tears and—big orange daylilies.

Bulb-forming plants

purple tulips

Purple Tulips

Instead of a bouquet of cut flowers we’ll often give or receive bulbs forced to bloom early in baskets and pots. I used to welcome the new year and the last long days of winter with forced bulbs all over my house as pots of paperwhite narcissus, trays of daffodils and baskets of mixed fragrant tulips, hyacinth and crocus along with squills and starflowers.

Then I learned that any part of these plants can not only cause gastric upset but also organ damage, specifically kidney damage and heart failure. I remembered a healthy fifteen-year-old cat I lost years ago to acute kidney failure—her kidneys just failed one day and I had to put her to sleep the next. This can happen without an outside stimulus, but I’ll always wonder if she had nibbled on a bulb I’d been forcing for spring bloom that February as I had pots of them on each windowsill in the house. I have never forced bulbs in any place my cats could get them since then, only in the outdoors or in places where there are no animals.

In the same way, onion and garlic, also bulb-forming plants though they are considered food, are toxic to cats.

Other plants

rhododendron flowers

Rhododendron

While most plants are not that immediately toxic, other plants, such as azalea and rhododendron, lily of the valley, ivy and yew can be deadly to cats in impaired health or kittens, since they’re small enough to get a big dose with an enthusiastic bite. Though not deadly for adult cats in good health, they’ll often cause extreme abdominal pain, nausea, salivation and vomiting. Repeated exposure can be cumulative with some plants.

Sometimes cats have no sense

“Oh, she’ll stop eating if she gets sick,” or “she won’t eat this, it’s got little thorns”, don’t believe that. I’ve seen cats try to eat cacti, drool while they are chewing aloe and vomit up philodendron and go back to eating again. Don’t rely on their non-existent common sense, just remove the plant.

You can’t really punish them for following both a natural impulse and a physical need. We don’t really know why cats, obligate carnivores with no obvious need for greens, chew on grass, but some guess they help cleanse their mouth and digestive system, and to add fiber to their primarily protein diet to aid in elimination. An indoor kitty will take what she can get to simulate the natural outdoor environment she craves.

namir in plant

Namir in Plant

The problem is that, while you may get some cats to stay away from your plants, most cats will return again and again, even if they suffer discomfort from their snack. The best way to keep your cats safe from plants is to put the plants completely out of reach-bearing in mind that cats can jump six times their height and can be ingenious about launching from strategic furniture to get into a hanging basket. Sometimes it is necessary to completely remove the plant from the house, no matter how much you like it.

Signs of plant poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling or pain inside the cat’s mouth. If you know or suspect which plant you cat has eaten, identify the plant by name when you call your veterinarian. Bring samples of the plant’s leaves or flowers when you take your cat to the veterinarian for treatment.

Keeping your cat out of your plants…?

black cat in plants

Loo-See of the Jungle

What happened to that nice spider plant you used to have? Oops—while enjoying the scene out the window, Fluffy forgot it wasn’t just a clump of grass and chewed it down to little nubbins. Then, because it really wasn’t grass and really wasn’t digestible by her little system, she deposited it back on your carpet in a most inelegant manner.

And that wandering jew? She used it for a bed? I’ll bet she looked sweet.

A determined cat will do what she wants. Remember, you have to sleep some time. And habits change, and new members of the household have different habits. Years ago I had lovely houseplants and none of that era of cats chewed on them. Then the household changed over, a few losses, a few new ones joined the household, and I’ve ended up removing nearly all my houseplants—difficult for me since I’ve always considered my houseplants essential to my home, but these photos of Namir and Lucy represent the end of my indoor jungle.

As for the non-toxic flora, even though Fluffy won’t suffer if she chews on it (unless you get your hands on her), you still don’t want her shredding your greenery. You can try commercial sprays which will give the plant a bad smell and/or taste without damaging the plant with recommended use, and a nibble by Fluffy will not harm her. One product is “Bitter Apple for Plants”, a stronger version of which is available for dogs learning not to chew on everything. Other products are named “Off for Cats” and such like, and simply smell bad.

You can also try your own home brew by dabbing hot sauce on the tips of some of the leaves, or rubbing a citrus peel on the leaf. For the sake of your plants, however, just try it on one or two leaves to make sure you won’t fry the whole plant in an effort to keep Fluffy from eating it.

