Are Snake Plants Toxic to Cats? (Symptoms & Treatment)
Are snake plants toxic to cats? It is an important question that can have serious consequences if ignored. If you have both cats and snake plants in your home, we highly recommend you familiarize yourself with the symptoms of snake plant poisoning in cats, and potential treatments should you ever need to treat your beloved house pets.
Yes – snake plants are one of the popular indoor plants that are toxic to cats. Snake plants contain a substance called saponins, which are a set of toxic chemicals designed to protect plants from pests, diseases and pathogens. Unfortunately, accidental poisoning can occur when pets, like cats, become curious about snake plants and consume parts of the plant. Extreme toxic poisoning is uncommon; however it is not a pleasant experience for all parties involved; animal, plant or you.
Welcome to today’s feature article at the Garden Bench Top. In this article we will be exploring the relationship between cats and snake plants. Particularly focusing on the question Are snake plants toxic to cats? We’ll look at
- the typical symptoms cats exhibit when poisoned by snake plants,
- as well as possible treatments to make your pet more comfortable.
- Finally, we’ll suggest potential solutions for preventing your feline friend from being tempted to nibble on your indoor snake plants.
Before we jump into treatments, let’s familiarize ourselves with the source of the poisoning.
Are Snake Plants Toxic to Cats – and Why?
What happens when you have two loves in your life that aren’t compatible, like indoor plants and pets? In most cases, they can co-exist side by side. But on the odd occasion, the two can mix, with not so pleasant outcomes.
What are Saponins?
As we touched on earlier, saponins are chemicals produced by the snake plant for self-defense purposes. Saponins’ primary purpose in snake plants is to deter insects and animals, like your precious cat, from using them as a snack machine.
They also help to defend the snake plant against diseases, microbes and fungi.
Saponins are found in most parts of the plant. However, they are especially concentrated in the skin of the snake plant. They help to form the waxy coating on those beautiful sword-shaped leaves of the snake plant.
What Effects Does Saponin Have?
When ingested, saponins irritate the gastrointestinal tract and stomach lining, causing it to become inflamed. This is likely to lead to complications, like discomfort, stomach pain, stomach upset, diarrhea and vomiting.
The sap of the plant is also known to cause irritation to the skin. When the sap of snake plants touches exposed parts of the skin, like the mouth and paws, it will cause itchiness and dermatitis.
If you observe your cat struggling to breathe, please seek immediate medical attention from a qualified animal care professional.
Because saponins are known irritants that can cause an allergic reaction. Although extremely unlikely to result in a fatality, extra caution should be exercised if there is swelling experienced around the airways and throat.
Symptoms of Snake Plant Poisoning in Cats
Okay, now we know why snake plants are toxic. In this next section we are going to bring our focus on the subject at hand – cats and snake plants (otherwise known as mother-in-law’s tongue or sansevieria trifasciata).
Below is a list of common snake plant poisoning symptoms we think you should be aware of when living in a house with the two.
- Nausea or Vomiting – as we mentioned above, the main effect saponins have when ingested is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to vomiting and feeling queasy or nausea.
- Behavioral Changes – Obviously your cat cannot tell you it is feeling nauseous, so you may observe unusual behavior such as excessive drooling, meowing, licking or chewing. Even a lack of appetite or restlessness.
- Diarrhea – snake plant poisoning can cause your cat to experience diarrhea as their body tries to process and eliminate the toxic substances in its system.
- Swollen Mouth and Immediate Surrounding Area – the sap of snake plants is also a well-known irritant to any exposed skin it comes into contact with. Naturally as your cat eats the snake plant, it will inevitably come into contact with the sensitive parts of the mouth. Resulting in a swollen mouth, lips and nose.
How to Treat Cats for Snake Plant Poisoning?
Now you know how to recognize the symptoms of snake plant poisoning in cats, let’s talk about what to do if the situation ever arises.
The treatment process for a cat that is experiencing snake plant poisoning will depend on the amount of vegetation it consumed and the severity of the symptoms.
If your cat is experiencing difficulty breathing, we suggest taking your beloved pet to a vet or medical professional immediately.
If you notice only mild discomfort in your pet, then follow the below steps to help them through the process:
- Immediately remove the snake plant and any fallen bits that may be around your cat to limit the exposure of sap or saponins.
