Is Hibiscus Poisonous to Cats?

Hibiscus Rose of Sharon
Hibiscus Rose of Sharon (Source: Wikimedia)

Hibiscus is one of the most striking flowering plants widely found in many homes and gardens and is relatively easy to grow.

But, not many growers know that this spectacularly colorful plant is toxic.

In fact, they are so intriguing that any animal would take a nibble of them, including the common victims- cats.

According to ASPCA, Hibiscus are not poisonous to cats. However, some varieties of Hibiscus are deemed to be slightly toxic to cats. Their flowers, stems, and roots contain Calcium oxalate that may overwhelm the internal system of cats, causing low to mild poisoning.

Hibiscus colorful flower
Hibiscus colorful flower (Source: Wikimedia)

In most cases, Hibiscus poisoning tends to be mild in cats and can be treated quickly.

Want to know how to diagnose Hibiscus poisoning in cats and how to treat them? Continue reading this article.

Is Hibiscus Toxic to Cats?

Hibiscus is native to Asia, where people often use the plant for medicinal purposes. The dried flowers and seed pods help cure many ailments and pain.

However, it does not mean the plant is not toxic. Each part of the plant contains insoluble calcium oxalate mineral that is known to be harmful to both humans and pets.

A cat sitting with Hibiscus plant
A cat sitting with Hibiscus plant (Source: Wallpaper Up)

When consumed in moderation, toxicity can be avoided in humans.

In the case of small animals like cats, even the slightest amount of calcium oxalate mineral found in Hibiscus can lead to mild poisoning.

Although ASPCA declares Hibiscus as non-toxic to animals, the Hibiscus sub-species commonly known as Rose of Sharon are deemed toxic to cats.

Another variety of Hibiscus “Hibiscus acetosella ‘Panama Red” also contains a relatively high amount of oxalate crystals in comparison to other varieties.

It grows as a small shrub with delectable flowers that turn gigantic with colorful blossoms (red, pink, orange, and yellow).

No wonder your cat is attracted to smell or even nibbling on the blossoms.

What Causes Hibiscus Poisoning?

Being a tropical plant, it produces known insoluble Calcium Oxalate minerals throughout its stem and leaves.

It contains proteinase and Proteolytic enzymes that release toxic agents like histamines and kinins.

ToxinsSpecification
Calcium Oxalate CrystalsThe minerals produced from oxalate are naturally found in green plants, combined with Calcium.
ProteinaseIt breaks down protein in cells to release nucleic acid
Proteolytic EnzymeThey help break down protein, releasing toxic agents

The direct consumption of plant flowers, leaves, and the residue is the most typical way to get Hibiscus poisoning.

Hibiscus bush
All parts of Hibiscus bush is toxic to cats (Source: NCSU.edu)

Drinking the strained water collected on the saucer pan and consuming fallen foliage may also cause poisoning.

Consuming the plant releases active toxins into their lungs and digestive tract that enters their bloodstream.

Because the plant contains only a tiny amount of toxic minerals, the toxicity in cats is known to be low to mild, but you must seek medical attention to avoid any risk.

Symptoms of Hibiscus Poisoning

All parts of the Hibiscus plant, including leaves, flowers, or stems, are toxic to cats.

If your cat nibbles or ingests on any of these parts, it will shortly start developing symptoms of mild poisoning.

A meme of tom sneezing
A meme of Tom sneezing (Source: Tenor)

The most common symptoms will include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Irritation of the Lips, Mouth, and Tongue
  • Swelling of the Throat
  • Gagging and Choking
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Dry Heaving

While the following signs indicate severe poisoning.

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Red, water eyes
  • Depression
  • Excessive Drooling

Depending on the amount ingested, the symptoms will occur within a few minutes or even hours.

The signs of Hibiscus poisoning may differ depending on the dosage of intake and penetration level.

A vomiting cat
A vomiting cat (Source: Tenor)

Symptoms of Non-Toxic Hibiscus Plants

Not all Hibiscus plants are toxic; hence, consuming them will not pose any threats, but it does not mean they are digestible.

Parts of Hibiscus plants are indigestible to small animals like cats.

Therefore, consuming non-toxic Hibiscus plants in a large amount may cause other problems, including;

  • Stomach upset
  • Vomiting

Hibiscus poisoning is not known to be fatal to cats, eliminating the signs of severe poisoning such as dilated pupils, cardiac abnormality, or even death.

Diagnosing Hibiscus Poisoning in Cats

Diagnosing Hibiscus poisoning in cats would include identifying the early symptoms; however, most of it may correlate to other common problems in cats.

The symptoms such as stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting are present in cats suffering from food poisoning or parasitic infection.

A cat lying on sofa
A cat lying on the sofa (Source: Tenor)

Therefore, you must rule out other possibilities before concluding Hibiscus poisoning.

Call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 to know further steps.

1. DIY Diagnosis

Check for visible signs of plant consumption, such as:

  • Plant residue such as brightly colored flowers and green leaves inside or around the cat’s mouth.
  • Broken leaves and stems are lying on the floor.
  • Visible signs of nibbling on plant flowers and leaves.
  • Saucer’s water spilled on the floor.

2. Veterinarian Diagnosis

While self-diagnosing the problem may help identify the cause, it may not be evident in many cases.

Therefore, you should take your cat to the Veterinarian within 48 hours of early symptoms.