You could also place “Sticky Paws” on the countertop around the arrangement or plant so that when she steps close to the plant she steps on the product and backs off; please read the instructions on the Sticky Paws package for what surfaces are appropriate for its use.

Distractions

peaches with cat greens

Peaches with her Cat Greens

One other thing to help the situation—and it’s a nice thing to do for your cat even if you don’t have a plant problem—is to plant her own pot of greens and make it available to her at all times. Don’t use regular plant seeds such as grass seed because some seeds are treated with chemicals, at least check before you use them; instead, purchase “cat greens”, usually a mixture of wheat, oats and barley grains, all three of which are not only a pleasure for your cat, but full of nutrition. Some other commercial “cat greens” mixtures contain catnip, a sure winner, sage, parsley, chickweed, colt’s foot grass, and other herbs and wild plants that your cat would eat if outdoors.

Most of these plants can be grown in a small container on a windowsill, and if you keep two containers growing, one available to the cat and one just sprouting, you can have a constant treat for her. These plants need a good bit of sunlight to thrive, so try to find a sunny spot that your cat can get to. It will serve two purposes: because she tends to chew when she’s gazing at the outdoors, you’ve provided exactly what she needs for her little interlude.

Keep toxic plant and flower information handy

Your local veterinarians and shelters often have lists of toxic flora has handouts, and plenty of resources exist on the internet.

And as far as those flowers, you just can’t go wrong with roses!

17 Common Poisonous Plants

ASPCA Searchable Database of Plants


Flowers for Your Valentine

pastel painting of cat with flowers

The Perfect Camouflage

Apparently, you can’t go wrong with roses, either for your Valentine or for your kitty—as long as they don’t have thorns! The roses, I mean.

Cats aren’t necessarily particular in what greens they’ll nibble on; generally they’ll try anything green and fresh, and some cats will completely chew down a plant that can’t have tasted very good and wasn’t very easy to chew. They don’t stop with leaves, either, but will eat the petals off of a flower.

And while many pet owners know the dangers of various houseplants, most people don’t associate cut flowers with these dangers, yet many cut bouquets include flowers from  some of the most toxic plants for cats and dogs. What makes it complicated is that we recognize them when they are individual growing plants, but may not even notice them in a mixed bouquet.

Some plants cause gastric upset which can be a mess to clean up and is uncomfortable for your cat, but it can also have long-lasting effects such as ulcers in the mouth or digestive tract, and excessive vomiting or diarrhea can dehydrate and even kill a very young or old cat.

white lilies

Sunday Best

Other plants more seriously affect a cat’s organs and can be deadly within hours, even to a healthy cat.

Lilies in all their forms

Lilies in just about all their species can cause kidney damage in cats which is permanent and can lead to kidney failure within 48 hours if left untreated.

alstromeria

Alstromeria

Sure, we know the big white lilies at Easter, but consider an everyday small grocery story bouquet: a few yellow mums, some white daisies, pink carnations, fern, baby’s breath and—alstromeria, a South American lily, which comes in colors from white to scarlet.

Or a medium-sized get-well bouquet: Yellow roses, white mums, blue larkspur and—two big pink Stargazer lilies.

And what used to be part of my favorite backyard bouquets in spring: pink climbing rose, red rambler rose, Shasta daisies, blue widow’s tears and—big orange daylilies.

Bulb-forming plants

purple tulips

Purple Tulips

Instead of a bouquet of cut flowers we’ll often give or receive bulbs forced to bloom early in baskets and pots. I used to welcome the new year and the last long days of winter with forced bulbs all over my house as pots of paperwhite narcissus, trays of daffodils and baskets of mixed fragrant tulips, hyacinth and crocus along with squills and starflowers.

Then I learned that any part of these plants can not only cause gastric upset but also organ damage, specifically kidney damage and heart failure. I remembered a healthy fifteen-year-old cat I’d lost years before to acute kidney failure—her kidneys just failed one day and I had to put her to sleep the next. This can happen without an outside stimulus, but I’ll always wonder if that was the cause and I have never forced bulbs in any place my cats could get them since then.

In the same way, onion and garlic, also bulb-forming plants though they are considered food, are toxic to cats.

