Houseplants are common in nearly every home, but some plants, like lilies, while beautiful, are among the most toxic to cats. These colorful flowers or vibrant foliage may brighten your living space, help purify indoor air, and have been shown to help reduce anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, if you have cats, there are houseplants you should not bring into your home due to their toxic properties—especially since cats are notoriously mischievous and prone to chewing on things.
Toxin vs. Poison
When referring to plants, "toxicity" is used instead of "poison." A toxin is a naturally occurring poisonous substance, but it may not necessarily injure or kill an organism because it varies on a scale of mild to severe. Meanwhile, a poison will likely cause harm to an organism.
Some plants that are toxic to cats are also harmful to humans if ingested, such as sago palm, aloe vera, peace lily, and dieffenbachia, to name a few. These plants are also not safe around babies, especially infants and toddlers that like to put everything within hand's reach in their mouths. Many of the same plants that are toxic to cats are also not safe around dogs.
Here are some popular houseplants that you should avoid if you have cats.
01 of 20
Lilies, which are in the "true lily" or Lilium family, and "daylilies," which are in the Hemerocallis family, are dangerous for cats. The entire plant—stems, leaves, flowers, pollen, and the water in the vase—is toxic to cats and known to cause kidney failure within three days. It's best to avoid plants with the word "lily" in their name; most are a deadly combination in a home with cats.
- Toxic Properties: Unknown what the toxin is in the plant
- Safe Alternative: Orchids
02 of 20
Despite their name, peace lilies are not true lilies, but they are one of the most common flowering houseplants. Their dark leaves, white flowers, and low maintenance requirements make them popular. Peace lilies contain calcium oxalates which are toxic to cats. They are only dangerous when ingested and are safe to touch.
- Toxic Properties: Insoluble calcium oxalates
- Safe Alternative: Cast iron plants
03 of 20
Aloe vera plants are a staple in many homes thanks to how easy they are to care for. Aloe vera is characterized by thick, succulent-like leaves with jagged edges that grow upwards from a rosette-like base. It is toxic to cats if ingested.
- Toxic Properties: Saponins, anthraquinone
- Safe Alternative: Haworthia
04 of 20
Monstera deliciosa is one of the most trendy tropical houseplants featured extensively on social media and in home decor thanks to its stunning tropical foliage. Also referred to as "Swiss cheese plants" or "split-leaf philodendrons," monsteras are relatively low maintenance, making them an attractive addition to any home. Unfortunately, Monstera deliciosa contains insoluble calcium oxalates making them highly toxic to cats.
Continue to 5 of 20 below.
- Toxic Properties: Insoluble calcium oxalates
- Safe Alternative: Prayer plant
05 of 20
Due to its low maintenance nature, pothos is an attractive houseplant for amateur and experienced plant owners. The beautiful drape and ease of care make it a lovely addition to your home, particularly when trying to spruce up your home decor on a budget. Though pothos is entirely safe to touch, it is toxic to cats.
- Toxic Properties: Insoluble calcium oxalates
- Safe Alternative: Spider plant
06 of 20
Jade plants, also known as "money plants" or "dollar plants," are a succulent that is easy to grow and thought to bring good luck and fortune to their owners. They are characterized by dark green fleshy leaves and thick, wood-like stems. There are several different varieties of jade plants, all belonging to the family Crassula. Unfortunately, jade plants are highly toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.
- Toxic Properties: Unknown cause of toxicity but all parts of the plant can cause reactions in cats
- Safe Alternative: Peperomia
07 of 20
Snake plant is well-known as one of the best plants for low light conditions and improving air quality—making it an extremely common houseplant. While snake plants are non-toxic for humans, the ASPCA reports they are toxic for cats and dogs if ingested.
- Toxic Properties: Saponins
- Safe Alternative: Rattlesnake plant
08 of 20
Sago palms add a touch of the tropics to your home and can do wonders for indoor air quality. Their unique structure makes them a great talking point and a lovely accent piece. However, these plants have an ancient defense mechanism: they are highly toxic to our furry friends. If you have cats at home, you should avoid them at all costs.
Continue to 9 of 20 below.
- Toxic Properties: Cycasin
- Safe Alternative: Areca palm
09 of 20
English ivy has small, pointed leaves and makes for a delicate display. Thanks to its gorgeous drapery, it is popular as a houseplant grown in hanging planters. This same feature can make it appear like an attractive snack to curious felines, which can be extremely dangerous when ingested.
- Toxic Properties: Triterpenoid saponins
- Safe Alternative: Swedish ivy
10 of 20
Dumb cane, or Dieffenbachia, is a popular houseplant thanks to its stunning tropical foliage and low-maintenance needs. When grown in the right conditions, these plants vary from three feet high to over ten feet tall. Unfortunately, dumb canes are highly toxic to cats when ingested.
- Toxic Properties: Insoluble calcium oxalates, proteolytic enzyme
- Safe Alternative: Staghorn fern
11 of 20
Kalanchoe can cause intestinal issues in cats and affect their heart rate. This native plant to southern Africa, Madagascar, and Australia is also called mother-of-millions and is a succulent closely related to jade plants (also toxic to cats). The toxic active ingredient is bufadienolides, which are similar to digitalis compounds. They can cause disorganized cardiac electrical activity, which may cause an elevated heart rate that can lead to cardiac arrest.