Cat Undergoing through Treatment
Cat Undergoing through Treatment (Source: Hippopx)

A veterinarian’s diagnosis includes:

  • Assess Medical History: The immediate step is to learn whether your cat is predisposed to any health issues and what medication it is on.
  • Oral Examination: The vet will look for bits of Hibiscus stuck between the teeth or under the tongue.
  • Physical Examination: The next is to perform crucial physical tests to determine abnormalities, including blood samples.
  • Blood Sample: It will provide a complete blood count and a biochemical profile to determine results, while cell counts in the bloodstream will help reveal the amount of poisoning present in the body
  • Urinalysis: One of the final tests includes urine analysis to confirm the presence of oxalate crystals in the body and how the liver and kidneys are functioning

An endoscopy may follow when the prior results may seem inconclusive.

Note: You should inform your veterinarian about toxic plants in your home.

Treating Hibiscus Poisoning in Cats

Many symptoms of Hibiscus poisoning will subside after 48 hours without requiring any treatment.

However, you must provide immediate treatment if your cat’s health is deteriorating.

Start with administering first aid treatment to stabilize your cat.

1. First Aid Treatment

First aid treatment helps treat Hibiscus poisoning in most cats.

  • Remove your cat from close to the plant and lay it on a well-ventilated area wrapped in a towel.
  • Insert your finger to pick out plant residue from their mouth.
  • Wash it with clean water to remove any residue.
  • Induce vomiting by emptying their stomach by administering hydrogen peroxide (3% of solution at a dosage of 1 tsp. per 5-10 lbs. of their body weight).
  • Use an oral syringe, clean-eyedropper, or a spray bottle to administer hydrogen peroxide.
  • Remember to clean up their vomit and dispose of it immediately.
  • Providing activated charcoal syrup can help detoxify the stomach (Use one gm. of activated powder for every pound of their weight.)
  • For a burning sensation in the mouth, provide some yogurt and lactose-free milk to help soothe it.

Ensure to keep a first-aid kit at home. Here are a few recommendations.

First Aid KitBrand
American Supplies Pet First Aid kitAmerican Pet Supplies
Pet First Aid Cat KitRayco International
Certified Pet First Aid KitNM2
ARCA PET Cat & Dog First Aid KitARCA

2. Veterinary Treatment

If they fail to respond to first aid treatment, consider taking veterinarian treatment.

  • Your veterinarian will remove the plant residue from the mouth and thoroughly cleanse it with water.
  • Next, they will administer dexmedetomidine, hydromorphone, and xylazine to induce vomiting.
  • Treatment for nausea will follow by administering dexmedetomidine and hydromorphone.

In case of severe poisoning, your veterinarian will administer the following treatments.

MedicinesDosagePurpose
AnticonvulsantsPhenobarbital:2-3 mg per pound twice a dayRelieves nerve pain
Muscle RelaxantsMethocarbamol:7-20 mg/ pound

5mg/ cat (Baclofen- causes toxicity on higher dose)
Muscle relaxation and control muscle spasm
Antiemetics100-200ml of fluids at one time.To stabilize vomiting
Anti-diarrheal agentsMetronidazole:7.5 - 10 mg/ kg

Tylosin:15 mg/ kg )
To reduce intestinal inflammation and stop diarrhea
ProtectantsSucralfate:1/4 to 1/2 gm every 6 to 8 hoursTo protect internal organs from acids and toxins.
Activated Charcoal1-5 gm/ kgTo lessen effects of poisoning
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)Robenacoxib:1 mg/ kg per day

Meloxicam:0.2 mg/ kg per day
To reduce inflammation and bring down high temperature

Supportive Care

Intravenous fluids are recommended for cats when they lose a lot of fluid from dehydration and vomiting.

The veterinary treatment is often optional in Hibiscus poisoning as the symptoms are low to mild that subsides quickly.

Veterinarian Examining the Cat
Veterinarian Examining the Cat (Source: Free SVG)

Disclaimer: The treatment procedure and medications are solely presented for educational purposes. Do not take any action without first consulting with your veterinarian.

Recovery of Hibiscus Poisoning in Cats

Depending on the severity of the poisoning, your cat will take anywhere from 24 hours or more to recover fully.

  • 25% of poisoned pets revive within two hours of treatment.
  • The Hibiscus poisoning side effects will last only from 24 to 48 hours.
  • Early signs from poisoning will kick in within 4-5 hours.
  • Severe symptoms are not present in Hibiscus poisoning.
Sick Cat
A cat will recover within 24-48 hours of treatment (Source: Unsplash)

How to Prevent Hibiscus Poisoning in Cats?

It can be pretty challenging to keep curious animals like cats away from houseplants, primarily when it is grown indoors.

However, some proven tips will prevent your cat from accidentally ingesting Hibiscus plants.

  • Use Repellants: Sprays like spritz deterrents will irritate cats whenever they come close to the plant.
  • Grow cat grass: Cats love indulging in cat grass that will keep them away from other green plants.
  • Remove the Appeal: Spraying lemon, lime, or orange juice diluted with water or vinegar on the plant leaves will repel cats.
  • Apply Neem Oil: Neem oil is a herbal pesticide that repels cats, small animals, and pests.
  • Gift Them a Plant: Offer them a tiny planter with wheat or barley to draw away their attention.
  • Keep the Plant Away: Growing the plant in a high planter will keep it away from your cat’s reach.
  • Introduce Hurdles: Lay a plastic carpet protector with a knobbly side up that irritates the cat’s paws whenever they step on it.
Hibiscus Rose of Sharon
Hibiscus Rose of Sharon (Source: Wikimedia)

Conclusion

Cats are the most curious animals that will climb or enter even the smallest nooks to find exciting items.

Therefore, finding the Hibiscus plant at home may not be so difficult.

Plant Poisoning in cats can prove to be a nightmare for pet owners. Hence, you should always be prepared to face this situation.

Prepare yourself by keeping the first aid box at home and educate yourself about the toxic houseplants.

Did you know Schefflera houseplant is highly toxic to cats?

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