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Biology, Uncategorized

Stop eating my plants!

If you’re like me, you may have had a sudden change of venue for your workday. I’ve been working at home for about two weeks now, since the coronavirus pandemic has triggered the vacating of pretty much every public space around the world. Yesterday I gave in and accepted that this was a long term move which meant making a decision about my office plants.

I have cats, very curious cats, so I’m hyper aware that they will likely try to eat whatever comes into the house. As a result, I have cat grass grown specifically for them and not alot else. When I walked in with three plants yesterday they could hardly contain themselves. The thing is, I’ve inherited the plants from previous coworkers and I don’t know what they all are. So, in addition to my identification quest, I’m also a little more curious than normal about what plants are toxic to cats. (Just so you know the plants are locked away for the cats until I know they’re safe).

Cat eating cat grass

I have written previously that poinsettias, despite their bad reputation, are not actually toxic to animals (or small children), but many plants are. Based on data from the ASPCA Animal poison control center, Milewski and Khan (2006) found that the lily, azalea, oleander, sago palm, Castor bean, kalanchoe, and autumn crocus are the most common ones that caused serious systemic effects. Depending on the plant, part of the plant, and the amount ingested this can include damage to the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and cardiovascular system. Others are more likely to cause mild to moderate vomiting and diarrhea.

How fast you start seeing symptoms varies between within the hour and days. Most of these plants don’t survive the cold winters where I live so my cats are significantly more likely to be exposed if I brought one of the plants home with me, but those of you in warmer climates would also need to watch for plants in the wild and in landscaping.

The ASPCA has a page dedicated to listing both toxic and non-toxic plants. I highly recommend reviewing this site or a similar one before you let any four legged housemates investigate any new plants.

We do need some positives though so I also did a little research into catnip. One of my cats is a huge fan, while the other is only mildly interested. About one-third of cats do not respond to catnip. I kind of knew this but what I didn’t know is that most tigers do not respond to catnip (Bol et al, 2017). All I can say is it’s a good thing cats can’t understand a lot of human language: I’m pretty sure if the one knew that she was like a tiger we’d never hear the end of it.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.

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