- Give your cat a soapy warm bath to rinse off any concentration of toxins in the sap that may still be in your cat’s fur or on the skin.
- Wash your cat’s mouth with water (not soapy!). This will prevent any further poisonous toxins from entering the digestive system.
- Keep your cat by your side for the next 24 hours. It is important to observe if your feline friend is experiencing any breathing troubles. If you believe your cat is struggling to breathe, take them to the vet immediately.
What to Expect from the Recovery of Snake Plant Poisoning?
You should expect to see your cat fully recover from snake plant poisoning within 24-48 hours of first symptoms.
As mentioned earlier, it is unusual for snake plant poisoning to become fatal. This is because the toxins will immediately react with your cat’s mouth and skin, causing extreme discomfort. The itchiness should prevent your cat from consuming a lethal amount of the snake plant, leading to only minor reactions.
The only threat is if your cat has an extreme allergic reaction to the toxins, causing severe symptoms and difficulty in breathing. In cases like these, seek urgent medical advice.
Prevention of Snake Plant Poisoning in Cats
If you are a frequent reader at the Garden Bench Top, you will know that we are big advocates of PREVENTION as a key strategy.
Here are our favorite tips for limiting the interaction between snake plants and cats.
Spray Your Snake Plant
One of the most effective ways to keep your cat’s curiosity at bay is using scents to deter them. Because cats are more sensitive to smell than we are, we can use particular odors to keep them away from toxic houseplants.
Anything that has citrus tones, like lemon or orange peels, will keep cats at bay. An added side-benefit of using citrus peels in your snake plant’s soil is that, as they break down, they will raise the acidity, giving snake plants an added boost to their nutrient uptake.
Another smell that cats are not partial to are used coffee grinds. The smell repulses cats, and they will happily give your snake plants a wide berth. Like citrus, the coffee grinds also come with other soil-enriching benefits. Used coffee grinds help to boost your soil’s organic matter composition, giving the local microorganism population some much-needed food.
The other material that keeps cats away from your indoor plants is cinnamon powder. The strong smelling spice is too intense for cats, often irritating their nasal passages and forcing them to satiate their curiosity elsewhere.
Relocate your Snake Plant
This solution sounds obvious and simple. However, in practice, it can be more challenging than you may initially think.
Relocating your snake plant to a room or position in the house where your cat is unlikely to find it is a great idea. The difficulty is finding that perfect spot.
As you know, cats are curious creatures who love to explore hard-to-reach places. Tops of cabinets, small nooks under the stairs, and table tops are definitely not off-limits.
So where do you hide your snake plant that is away from your cat’s reach, but also provides the correct light conditions in order for your popular houseplant to thrive?
Try placing your snake plant in a room where you can cordon it off, away from your cat. For example, a window in your bathroom that has a door that can be closed or in your home office where you can supervise the plant during the day.
Offer a Substitution
When you have a strong-minded cat that refuses to leave your snake plant alone (no matter where you put it in your house), sometimes the best solution is to offer up a substitute plant. Sometimes cat owners call this a sacrificial plant.
Obviously you want your substitute plant to be non-toxic AND a plant that you are not particularly attached to. We suggest growing cat grass as a suitable sacrificial plant.
Cat grass will help to replace your feline’s instinct to consume leafy greens, and is a fast and easy indoor plant to grow.
Snake Plants and Cats – Common Questions
What Parts Of The Snake Plant Are Poisonous or Toxic?
Given the parts of the snake plant above the soil line are only green foliage, we are going to say all the parts of the snake plant are toxic to cats. The leaves of the snake plant contain toxic substances called saponins, which are highly concentrated in the skin of the leaves.
Will My Cat Recover from Snake Plant Poisoning
Yes – you can expect your cat to recover from snake plant poisoning within 24-48 hours of showing the first symptoms of poisoning.
If you observe your cat struggling to breathe, then seek medical advice immediately.
Can Snake Plants Kill My Cat?
It is unlikely that your cat will die from eating snake plant leaves. The sap from the snake plant will immediately irritate your cats mouth, causing them to stop eating the plant. Therefore, it is unlikely they will consume enough to be fatal.
Are Snake Plants Safe for Cats?
No, snake plants are toxic plants that contain a toxin called saponins in the leaves that can poison your cat when ingested. To be safe, we recommend keeping cats and snake plants away from each other to prevent any potential disasters or nasty accidents from occurring.