Other plants

rhododendron flowers

Rhododendron

While most plants are not that immediately toxic, other plants, such as azalea and rhododendron, lily of the valley, ivy and yew can be deadly to cats in impaired health or kittens, since they’re small enough to get a big dose with an enthusiastic bite. Though not deadly for adult cats in good health, they’ll often cause extreme abdominal pain, nausea, salivation and vomiting. Repeated exposure can be cumulative with some plants.

Sometimes cats have no sense

“Oh, she’ll stop eating if she gets sick,” or “she won’t eat this, it’s got little thorns”, don’t believe that. I’ve seen cats try to eat cacti, drool while they are chewing aloe and vomit up philodendron and go back to eating again. Don’t rely on their non-existent common sense, just remove the plant.

You can’t really punish them for following both a natural impulse and a physical need. We don’t really know why cats, obligate carnivores with no obvious need for greens, chew on grass, but some guess they help cleanse their mouth and digestive system, and to add fiber to their primarily protein diet to aid in elimination. An indoor kitty will take what she can get to simulate the natural outdoor environment she craves.

namir in plant

Namir in Plant

The problem is that, while you may get some cats to stay away from your plants, most cats will return again and again, even if they suffer discomfort from their snack. The best way to keep your cats safe from plants is to put the plants completely out of reach-bearing in mind that cats can jump six times their height and can be ingenious about launching from strategic furniture to get into a hanging basket. Sometimes it is necessary to completely remove the plant from the house, no matter how much you like it.

Signs of plant poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling or pain inside the cat’s mouth. If you know or suspect which plant you cat has eaten, identify the plant by name when you call your veterinarian. Bring samples of the plant’s leaves or flowers when you take your cat to the veterinarian for treatment.

Keeping your cat out of your plants…?

black cat in plants

Loo-See of the Jungle

What happened to that nice spider plant you used to have? Oops—while enjoying the scene out the window, Fluffy forgot it wasn’t just a clump of grass and chewed it down to little nubbins. Then, because it really wasn’t grass and really wasn’t digestible by her little system, she deposited it back on your carpet in a most inelegant manner.

And that wandering jew? She used it for a bed? I’ll bet she looked sweet.

A determined cat will do what she wants. Remember, you have to sleep some time.

As for the non-toxic flora, even though Fluffy won’t suffer if she chews on it (unless you get your hands on her), you still don’t want her shredding your greenery. Several commercial sprays will give the plant a bad smell and/or taste without damaging the plant with recommended use, and a nibble by Fluffy will not harm her. One product is “Bitter Apple for Plants”, a stronger version of which is available for dogs learning not to chew on everything. Other products are named “Off for Cats” and such like, and simply smell bad.

You can also try your own home brew by dabbing hot sauce on the tips of some of the leaves, or rubbing a citrus peel on the leaf. For the sake of your plants, however, just try it on one or two leaves to make sure you won’t fry the whole plant in an effort to keep Fluffy from eating it.

You could also place “Sticky Paws” on the countertop around the arrangement or plant so that when she steps close to the plant she steps on the product and backs off; please read the instructions on the Sticky Paws package for what surfaces are appropriate for its use.

Distractions

peaches with cat greens

Peaches with her Cat Greens

One other thing to help the situation—and it’s a nice thing to do for your cat even if you don’t have a plant problem—is to plant her own pot of greens and make it available to her at all times. Don’t use regular plant seeds such as grass seed because some seeds are treated with chemicals, at least check before you use them; instead, purchase “cat greens”, usually a mixture of wheat, oats and barley grains, all three of which are not only a pleasure for your cat, but full of nutrition. Some other commercial “cat greens” mixtures contain catnip, a sure winner, sage, parsley, chickweed, colt’s foot grass, and other herbs and wild plants that your cat would eat if outdoors.

Most of these plants can be grown in a small container on a windowsill, and if you keep two containers growing, one available to the cat and one just sprouting, you can have a constant treat for her. These plants need a good bit of sunlight to thrive, so try to find a sunny spot that your cat can get to. It will serve two purposes: because she tends to chew when she’s gazing at the outdoors, you’ve provided exactly what she needs for her little interlude.

