House plants and pets, particularly cats, don’t necessarily get along, and some of them can produce severe damage to your feline friend’s internal organs, especially their kidneys. But not all of them are the same, particularly succulents.
Since the majority of succulents don’t really smell like anything, neither cats nor dogs will be extremely interested in them, whether that means sniffing them or taking a bite out of them.
But accidents can happen, and as a responsible cat owner, you should be informed as to which succulents you are allowed to have in your home and which ones you should definitely steer clear of.
Safe succulents for cats
1. Burro’s Tail
Although it might look like a cactus, Sedum morganianum, also known as Burro’s Tail, is a succulent. It’s one of the most heat-tolerant plants out there, so it makes the perfect match for individuals who live in warmer climates.
Available colors range from gray-green to blue-green. This pet-friendly plant can put up with the abuse of winter, provided that you cover the soil with some mulch to ensure that the roots are somewhat frost-protected.
Do not water it excessively, as the roots can rot fast. If your cat has a bite of your Burro’s Tail cactus, they’re not going to experience any health complications although it is still a good idea to keep it out of their reach.
Echeveria is one of the most versatile succulents that you can purchase from your plant nursery, and not just in terms of how it looks. There are all sorts of sub-species that look unique when compared to one another, but they’re all fairly resistant to inclement weather.
However, all Echeveria plants need at least 6 hours a day in direct light, regardless of the season. In the winter, it does not require as much water as it does from spring to autumn, with some plants doing very well without being watered for one to two months.
There are more than 100 varieties of Echeveria, but not a single one is toxic to cats.
3. Zebra Haworthia
Also known as the Zebra plant, this is another example of how easily your home can become green with as little to no effort. These plants are small and they also don’t tend to grow fast, so you need to have a little patience if you want to see them get taller.
Although the Haworthia is always a ‘zebra,’ it comes in different types, such as limifolia, tessellata, and attenuata, all of which have different shapes when it comes to their leaves. The first one’s are flat, the second one’s are pointy, and the third one’s look like those of a stockier succulent or cactus.
Although Zebra Haworthia can easily survive in deep shade, it does love reasonable lighting. It does not thrive in direct sunlight, either. Its water necessities are somewhat low, and when it is not placed in a warm spot, it can do very well with being watered once every two weeks or so. In the summer, you may have to water it once a week.
Like the previously mentioned plants, this one is completely safe for cats. In fact, pets rarely show any interest in it.
4. Red Lion Sempervivum
This plant does well both outdoors and indoors, especially in the colder seasons. However, it needs to be placed in areas that receive enough light as otherwise, it suffers and easily gets damaged.
One of the causes of this plant dying is overwatering. Unfortunately, many people tend to think that succulents have the same watering necessities as common leafy plants, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This one needs to be watered once a month in the winter and once a week in the hot summer months.
Make sure that your pot has proper drainage, as otherwise, the plant’s roots will rot. Red Lion Sempervivum thrives in succulent or cactus soil mixes. When planted in the garden, its substrate should have enough gravel so that the soil gets drained enough and root rotting is prevented.
5. Living Stones Lithops
Also known as pebble plants, Living Stones Lithops are very unique in their appearance. One thing’s for sure – they do not grow fast, so you will need to have plenty of patience if you want to see them develop into older plants that produce stone-looking babies in their pots.
Because they come from the desert, Living Stones Lithops have unique temperature demands, being able to thrive in 90-100 degrees F. They can also be kept indoors in the winter where they do relatively well.
The biggest challenge when it comes to caring for this species is over-watering. It does well with a routine where you water it every 2-3 weeks in the summer, but once the colder season hits, you can leave it be for two months or more. Otherwise, no new leaves can grow, and the plant can actually die.
6. Mardi Gras Aeonium
This one is a favorite of people with green thumbs caring for Mediterranean gardens or rock gardens. It’s also compatible with containers. Because it is sturdy and resistant both to cold and hot weather and animals, it can survive for a long, long time before dying.
Mardi Gras Aeonium also doesn’t really carry any parasites and doesn’t develop any diseases, making it a great option for individuals who do not want any headaches with their plants. Like other succulents, this one appreciates dry to medium moisture soils that have to be well-drained.
Unlike other plants in the same category, though, it loves to sit in as much light as possible. Although it can survive for several months in light shade, it will eventually wither if it is not at least placed in the window in the winter.
Besides being completely safe for cats, it doesn’t have any particular fragrance; moreover, the surface of the leaves is covered in a short layer of thorns, which is why your feline friend will most likely avoid it altogether.
7. Holiday Cactus Schlumbergera
Holiday cactus hails from Brazil, which means that it has quite unique needs despite being named after some of the most important holidays of the year (there are three varieties – Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving Cactus). It appreciates high humidity, which makes things a little complicated for this plant’s fanbase.
