Snake plant (Mother in law’s tongue) is a popular houseplant and likely to be found indoors in a pot as well as outdoors. Although it’s not common for cats to chew on unsuitable objects such as plants, the possibility is not zero. Whether it is a curious little kitten or a bored restless cat, they may ingest houseplants or outdoor ornamental plants. So, is the snake plant toxic for cats? Well, the short answer is yes. It is in fact mildly toxic and can cause some gastrointestinal problems. Keep reading to learn more about the toxic parts of this plant, symptoms of toxicity, prevention measures and first-aid tips.
Although snake plants can cause trouble for your cat, most probably they won’t eat too much. Animals usually don’t return for a second bite, because the snake plant is bitter in taste and causes immediate burning sensation to the mouth.
Is the snake plant toxic? and why?
The Snake plants (Sansevieria Trifasciata) are evergreen plants that are often kept at home for their air purifying abilities. Their impressive long foliage and ease of maintenance makes them one of the best houseplants to keep indoors or outdoors. Snake plants are usually safe and show low or no toxicity in humans.
However, that doesn’t mean they won’t affect our lovely furry friends. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), snake plant is a toxic houseplant for cats as well as dogs. The plant contains a toxic chemical called Saponin that can cause distressing reactions. The toxicity is mild to moderate for pets including kittens, puppies, dogs or cats. Whenever the animal eats any part of the snake plant, toxicity can occur.
Don’t let this get you worried a lot, especially if you already own a cat and a snake plant. In the last section of this post I’ll suggest some ways to prevent your cat from eating the plant.
Apart from the toxicity being mild, the overall fatality of snake plants is on the low side for all species. Furthermore, there is another fact that decreases the likelihood of life threatening intoxication from consuming snake plants. All parts of this plant are very bitter in taste, making it relatively non palatable. This will presumably convince your cat to leave the plant alone and look somewhere else for tastier food. Moreover, it’s very unlikely that your pet could tolerate eating a massive enough amount of the plant that would make it harmful. A cat’s gastrointestinal reaction may be mild to moderate, but the pet most probably won’t cross the line into life threatening toxicosis.
What is Saponin?
As mentioned before, Saponin is the chemical that makes snake plants toxic for pets. Saponin is produced to act as a natural insecticide and fungicide. It also protects the plant from other microbes. Saponin is the chemical that makes the snake plant bitter as well.
What does Saponin do?
Although Saponin does it’s job well by keeping insects and fungus at bay, it is not good for humans and pets. The compound Saponin is toxic for living beings and causes gastronomical reactions in humans and animals when ingested. Furthermore, the juices of the plant have the ability to cause skin dermatitis. Dermatitis is a form of skin diseases that creates rash or irritation.
Chewing or consuming any part of snake plants in excess puts humans and animals at the risk of developing severe allergic reactions. In the worst case scenario, these reactions may result in swelling of the tissues in the oral cavity and esophagus. Such a response can ultimately cause a serious threat to life.
Which parts of snake plants are poisonous?
The Mother-in-law’s tongue contains mildly poisonous chemicals in the form of saponins and organic acids. Saponin is found in the entire plant. Therefore, all parts of the snake plant should be avoided due to their toxic nature. Saponin is present in the long upright leaves and stem of the plant, parts that are easily accessible. Snake plants can occasionally bloom and produce greenish-white fragrant flowers that resemble lilies. Over time, the blossom will give orange-red colored berries. These flowers and fruits are also toxic, and should be avoided for consumption.
The sap or juice of the plant leaves can cause mild skin irritation. However, cats are unlikely to make skin contact with it, as their bodies are covered in fur.
Will a snake plant kill my cat?
The toxicity level of the snake plants is very mild to pose a life threatening risk to your pet. The toxins are not very powerful, and the implications of ingesting them are usually limited to stomach upset in most cases.
However, if your cat has consumed a big amount of toxins, it might be dangerous. But as explained earlier, it is still very unlikely. The key is to seek medical attention right away. With early diagnosis and treatment, the possibility is your cat will recover nicely in a couple of days.
In short, a snake plant will not kill your cat. But it is strongly advisable to take him or her to the veterinarian after you see the symptoms. Even if you don’t see any symptoms yet, but your cat has ingested the plant, it’s always better to be safe and see the vet.
The bitter taste of snake plants combined with a burning sensation in the mouth, makes the plant inedible. However, some curious cats might be keen on tasting the plant. After consuming any part of the plant, pets will start showing some common symptoms. These symptoms are mostly related to the gastrointestinal tract problems, as the plant is highly indigestible. Although the effects of consuming snake plants are not severe, you should look for these signs of poisoning:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Excessive drooling
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of organs such as tongue, mouth, lips, throat
If your cat starts showing any of the above symptoms, take her or him immediately to the veterinarian for checkup. If you are sure that your cat hasn’t ingested the plant, still it’s better to visit a vet. Because, these are common signs of poisoning and can be caused by different things.