Keep toxic plant and flower information handy

Your local veterinarians and shelters often have lists of toxic flora has handouts, and plenty of resources exist on the internet.

And as far as those flowers, you just can’t go wrong with roses!

17 Common Poisonous Plants

ASPCA Searchable Database of Plants


Pet-proofing for the Holidays

cookie in holiday attire

Cookie is ready for the holidays.

It’s kind of like wondering how those of us of a certain age survived our childhoods without seatbelts and bicycle helmets. How did our pets survive before we knew all these cautions about which foods and plants were truly toxic and exactly what a length of curling ribbon could do to their intestines?

Well, a certain number of them didn’t, just as a certain number of children suffered serious or fatal injuries in cars and on bicycles, but we don’t often talk about it.

Before covering the basic warnings, here are a few key points to remember:

1. Animals are not little people. Animals are simply a fraction of our size, so the effect of anything on them will be multiplied in their smaller bodies which don’t metabolize things the same as we do. Consider chocolate and raisins, both of which can be toxic in dogs and cats in smaller amounts than we would eat for fun. Consider aspirin, which a cat’s small body doesn’t metabolize quickly enough to avoid a possible overdose and can be fatal, but can safely be used in reasonable dosages in a dog as a pain reliever.

2. Animals don’t make reasoned decisions in the same way we do. They make decisions based on their own sensibilities as cats and dogs, and because we presume they can’t read or understand warnings about dangers to themselves, these decisions are based on curiosity and adventure and are not always in their own best interest.

3. Don’t ever think your cat or dog “wouldn’t eat that”. They would. Plan on it. Cats are a little more discerning than dogs in choosing what to eat, and even with that, in all the years I’ve had cats they’ve eaten, or attempted to eat, just about anything they could chew and swallow, including such foods as hot peppers, cookies and raw green beans—who would think?!

4. Don’t think your cat or dog “can’t get to it”. They can. They have nothing better to do than to stalk and kill your cheese plate, or the box with the curling ribbon. Confine them if they won’t stay out of something, or get it out of your house.

5. And a special one for the holiday season: Your change in routine will change your pet. Don’t presume you can predict what they will do. Animals are creatures of habit, but this is the one time of the year we intentionally break habits including daily schedules, entertaining guests, and arranging and decorating our space. Our pets may run the spectrum from happily helping to totally freaking out, but the change in plans will have an effect on them and they may not behave in their usual manner, either, making them much less predictable than we are accustomed to.

They can only get into what we leave available for them, so keep them in mind as you prepare. I have links to articles for more information about toxic plants, foods and other dangers at the end of this post.
Keep reading…


A Green Party for Your Pets?

photo of a cat in plants

Loo-See of the Jungle © B.E. Kazmarski

What happened to that nice spider plant I used to have? Oops—while enjoying the scene out the window, Cookie forgot it wasn’t just a clump of grass and chewed it down to little nubbins. Then, because it really wasn’t grass and really wasn’t digestible by her little system, she deposited it back on your carpet in a most inelegant manner.

And that wandering jew? Lucy used it for a bed? I’ll bet she looked sweet.

Oh, and that special dozen roses you got at Valentine’s Day with all the greens and baby’s breath? Did Kelly think it was for her?

This article covers information and resources for both cats and dogs, and since I live with cats all the references and photos are of my own cats. Cats and dogs have different reactions to many plants and other substances, but many toxic dangers exist for both of them.

You can’t really punish them for following both a natural impulse and a physical need. Cats chew on grasses specifically to help cleanse their mouth and digestive system, and to add fiber to their primarily protein diet to aid in elimination. And, of course, an indoor kitty will take what she can get to simulate the natural outdoor environment she craves, digging in the soil of a potted plant or making a bed of a lush, healthy pot of foliage.

pastel painting of a cat with flowers

The Perfect Camouflage, Sophie with zinnias, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Cats aren’t necessarily particular in what they’ll nibble on; generally they’ll try anything green, and some cats will completely chew down a plant that can’t have tasted very good and wasn’t very easy to chew.

While it may be amusing if you’re not too attached to your plants, it can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to your cat. Several common houseplants, or plants we bring in for some holidays or for winter, are deadly, and another longer list can cause a range of symptoms from temporary discomfort to permanent health problems.

