Toxic Houseplants to Pets

6 years ago

"What's wrong with Dick Ficus?" I asked at the end of an editorial meeting recently. "His leaves keep turning yellow and falling off."

That set editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison off on a tirade against the ficus plant. "They're not real plants! It doesn't matter what you do or if you mist or don't mist or how humid your apartment is -- THEY WILL ALWAYS DIE."

Shortly after we got off the call, Stacy sent me a list of top 10 hardest to kill houseplants. But I was immediately suspicious, because the whole reason I bought the damn ficus was because it isn't poisonous to cats.


Credit Image: Irish Typepad on Flickr



We had an Easter lily in the house and even though I never saw my poor sweet kitty touch it, she went from perfectly normal to dead of acute kidney failure in three days. I had no idea when I brought the plant into my home that Easter lilies are extremely poisonous to cats. When I found that out, I vowed never to bring another plant into my home without checking out whether or not it's even remotely toxic again.

Now I'm completely paranoid about toxic plants and pets. So I cross-referenced Stacy's list against the ASPCA's toxic plant list, and yes, we're all doomed. Check it out.

Top Most Heinous and Evil Houseplants:



Even though the dieffenbachia looks cute and innocent, it can make your throat swell up. Wikipedia tries to make this sound like no big deal, but seriously, who wants throat swelling plants in the house?


Credit Image: cliff 1066 on Flickr


NEXT PLANT OF DOOM--> Five More Hard-to-Kill Houseplants That Are Toxic to Cats and Dogs



Philodendrons can cause throat swelling and skin irritation. Which makes me wonder why this is probably the most popular office plant I've ever seen, second only to Stacy's favorite plant, the ficus.


Credit Image: Nieve44/Luz on Flickr



Aren't jade plants pretty? Yeah. They can also cause everything from vomiting to depression in dogs and cats.

Credit Image: Anika Malone on Flickr

NEXT PLANT OF DOOM--> Chinese Evergreen

The pretty Chinese evergreen will cause throat and stomach irritation. Also? It looks like planta non grata dieffenbachia

Credit Image: scott.zona on Flickr


One of my favorite plants, the peace lily, is associated with the words "renal failure." Moving on.



Credit Image: paparutzi on Flickr



The English ivy can give you anything from sore throat and fever to (if you're severely allergic) a coma.


Credit Image: time_anchor on Flickr



I KNOW! So I picked up the phone and called Dennis Patton at the Johnson County K-State Research and Extension. Dennis reminded me that even water can be technically toxic and these lists often don't contain information about how much must be ingested before things really go off the rails. That said, if you're like me and don't want your baby or furbaby to be even mildly uncomfortable around your houseplants, think about putting them up high or outside or maybe just not having that kind.

What's a plant-loving petparent or parent to do? Go with one of these.

Safe, Nontoxic Houseplants:


Chamaedorea for Cats & Dogs

Also known as the "parlor palm," and who doesn't love that name, the chamaedorea looks nice and is apparently safe for cats and dogs according to the ASPCA.


Credit Image: DianeWorth on Flickr


NEXT NICE, FRIENDLY PLANT --> Christmas Cactus for Cats & Dogs

The Christmas cactus is really easy to keep alive. I know because when I was temping at Mutual of Omaha between my life in Chicago and my life in Kansas City, I got one for Secretary's Day. I gave it to my mom and it got ginormous within six months. I couldn't believe it was the same plant.


Credit Image: madame.furie on Flickr


NEXT NICE, FRIENDLY PLANT --> African Violet for Dogs, Cats & Even Horses

The word at BlogHer is that African violets are impossible to kill, but I know this is not true, because I almost killed one at my last job. But apparently other people have trouble killing them, and they are really pretty and also nice and small. And did I mention not poisonous?


Credit Image: Apes of Wrath on Flickr


Bookmark this page for all your plant referencing needs! And catparents, DO NOT BRING HOME AN EASTER LILY THIS EASTER!


Rita Arens authors Surrender, Dorothy and is the editor of the award-winning parenting anthology Sleep is for the Weak. She is the senior editor for