In the cold season, it thrives only indoors, where the temperature is high enough for it not to die. Unlike other succulents, this one cannot survive for three months without being watered, especially in deep shade.
Because of its necessities, the best places in a house where a Holiday Cactus can thrive are either a kitchen with large windows or a bright bathroom – the second of which also satisfies the plant’s needs for humidity.
Although it does like a lot of light, this plant should be placed in partially shaded spots in your garden in the summer. Holiday Cactus is not toxic to pets, but if your cat tends to get in your plants, try to keep it out of their reach.
Toxic succulents for cats & Symptoms to be on the lookout for
We picked the following seven because they are particularly common throughout households across the world, mostly because they are easy to care for and are also eye-catching.
But there are many more succulents and plants toxic to cats and dogs that you should do a little research on. So, before you get excited at the local plant nursery, refer to Google to find out whether the plant you’re interested in doesn’t actually pose a health threat to your feline companion.
1. Aloe vera
Although aloe vera is indeed used in a variety of cat-safe products, including shampoo, the plant itself should never be ingested by your pet. It contains saponins, which are highly toxic, and while most poisoning cases diagnosed because of this plant are mild, one can never be too sure.
Some clinical signs that you can notice if your cat recently ate the tips of your aloe vera plant are the following:
- Red urine
Although it can’t be considered one of the riskiest house plants you may have around for this species, kalanchoe can cause digestive distress in some animals, especially those that have a history of sensitive digestion.
We used the generic name for this species because most of its sub-species are indeed toxic to cats, so you should try and keep these plants out of your cat’s reach – as much as possible. This is not the only animal sensitive to this plant, as in calves, for example, which are naturally larger and perhaps less sensitive compared to cats, it can produce death when just 7 grams of kalanchoe flowers are ingested.
Symptoms of kalanchoe poisoning in cats include the following:
- Irregular heartbeats (abnormal heart rhythm)
3. Jade plant (Crassula ovata)
Jade plants have become very common in the past few years, especially because they call for little to no effort. They seem to be perfectly content to grow with average lighting and average watering, therefore speaking to the needs of people who do not have the best green thumbs out there.
Unfortunately, all of the parts of the jade plant (and that includes any type of jade plant) are toxic to cats. Some symptoms you might notice if your cat ingested this type of plant are:
- Skin irritation
- Skin rash
- A slow heart rate
4. String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)
As unique-looking as it might be, the string of pearls succulent is a very dangerous plant to even have around. It is not only toxic to cats, but to many other species, too, including humans.
Some clinical signs that can be noticed in cats that have developed Senecio poisoning are listed below:
- Excess drooling
- Behavior changes (increased aggression of hiding)
- Digestive distress
5. Pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli)
This is one of the most dangerous plants for the health of people, dogs, and cats. It is so toxic that it effectively produces burns in the oral cavity whenever it is digested.
To make matters worse, besides the fact that it contains toxic esters, Euphorbia tirucalli also contains latex, which means that the ingested bits can stick to the mucous membranes that cover any type of organ, whether the esophagus, the stomach, or the intestines.
In terms of clinical signs, cats can quickly become ill after ingesting a portion of this plant. Other symptoms are the following:
- Oral ulcers
- Abdominal pain
- Respiratory distress
6. Mother in Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
As easy to take care of as it might be, Snake plant is yet another dangerous houseplant to have around, especially if you own pets. It is toxic to both dogs and cats (and probably to humans, too, with the mention that no studies have been performed on this species yet).
It contains saponins, which can lead to your cat experiencing some of the symptoms listed below:
- Absence of appetite for food or water
- Tendency to be withdrawn
7. Philodendron (Swiss cheese plant, heartleaf, or fiddle-leaf philodendron)
These plants are among the least worrying ones when it comes to the symptoms they can produce in cats since in most animals the clinical picture is mild to moderate. Very few cases of philodendron ingestion result in death – but this is a risk that you can’t take if you are the owner of a kitten, pregnant cat, or senior, for example.
Signs of philodendron toxicity include the following:
- Inflammation of the mouth, lips, and tongue
- Excess drooling
- Mouth pain
- Digestive distress caused by the calcium oxalate crystal content in the plant
- Liver or kidney damage (particularly when large parts of the plant are ingested)
What to do if your cat ate a part of your succulent plant
The best way of going about things, in this case, would be to take your cat to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible.
Even if you think that the plant that your cat ingested is not toxic to pets, some of its structure might irritate your pet’s mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and parts of the small and large intestine – so getting them checked by a vet is the best idea.
There’s also the option of calling the Pet Poison Helpline, but do consider that cats are more sensitive than dogs and that even inducing vomiting at home is not recommended in this species.