Are ZZ Plant Toxic to Cats?

ZZ Plant
ZZ Plant (Source: Unsplash)

Zamioculcas Zamifolia, also known as ZZ plants, has been a popular indoor plant choice for anyone who wants to add a touch of green to their home.

Not only is this plant hardy and low-maintenance, but it is also famed for its ability to purify the air from toxins.

However, even though this plant looks simple and innocent, a question has been lurking around plant lovers for a long time. Is the ZZ plant toxic?

ZZ plants are known to be toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. The Calcium Oxalate crystals found on the sap of this plant can be harmful when ingested and can cause skin irritation. When exposed, your cats show symptoms like vomiting, excessive salivation, and difficulty swallowing. 

Originating from the East African plains, this plant is famous for its beautiful glossy leaves that grow from its rhizome.

ZZ-Plant-Zamioculcas-zamiifolia)-Wikimedia
ZZ Plant (Source: Wikimedia)

Many people rush to buy this plant as a harmless decor for their home, but little do they know it contains toxic chemicals.

However, if you follow some simple guidelines, you can safely grow this plant indoors and outdoors, even with pets and children.

Throughout this article, you will learn about all the whys and hows about its toxicity, how to prevent them and how to treat your cat when exposed to its toxins.

Are ZZ Plants Safe for Cats?

The short answer to this question is NO. Your ZZ plant is not safe for cats and can easily cause problems in their health if exposed to its toxic crystals.

However, simply being toxic doesn’t mean that you cant grow the ZZ plant if you have cats.

Don’t get me wrong here; over-curious cats can be a headache as they can go around nibbling and scratching your plants.

If they come in contact with the plant, then there is nothing to get worried about.

But actions like chewing the leaves and scratching the plant stems can leave your cat vulnerable to toxin exposure.

Cats Near Plant Leaf
Cat Near PlantSource: Pixabay.com)

If your cat has ingested the plant, it can go through pain in the stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting.

If the pet has been exposed to toxins on the skin and eyes, you will see it scratching its fur, pawing the mouth, and rapid blinking and shaking the head.

Contact your local veterinarian immediately if the symptoms persist.

But there are some guidelines to prevent the ZZ plant from poisoning your pet, whether a cat, dog, or horse.

Read this article to know if your Rubber plant is toxic or not: Are Rubber Plants Toxic?

Why is the ZZ Plant Toxic for Cats?

ZZ plant is an aroid plant, and like most aroids, it contains small and sharp crystals known as Calcium Oxalate crystals.

This crystal’s function is to regulate the Calcium flow in the plants and maintain plant tissue rigidity.

However, this crystal has evolved and started to function as a defense mechanism against grazing animals.

The needles and barbs of these Calcium Oxalate crystals are responsible for injecting toxins into the blood of the animals.

When your cat chews on the plant parts, the calcium oxalate crystals penetrate the mouth’s tissues.

It embeds itself on the cats’ tongue, throat, and stomach, causing irritation and immediate discomfort.

These irritating crystals not only cause illness but can also result in the death of the cat.

Read more about these Calcium Oxalate Crystals on this scientific journal by SpringerOpen.

Which Part and What Amount of ZZ Plant is Toxic to Cats? 

You can find toxic Calcium Oxalate crystals in almost all parts of the ZZ Plant.

Any part of the ZZ plant structure that has its sap is toxic to cats.

It means that all the parts, including roots, leaves, stems, and rhizomes, are toxic to cats.

Normal contact won’t do any harm, but if the sap gets on the eyes or skin, or if the leaves are ingested, the cats can start showing being poisoned.

Although all the ZZ plants are toxic to cats, even a small amount of toxin exposure can cause poisoning symptoms.

But it also depends on how the cat got exposed to the toxins. Whether the cat ingested it, only nibbled it, or got the sap in its skin and eyes.

If only the skin were exposed to the toxins, the cat would start scratching and pawing itself.

However, if the cat has ingested the plant, you will see moderate cases of vomiting and diarrhea.

In either case, even a small amount of the sap can irritate and show symptoms of poisoning.

Symptoms of ZZ Plant Poisoning in Cats

If your cat has been exposed to the toxins of the ZZ plant, then you will start seeing the following symptoms:

Symptoms Identification
Reduced AppetiteCat wont show any interest in eating and keeps avoiding food.
Oral Pain and IrritationYou cat keeps on pawing your mouth
Swollen lips, tongues and mouthRed swollen areas near the mouth and cat shows signs of irritation
Excessive DroolingFormation of excessive saliva and unusual drooling
DiarhheaConsistency of the feces of the cat changes into fluid
VomitingContinuously starts to throw up without trying to eat anything
FoamingWhite froths around the mouth of the cat
Dehydration Increased drinking of water and disorientation while walking can be seen.
Trouble SwallowingCats take long time tha usual to chew and swallow the meal
Difficulty BreathingCat starts to breathe rapidly

Your cat can also keep making weak whining sounds when in pain.