And while many people know about the dangers of houseplants, plants are just as toxic in a pretty arrangement from the florist as well as when they are growing in the yard. My cats find anything green to be a tasty snack!

photo of easter lily

An Easter lily is toxic to cats, but sometimes they can't resist © B.E. Kazmarski

For instance, consider the lilies we bring into our home around Easter, or other species in the lily family (including those we may have as cut flowers). According to Jill A. Richardson, DVM, Veterinary Poison Information Specialist, ASPCA/National Animal Poison Control Center, “Several types of lilies can be deadly to cats. Easter lily, tiger lily, rubrum, Japanese show lily, some species of day lily, and certain other members of the Liliaceae family can cause kidney failure in cats. Within only a few hours of ingestion of the plant material, the cat may vomit, become lethargic, or develop a lack of appetite. These signs continue and worsen as kidney damage progresses. Without prompt and proper treatment by a veterinarian, the cat will develop kidney failure in approximately 36-72 hours. All parts of these lilies are considered toxic to cats and consuming even small amounts can cause severe poisoning.”(1)

photo of daffodils

Daffodils and other bulbs are commonly forced for indoor bloom © B.E. Kazmarski

While most plants are not that immediately toxic, other plants, such as azalea, lily of the valley, yew and bulbs we might force to bloom, including tulip, daffodil and crocus, can be deadly to cats in impaired health or kittens, since they’re small enough to get a big dose with an enthusiastic bite. Though not deadly for adult cats in good health, they’ll often cause extreme abdominal pain, nausea, salivation and vomiting. Repeated exposure can be cumulative with some plants.

That was not intended to scare you, but to illustrate the seriousness of the cat and plant issue. The problem is that, while you may get some cats to stay away from your plants, most cats will return again and again, even if they suffer discomfort from their snack. The best way to keep your cats safe from plants is to put the plants completely out of reach-bearing in mind that cats can jump six times their height and can be ingenious about launching from strategic furniture to get into a hanging basket. Sometimes it is necessary to completely remove the plant from the house, no matter how much you like it. This has been my solution, much as I need to have my greenery in the house.

Signs of plant poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling or pain inside the cat’s mouth. If you know or suspect which plant you cat has eaten, identify the plant by name when you call your veterinarian. Bring samples of the plant’s leaves or flowers when you take your cat to the veterinarian for treatment.

photo of black cat with plant

Mewsette considers the Christmas Cactus © B.E. Kazmarski

As for the non-toxic plants, even though Mewsette won’t suffer if she chews on them (unless you get your hands on her), you still don’t want her shredding your greenery. Several commercial sprays will give the plant a bad smell and/or taste without damaging the plant with recommended use, and a nibble by Mewsette will not harm her. One product is “Bitter Apple for Plants”, a stronger version of which is available for dogs learning not to chew on everything. Other products are named “Off for Cats” and such like, and simply smell bad.

You can also try your own home brew by dabbing hot sauce on the tips of some of the leaves, or rubbing a citrus peel on the leaf. For the sake of your plants, however, just try it on one or two leaves to make sure you won’t fry the whole plant in an effort to keep Mimi from eating it.

You could also place “Sticky Paws” on the countertop around the plant so that when she stepped close to the plant she would step on the product and back off; please read the instructions on the Sticky Paws package for what surfaces are appropriate for its use.

cat with grass in planter

Peaches enjoys her snack in the sun © B.E. Kazmarski

One other thing to help the situation—and it’s a nice thing to do for your cat even if you don’t have a plant problem—is to plant her own pot of greens and make it available to her at all times. Don’t use regular plant seeds such as grass seed because some seeds are treated and they don’t all grow well inside; instead, purchase “cat greens”, usually a mixture of wheat, oats and barley grains, all three of which are not only a pleasure for your cat, but full of nutrition. Some other commercial “cat greens” mixtures contain catnip, a sure winner, sage, parsley, chickweed, colt’s foot grass, and other herbs and wild plants that your cat would eat if left outdoors. Alternately, get grass seed you’re sure hasn’t been treated.