- Toxic Properties: Bufodienolides
- Safe Alternative: Sedum
12 of 20
Lily of the valley is not a true lily plant but is still toxic. They contain cardenolides, which are cardiotoxic. All plant parts are toxic and can lead to vomiting, irregular heartbeats, weak pulse, and more. This abnormal heart rhythm can be life-threatening.
Continue to 13 of 20 below.
- Toxic Properties: Cardenolides
- Safe Alternative: Spiderwort
13 of 20
Hyacinth flowers are bulbs in the asparagus family, and they are toxic. Close relatives include water hyacinths and tulips. These beautiful plants contain alkaloids that can be dangerous if ingested by cats. The bulbs and plants may cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, depression, and tremors.
- Toxic Properties: Possibly narcissus-like alkaloids like lycorine and calcium oxalate raphides
- Safe Alternative: Common lilac
14 of 20
Commonly called Jericho rose or rose laurel, Nerium oleander is native to southern Asia and the Mediterranean. All parts of this beautiful plant are toxic to cats. Oleander has cardiac glycosides that can cause gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia, or death.
- Toxic properties: Cardiac glycosides
- Safe Alternative: St. John's wort
15 of 20
Yew bark, needles, and fruit are toxic to humans, dogs, and cats. Taxus spp. contains a toxic component known as taxine. It can cause trembling, coordination problems, difficulty breathing, severe gastrointestinal problems, cardiac failure, or death. A small bite of this plant can spell disaster for a cat. Horses have collapsed 15 minutes after ingestion.
- Toxic properties: Taxine
- Safe Alternative: Common juniper
16 of 20
Tulips are in the lily family and are toxic to cats. The entire plant is toxic with alkaloid and glycoside compounds; however, the bulb has the highest concentration of toxins. Reactions include vomiting, depression, diarrhea, and drooling. Severe toxicity can lead to convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.
Continue to 17 of 20 below.
- Toxic properties: Tulipalin A and B
- Safe Alternative: Roses
17 of 20
Daffodils are popular harbingers of spring, but the flowers, leaves, and bulbs are toxic to cats. Daffodils contain toxic compounds that are fatal if ingested in large quantities. The bulbs are the most toxic part. In small amounts, daffodils can cause gastrointestinal upset, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling.
- Toxic properties: Lycorine, other phenanthridine alkaloids, and calcium oxalate crystals
- Safe Alternative: Nasturtium
18 of 20
There are two distinctly different bird of paradise plants, Strelitzia Regniae and Caesalpinia gilliesii. Both are toxic to cats. The latter, Caesalpinia gilliesii, is more toxic and can cause more problems, such as intense burning and irritation of the mouth, tongue, and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty swallowing. The Strelitzia variety may cause mild nausea and drowsiness.
- Toxic properties: Possibly hydrocyanic acid
- Safe Alternative: Bromeliads
19 of 20
Late-season blooming mums are the darling flower of fall but are toxic to cats. They contain several substances that, when ingested by felines, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, or skin irritation. Pyrethrin naturally occurs in mums and is commonly used in pesticides, dog flea and tick medication, shampoos, and collars; however, it is toxic when used on cats.
- Toxic properties: Sesquiterpene, lactones, pyrethrins, and other potential irritants
- Safe Alternative: Marigold
20 of 20
Poinsettia is a perennial shrub native to Mexico that is mildly toxic to cats and not nearly as lethal as once thought. The milky sap from the plant can cause mouth and stomach irritation, vomiting, drooling, and skin irritation.
- Toxic properties: Diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin-like detergents
- Safe Alternative: Polka dot plant
Research is necessary before bringing new plants into a home with cats. Though you can remedy this by putting the toxic plants out of reach, it is better to find plants that are safe for cats to help ensure the good health of your feline friends.
Lee, Min-Sun et al. Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. Journal of physiological anthropology, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 21, 2015. doi:10.1186/s40101-015-0060-8
UC Davis Toxic Plant Garden. University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
Lovely Lilies and Curious Cats: A Dangerous Combination. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Peace Lily. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.
Aloe. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.
Cutleaf Philodendron. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.
Golden Pothos. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.
Jade Plant. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.
Reduce Indoor Air Pollution with Houseplants Part 2: Golden Pothos and Snake Plant. Santa Fe Extension Master Gardeners.
Sago Palm. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.
English Ivy. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.
Magill, Alan J. et al. Poisonous Plants and Aquatic Animals, Hunter's Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Disease (Ninth Edition), pp. 923-937, W.B. Saunders, 2013. doi:10.1016/B978-1-4160-4390-4.00211-3
Kalanchoe species poisoning in pets. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
How to Spot Which Lilies Are Dangerous to Cats & Plan Treatment. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Hyacinth. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Oleander: Beautiful but Deadly to Pets. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals.
The dangers of yew ingestion. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
April showers may bring spring bulbs. What does that mean for your pet? American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Bird of Paradise. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Mum. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.