In most cases, the cats will start showing signs of exposure immediately or within two hours of ingesting the plant.

However, these symptoms can persist up to two weeks of ingestion.

Since this plant is an irritant and tastes bitter, it is uncommon for a cat to have ingested a large amount.

However, if such cases occur, then the symptoms will also be much worse.

Excessive vomiting and diarrhea are the main things to look out for in these kinds of cases.

It can also put your animal into shock and make it unconscious.

If a large amount of toxins has been ingested, then your cat will slow symptoms like dilated pupils, cardiac abnormalities, coma, and death are also reported.

Is your cat safe from the Chinese Evergreen plant? Check this article to know more: Is Chinese Evergreen Toxic to Cats?

First-Aid for ZZ Plant Toxin Exposure

If you are sure your cat has ingested the ZZ plant, you should give it immediate first-aid after seeking medical help.

If your cat starts showing symptoms of poisoning, then contact the local veterinarian or call any of the following helpline numbers immediately:

In the Case of Ingestion

The first thing to do if you are positive that your cat has ingested the plant is to induce vomiting.

You can administer 3 percent Hydrogen Peroxide solution (H₂O₂) orally at a dosage of 1 tablespoon per 5 pounds of body weight. Don’t exceed more than three tablespoons.

Disclaimer: Hydrogen Peroxide should be used under the guidance of a professional veterinarian only. Although safe for dogs, Hydrogen Peroxide can cause irritation in some cats. Make sure that you consult with a vet before treating your cat.

If that is not available, then you can try using saltwater to make your cat vomit.

This method should be effective if the plant were ingested in the previous two hours.

Give the Hydrogen Peroxide or the saltwater solution three times at an interval of 10 minutes.

It can cause foaming in the mouth, which is a common thing after administering this solution.

If your cat still refuses to vomit, then do not use anything else to induce vomiting.

You can also provide fluid therapy if your cat goes through excessive vomiting and diarrhea, resulting in severe dehydration.

In most cases, your cat will recover from the poisoning within a day of ingestion.

In the Case of Skin Allergies

Getting the sap on the cat’s skin can cause it to have allergies.

Shaking the head, excessive scratching, and unusual pawing means that the plant’s toxins have infected your cat.

Fortunately, skin allergies are easily treatable. First, wash the infected area with soap and water to take off the toxic crystals.

If that doesn’t help, then give your cat a warm water bath. It can help to release toxins from the skin.

Keep your cat cozy by covering it with a warm thick blanket. Make sure to keep the cat in a well-ventilated place.

Note: If your cat has difficulty breathing or is unconscious, then DO NOT try to induce vomiting.

You can always keep a first aid kit handy for your kit. Many different first aid kits are available online. You can pick one from the list below:

First-Aid-Kit-For-Pets

    First Aid Kit For Pets (Source: Amazon)

Treatment of ZZ Plant Poisoning

If you doubt that the ZZ plant has poisoned your cat, you need to act quickly.

You should follow the instructions below as a first aid response to treat your cat of ZZ plant poisoning:

  • Firstly, check whether there still are any traces of the plant in your cat’s mouth.
  • Clean their mouth with a wet cloth, and make sure that you wash your hand afterward.
  • Help your cat to drink fluids like cold milk or water that can ease their pain.
  • Keep a close eye on your cats and see whether they develop major symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting.
  • You can feed your cat with a chilly snack like ice-creams to soothe them and reduce the burning sensation.
  • Give them extra care and love.

Some of the common medicines are listed below that you can use with a doctor’s prescription.

Name of the MedicineDosagePurpose
Antihistamine1 mg/kg Reduces Oral Swelling
Kapectolin1 - 2 ml/kgReduces Gastro-intestinal irritation
Cyproheptadine hydrochloride (CH)0.25 - 0.5 mg/kgTreats Lack of Appetite
Metronidazole7.5 - 10 mg/kgPrevents Diarrhea

Important: Don’t give any medication to your cats without consulting with the veterinarian first.

Below is a list of other treatment methods that professionals follow.