Most of these plants can be grown in a small container on a windowsill, and if you keep two containers growing, one available to the cat and one just sprouting, you can have a constant treat for her. These plants need a good bit of sunlight to thrive, so try to find a sunny spot that your cat can get to. It will serve two purposes: because she tends to chew when she’s gazing at the outdoors, you’ve provided exactly what she needs for her little interlude.

kitty enjoys her greens

Peaches enjoys her grass © B.E. Kazmarski

Many local shelters  and websites have information on growing grass and other plants indoors for your cats to enjoy, and many pet supply stores actually sell pre-planted organic seeds that you only have to water and place in a sunny location. If you plant the seeds yourself, it’s important to make sure you use potting soil that has no commercial fertilizers in it since, if your animals are like my cats, they’ll eat it right down to the roots and even eat some soil! Also, the soil may be spilled if the plant is knocked over. To be completely safe, you can always use just plain old peat moss, which doesn’t contain enough nutrition to sustain a large plant, but will grow grass and small herb plants just fine.

And am amazing resource in finding indoor and outdoor plants that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses is on the ASPCA website at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/ under both “17 Common Poisonous Plants” and a hugely comprehensive list of over 400 plant species in “Toxic and Non-toxic Plants”, which even has photos.

Also, in my series on creating your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, I address the issue of choosing pet-safe plants for your backyard in Bringing it All Together, Enhancing and Developing Your Habitat.

Shelters and animal welfare organizations also have comprehensive lists  of plants toxic to cats and potentially toxic foods, visit the Humane Society of the United States for Keep Your Pets Safe and Happy During the Holiday Season and the ASPCA’s Holiday Safety Tips. Both have tips and links to information on toxic plants and “pet-safe floral arrangements”, and various potentially toxic foods. Also keep a link the the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center for reference at before your purchase a house plant or bring an arrangement into the house.

This article was authored by me and first published in  Cat Chat on the My Three Cats website. Visit to read other articles I’ve written for them over the years!

(1) Information obtained from http://www.cfainc.org/articles/lily-dangers.html


Pet-proofing your holiday preparations

cookie in holiday attire

Cookie is ready for the holidays.

It’s kind of like wondering how those of us of a certain age survived our childhoods without seatbelts and bicycle helmets. How did our pets survive before we knew all these cautions about which foods and plants were truly toxic and exactly what a length of curling ribbon could do to their intestines?

Well, a certain number of them didn’t, just as a certain number of children suffered serious or fatal injuries in cars and on bicycles, but we don’t often talk about it.

Before covering the basic warnings, here are a few key points to remember:

1. Animals are not little people. Animals are simply a fraction of our size, so the effect of anything on them will be multiplied in their smaller bodies which don’t metabolize things the same as we do. Consider chocolate and raisins, both of which can be toxic in dogs and cats in smaller amounts than we would eat for fun. Consider aspirin, which a cat’s small body doesn’t metabolize quickly enough to avoid a possible overdose and can be fatal, but can safely be used in reasonable dosages in a dog as a pain reliever.

2. Animals don’t make reasoned decisions in the same way we do. They make decisions based on their own sensibilities as cats and dogs, and because we presume they can’t read or understand warnings about dangers to themselves, these decisions are based on curiosity and adventure and are not always in their own best interest.

3. Don’t ever think your cat or dog “wouldn’t eat that”. They would. Plan on it. Cats are a little more discerning than dogs in choosing what to eat, and even with that, in all the years I’ve had cats they’ve eaten, or attempted to eat, just about anything they could chew and swallow, including such foods as hot peppers, cookies and raw green beans—who would think?!

4. Don’t think your cat or dog “can’t get to it”. They can. They have nothing better to do than to stalk and kill your cheese plate, or the box with the curling ribbon. Confine them if they won’t stay out of something, or get it out of your house.

5. And a special one for the holiday season: Your change in routine will change your pet. Don’t presume you can predict what they will do. Animals are creatures of habit, but this is the one time of the year we intentionally break habits including daily schedules, entertaining guests, and arranging and decorating our space. Our pets may run the spectrum from happily helping to totally freaking out, but the change in plans will have an effect on them and they may not behave in their usual manner, either, making them much less predictable than we are accustomed to.

They can only get into what we leave available for them, so keep them in mind as you prepare. I have links to articles for more information about toxic plants, foods and other dangers at the end of this post.
Keep reading…