- When you are certain that your cat has eaten the snake plant, make sure that the cat doesn’t eat it further. If there are visible bits of leaves in the cat’s mouth and teeth, try to remove them.
- Contact either your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately. If you are unable to reach any of these for some reason, local human poison control centers may offer some help.
- Try to find out the species name of the snake plant that your cat has eaten, and cut a leaf sample to take it with you to the vet.
- Check how much quantity of plant your cat has consumed, and remember the exact or approximate time of consumption if you know that.
- Do not try to induce your cat to vomit unless your vet says to do so. Traditional home remedies can be hazardous to cats.
- Ensure the cat drinks plenty of water to prevent potential dehydration as a result of diarrhea.
Diagnosis of snake plant poisoning
Apart from the symptoms mentioned above, you may notice parts of the plant in your cat’s mouth. There might be visible bite marks on plant leaves. Bring the cat’s full medical history to the clinic. This will help the vet discover potential complications and risks. As many houseplants are toxic for cats, provide information about all the plants you keep indoors as well as outdoors.
The veterinarian may perform a physical examination to check the condition and if there are any abnormalities. Additionally, the cats temperature, blood pressure and other vital functions will be measured. A complete blood test and urine test may be recommended to analyze organ functions and general health conditions.
There is no specified course of treatment for snake plant poisoning in cats. Usually symptoms are treated as they arise. Some cases will not require any treatment, while others may demand a short hospital stay.
Removing plant material
At first, the vet will ensure all the plant matter is removed from the cat’s mouth before starting any further treatment. This can be done by flushing the mouth with water to remove any bits of leaves from teeth and oral cavities. If your cat has not been vomiting, the vet may decide to induce vomiting to empty the contents of the cat’s stomach. This will make your pet expel out the remaining plant parts and prevent further digestion of toxins.
For the plant poisoning, certain care options are used to promote fast recovery in the cat. For instance, antihistamines are used to reduce swelling and open airways in case of allergic reactions. After a thorough evaluation, your vet may prescribe a couple of medications.
- Kapectolin – to protect the cat’s stomach lining by providing a coating
- Sucralfate – to reduce gastrointestinal irritation by interacting with digestive acids and creating a protective barrier
If the cat has become dehydrated from excessive vomiting or diarrhea, the vet may also administer electrolytes through an IV drip.
Poisoning from snake plants (Mother in law’s tongue) is very unlikely to kill your pet, since it is mildly toxic. Cats who have ingested this plant are expected to make a full recovery within a few days. Usually it should take 1-2 days. During the recovery time, be sure to take particularly good care of your cat. Follow the medicine regimen carefully so ensure a quick recovery.
In case your vet has recommended any specific type of food, give it to your cat at stated times. If your cat vomited after eating or taking the medicine, wait for about 12 hours before feeding again. Feed the cat a mixture of small pieces of boiled chicken breasts (skinned and boned) with rice. Alternately, you can use chicken baby food. This will make the transition to a regular diet easier. Over the next two days, reduce the amount of chicken+rice gradually and swap it with regular cat food.
How to prevent your cat from eating houseplants?
Houseplants are stylish and are great additions to your home or office. But several beautiful plants such as Sansevieria Trifasciata or snake plants are not pet-friendly. Even though many plants are not fatal, there are still ways to avoid any discomfort or potential disaster.
Here are some tips and quick fixes for preventing your pets from ingesting the houseplants you have.
- Make sure to move the plant to an area in your home that your cat cannot reach, preferably on a high shelf. This will make it difficult to climb and ingest the plant, especially if you have smaller cats or kittens.
- If you do have a Mother-in-law’s tongue plant in your home, it’s a good idea to keep it in a room your cat cannot enter. Be sure to keep the room’s door closed.
- Squeeze a lemon or orange zest on the pot rims to create a strong pet repellent scent. Nearly all dogs and cats hate the smell of citrus.
- Another good idea is to sprinkle some cinnamon in the soil. It not only repels the cats, but also acts as a natural insecticide and fungicide for your snake plant.
- In case that your cat likes to chew on plants, you can purposely grow cat grass for them. You can buy it from a pet store or order it online. Cat grass is very safe, but can sometimes result in vomiting when ingested. However, it won’t cause any poisoning in cats.
- As an extra precaution, you can choose to remove snake plants from home and place it outdoors. These plants are quite hardy and can grow almost anywhere.
- To protect your cat from toxic plants growing outdoors, keep the cat indoors where you have full control on objects they are exposed to.