  • Fluid Therapy: Medication and Intravenous fluid are given to the cats to prevent severe dehydration.
  • Activated Charcoals: Activated charcoals help to absorb toxic crystals from the gastrointestinal tract. It helps to prevent the further absorption of toxins by the body. Ten grams of activated charcoal is enough for an average-sized cat.
  • Gastric Lavage: It is the administration of small volumes of liquid to remove the toxic substances in the stomach. Also commonly known as stomach pumping or gastric irrigation.
  • Muscle relaxants: Methocarbamol is a prescription drug approved by the FDA to treat muscle spasms in pets. The average dosage is 20-30 mg per pound every 8 to 12 hours on the first day, then 10-30 mg per pound every 8 to 12 hours.
Cat-Intubated-Wikimedia
Treatment of Cat (Source: Wikimedia)

Note that these methods are only used as sources of information and should not be used without expert supervision.

Recovery from ZZ Plants Ingestion

Generally, it can take 12-24 hours to recover from the symptoms of plant poisoning. However, in some cases, the symptoms persist for as long as two weeks.

It will take some time for your cat to heal from the poisoning fully, but it will eventually happen.

The sooner you get help for your poisoned cat, the better the chances of recovery for your cat will be better.

The ASPCA Poison Control estimates that 25 percent of poisoned pets recover within 2 hours of being poisoned.

You can give your cat treats during the recovery process and make it feel warm and cared for.

The cat will show symptoms such as decreased appetite, lethargy, and slow movement.

You should provide easily digestible food to your cat. Plant poisoning mostly causes damage to the liver, stomach, and kidneys.

Thus you can feed your cat with food that won’t put a strain on its digestive system.

It won’t take more than a day or two for your cat to recover fully from the poisoning.

Here is a detailed video on the overview of the ZZ Plant 

Prevent Your Cat from ZZ Plant Poisoning

There are no fully reliable methods to prevent your cats from eating or nibbling your plant. But still, prevention is better than cure.

These techniques below can help to keep them away from your ZZ plant.

Is the Snake Plant Toxic to Cats? Know more on: How Toxic Is Snake Plant To Cats?

1. Place your Plants Tactically

Try to place your plants out of reach of your cats. Cats can climb in tough to reach places, so you want to place it somewhere it cant climb.

Hanging your plant in pots is a good way to ensure that your cats don’t reach it.

However, make sure that you keep the pots away from shelves and furniture through which your cat can access them.

Plants-Hanging-Pots
Plants in Hanging Pots (Source: Wikimedia)

2. Sprinkling Coffee Grounds

Adding coffee grounds to the soil of the plant has two advantages for you.

It helps to repel both pets and pests from the plant. Secondly, it is a good natural fertilizer fr your plant. It contains the essential nutrients required for your plant to grow healthy.

3. Use a Repellent Spray

Several pet repellant sprays are specially designed to keep your pets away from the plant.

Inscape Data Cat Spray Deterrent is an easy-to-use cat spray that will deter your pets from your plant.

Pet-Deterrent-Spray
Pet Deterrent Spray (Source: Amazon)

You can also make your pet repellent spray by mixing garlic paste and water. Some fragrant soaps and vinegar can also help to keep your pet away from the plant.

4. Use of Mothballs

Keeping mothballs around the plant vase will help to deter the pets from sneaking up on your plants.

However, it is important to note that mothballs are also toxic to pets if ingested.

Thus, you want to use it so that the pet can access the mothballs, but its smell persists in the surrounding plant.

5. Alternate Chewing Plants

If your cat constantly nibbles and bite plants, then it means that they are bored. You can give your cat its chewable plant that is safe and suit them.

You can use any of these plants as a decoy from poisonous plants:

  • Lemongrass
  • Mint
  • Licorice Root
  • Basil
  • Cat Grass
  • Catnip
  • Cat Thyme
  • Valerian
  • Echeveria Succulents

6. Use of Citrus and Peppermint Oil

Cats don’t like the smell of Citrus and Peppermint oil. However, you can use a cotton ball to dab your plant with either of these oils.

Most cats don’t prefer their smell and will try to avoid it at all costs. However, it would be best to reapply it after a few days when the smell started fading.

Check out if the Zebra Plant is toxic to your pets: Is Zebra Plant Toxic to Pets?

Conclusion

We all love our pets, and it would break our hearts to see our furry friends in pain.

As a pet and plant lovers, we need to keep ourselves informed about the dangers of keeping a poisonous plant in our homes.

With a little extra effort and research, you can equip yourself with the required knowledge to maintain harmony between your pet and your plant.

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