Are Bonsai Trees Poisonous to Cats? (With 6 Examples)


When a friend of mine visited, she noticed some of my bonsai trees I have around the house. She wants to buy one as well, but has two black cats. When she asked me whether the trees are safe for their cats, I could not answer her question with confidence. Therefore I did some research.

Are bonsai trees poisonous for cats? Many different tree types can be a bonsai tree, and not all of them are toxic to cats. Trees with cycasin in them, like the sago palm tree are highly toxic. Other toxic trees include the baby jade, azaleas, plum, cherry, fig or the norfolk island pine.

Different tree species will give different symptoms. Also, not all trees are equally toxic. When owning a cat it is good to know what to look for, and how to prevent your cat being poisoned by bonsai trees.

Bonsai trees that are toxic to cats

Sago Palm Tree

The most toxic bonsai tree that you should avoid at all costs when keeping cats is called the sago palm tree. It looks like a palm tree, with a bulky part on the ground and a couple of palm leaves.

All of the parts of the plant are toxic to cats. The leaves, stem and especially the seeds. This is because the tree contains a chemical called cycasin. This is the primary active toxic agent.

Already 15 minutes after ingestion your cat will show symptoms like drooling, inappetance, vomiting and diarrhea.

Although it is not nice to read, I will add a list of other symptoms you should look for when you suspect your cat might be poisoned.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Inappetance
  • Abnormal fluid accumulation in the abdomen
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice
  • Black-tarry stool

Jade Plant

Another bonsai tree that is toxic to cats is the Jade plant. This plant goes by multiple names like “baby jade”, “jade tree” or “Chinese rubber plant”.

Although it still is unknown what in the jade plant exactly causes it to be poisonous for cats, jade plant poisoning is critical and might be fatal when left untreated.

The jade plant looks like a succulent and you can recognize it by its thick green leaves. I will add a picture of the plant below.

Although these plants are often sold as small plants in pots in gardening centers with the purpose of decorating your house, they can also grow to be quite tall.

All parts of the plant are poisonous for cats when they ingest it. If you suspect your cat has eaten some from a jade plant, make sure you immediately call your vet. If possible take a sample of the plant and estimate how much your cat ate.

Symptoms of jade plant poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscle function
  • Slow heart rate

In combination with these direct symptoms, the poisoning might also induce symptoms that come with depression:

  • Lack of grooming
  • Increased aggression
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Excessive sleeping or hiding

Azalea

While extremely beautiful, the azalea plant is toxic to both humans and cats. Azalea is a type of rhododendron. This is super unlucky, because there are a lot of rhododendrons out there. There are different types, and they are also rather popular.

From the azalea, all the parts of the plant can poison your cat. Signs that your cat has been poisoned include excessive drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. When the symptoms reach a more severe state, they might include tremors or seizures, lack of appetite or falling in a coma.

These effects of the poisoning are usually noticeable withing a few hours after ingestion.

An azalea bonsai looks like this:

I intentionally added a picture where the tree is not flowering completely, while this might be everything you see when you google it. This is because it does not flower all year round (obviously).

Plum

While plum is super tasty to us, it is extremely poisonous to cats. Not just the fruit, but also all the parts of the plum plant itself.

This is because the plant and fruits contain cyanide. This is toxic in low concentrations. It causes vomiting, panting, shock and even death if the poison is not immediately treated.

There are several ways you can tell whether your cat has been poisoned by plum. When you suspect this might be the case, look for these symptoms:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Difficulty with breathing
  • Excessive panting
  • Vomiting
  • Shock
  • Bright red mucous membranes, especially the gums

While the plant (stem, leaves and fruit) is always toxic to cats, the fruit is especially poisonous when wilted. This is because the cyanide concentration increases as the moisture from the fruit decreases.

When you notice that your cat has been poisoned, make sure you look at everything and try and remember how much time has passed. This is very important information for the vet.

Cherry Tree

Just like the plum described above, the cherry tree contains cyanide. This is poisonous to your cats, so it needs to be avoided at all costs.

Unlike the plum, the cherry itself (the ripe part that we eat) does not contain cyanide. All other parts, like the stems, leaves, blossom and cherry pits do contain cyanide and should not be consumed by your cat.

Unless your cat eats a big quantity of cherry tree, it will not get a severe form of poisoning. Cherry tree poison usually is a milder for of poisoning.

Symptoms your cat will display include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Inadequate oxygen levels
  • Bright red mucous membranes (gums)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Shock
  • Death

When you noticed that your cat has been poisoned at an early stage, chances of recovery are high. To prevent your cat from getting poisoned, remove all cherry trees from the direct surrounding or prevent your cat from reaching the cherry trees.

Fig tree

Just like the cherry and the plum, figs are perfectly safe to consume to humans. When it comes to cats, this is not the case.

Fig trees are easily recognizable because of their distinct leaf shape. The leaf has 5 fingers. I have added a picture of a fig bonsai above.

From the fig plant, all the parts are poisonous and irritating to cats. This includes the stem, leaves, seeds and the fruit.

If you have witnessed your cat eating a fig, contact your vet immediately. You should however take into account that fig poisoning is only a mild for on poisoning and will not kill your cat.

Symptoms your cat will display when it ingested fig are:

  • Vomiting
  • Increased drooling or watering in the mouth
  • Shaking the head
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin irritation

What you should do when your cat has been poisoned

As soon as you see you cat eating poisonous trees, or suspect that your cat has been poisoned, call your vet as soon as possible!

It is important that you take veterinary action because they know how to treat the poison.

When you make your appointment, make sure you tell them about the symptoms your cat is showing in detail.

If possible, take a part of the plant that your cat has eaten so the vet can double check. Also, make sure you tell him/her how long your cat has been showing certain symptoms.

Your vet will treat each type of poisoning differently. Make sure to ask them afterwards about poisonous plants, and maybe discuss if you need to remove any plants from your home or garden to prevent poisoning in the future.

Finally, ask your vet whether you need to change anything in the diet of your cat to ensure a smooth recovery. This might include feeding softer foods for a couple of days.

References:
Banner image – Owner: Ron Frazier Licensed under: CC BY 2.0 No changes made
Sago Palm Tree image – Owner: Holek Licensed under: CC BY 3.0 No changes made
Jade Plant image – Owner: Marco Verch Professional Licensed under: CC2.0 No changes made
Azalea image – Owner: mschiffm Licensed under: Pixabay License No changes made
Plum image – Owner: Couleur Licensed under: Pixabay License No changes made
Cherry image – Owner: MabelAmber Licensed under: Pixabay License No changes made
Fig tree image – Owner: Tangopaso Licensed under: Public Domain

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