Is Schefflera Toxic to Cats?

Cat sitting near indoor plants
Cat surrounded by indoor plants (Source: Freepik)

Did you know Schefflera is one of the most prized Feng Shui houseplants believed to bring luck and wealth?

But, not many growers know that this attractive houseplant contains resin that is toxic and may cause poisoning.

Schefflera may look innocent, but every part of this tropical plant contains tiny needle-like calcium oxalate crystals that may cause severe poisoning in cats when touched or consumed.

Pet with Plant
Pet playing with a houseplant (Source: Maxpixel)

It is toxic to both humans and animals, where the severity of toxicity is more likely seen in cats, leading to illness and even death.

Even ASPCA fervently calls out to keep them away from your cat at all costs.

Read on to find out what dosage of calcium oxalate from Schefflera may poison your cat and how to identify signs before it’s too late.

Is Schefflera Toxic to Cats?

Schefflera is known to be toxic to cats. However, the plant falls into toxic houseplants that cause poisoning in both humans and pets.

In fact, all species of Schefflera is known to be toxic but at varying level; hence, the severity of toxicity will differ depending on the dosage of intake.

However, it is the cat that mainly falls prey to Schefflera poisoning.

Cat resting on a Schefflera pot
Cat resting on a Schefflera pot (Source: Reddit)

The oval-shaped, all-green Schefflera leaves easily lure small animals like cats and dogs to touch and nibble on the leaves.

Because cats are more agile, they tend to easily climb onto the plant container, raising the risk of poisoning cats.

Therefore, ASPCA strictly recommends pet owners keep the plant away from their cat’s reach.

What Causes Schefflera Poisoning?

Schefflera, also known as Dwarf Umbrella Plant, Australian Ivy Pal, Octopus Tree, or Starleaf, is easily found in China and Southeast Asia.

It is so commonly grown in Thailand and China that locals use the plant to produce asthma, allergy, and common cold medicines.

However, the same cannot be said about the Schefflera grown as the houseplants, which always comes with a warning!

The resin called Calcium Oxalate Crystal found in the Schefflera is the leading cause of poisoning. The plant actively produces throughout its stem and leaves.

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

Some Schefflera may also produce proteinase and Proteolytic enzymes that release toxic agents like histamines and kinins.

When your cat nibbles on the leaf, lick the wounded stems, or eat fresh fallings from the plant, the active toxins will enter their lungs and digestive tract, leading to poisoning.

Schefflera Heptaphylla Leaves
Schefflera Heptaphylla Leaves (Source: Pixabay)

When left untreated, toxins enter their bloodstream, causing severe problems to significant body organs.

The crystals are needle-shaped and pointy, which affect sensitive tissues in the mouth, tongue, throat, digestive tract, and later bloodstream.

Note: The insoluble oxalate found in Schefflera can accumulate in the renal glomeruli, leading to the formation of kidney stones and other renal disorders in humans.

What Parts of Schefflera are Poisonous to Cats?

Almost every part of the plant contains varying calcium oxalate, proteinase, and proteolytic levels. Hence, eating any part may lead to poisoning.

Even if they nibble on the tip, the plant will release a burst of crystals into their mouth.

Schefflera Leaves (Source: Reddit)

But not just that, the water collected on the saucer may also contain some crystals, which can lead to poisoning when your cat drinks from it.

You should keep the plant completely out of your cat’s reach.

However, the good news is that not all toxicities lead to significant damage, and most poisoning cases can easily be treated.

Signs or Symptoms of Schefflera Poisoning

Most common poisoning occurs from chewing or biting the plant leaves and stems.

The signs of Schefflera poisoning may differ from one animal to another, including dosage of intake and penetration level.

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

It will release the crystals causing tissue penetration and irritation to the mouth and Gastro-Intestinal tract.

1. Common Symptoms of Schefflera Poisoning

The most common symptoms include;

  • Skin irritation
  • Irritation of the Lips, Mouth, and Tongue
  • Swelling of the Throat
  • Gagging and Choking
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Dry Heaving
  • Red, water eyes
  • Depression
  • Excessive Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Depending on the dosage, these symptoms may occur instantly or even take a couple of hours to manifest.

Cat vomiting
Cat vomiting (Source: Tenor)

2. Signs of Respiratory Problems

Very rarely does swelling of the upper respiratory tract may occur, causing difficulty in breathing.

Common signs of respiratory problems transpire into vocal discomfort such as;

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Hoarse sound
  • Whining
  • Crying
  • Pawing at mouth
Cat sneezing
Cat sneezing (Source: Tenor)

3. Signs of Fatal High Dosage

The severe symptoms may become common when large amounts of plant leaves are ingested, which include;

  • Dilated pupil
  • Cardiac abnormality

In case of failure in treating the symptom, it can even lead to death.

Cat lying on the sofa
Cat lying on the sofa (Source: Tenor)

Diagnosing Schefflera Poisoning in Cats

Diagnosing plant poisoning in cats can be slightly tricky because many of its symptoms correlate to other common problems in cats.

The signs of plant poisoning may correlate to food poisoning, skin problems, parasitic infection, and digestive issues (Tapeworm).

1. DIY Diagnosis

Start with checking for tell-tale signs to diagnose Schefflera poisoning in cats, which may include:

  • Plant leaves and stems lying on the floor
  • The residue of leaves and waxy substance around the cat’s mouth
  • Visible signs of bite marks on the plant
  • Saucer’s water spilled on the floor
Check for visible signs of bite marks on the plant (Source: Freepik)

2. Veterinarian Diagnosis

If you cannot identify any of the above issues, it may be best to contact your veterinarian.

Your vet will begin by inquiring about pre-existing health issues with your cat, healthy history, and medication.

They will also inquire whether you have any poisonous plants at home and if it is easily accessible to your cat.

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

A thorough general diagnosis includes taking blood and urine samples, endoscopy, and physical exam.

  • Most vets recommend a physical exam to identify pale gums due to internal bleeding, a racing heart, coughing up blood, etc.
  • A blood sample will help obtain a biochemical profile, complete blood count, and electrolyte level.
  • While urinalysis helps identify damages to the liver and kidney from calcium oxalate crystals.
  • An endoscopy may follow when the prior results may seem inconclusive.

Treatment for Schefflera Poisoning in Cats

The first and foremost thing to do in case of poisoning is to call the veterinarian.

However, it may take a while to reach the Vet; hence, you should immediately apply first air measures to stabilize the animal.

1. First Aid Treatment

Carry your pet to a well-ventilated area if they are experiencing fainting, weakness, or unconsciousness.

  • If you have identified the poisonous plant, remove it to keep it away from the reach of others pets and family members. Do not forget to take a sample.
  • Wear a mask and pick out plant residue from their mouth or wash it with clean water to remove any residue.
  • Wrap them in a towel so they would not struggle.
  • Induce vomiting to decontaminate their stomach by administering 3 percent hydrogen peroxide orally at a dosage of 1 tsp. per 5-10 lbs. of body weight. However, ensure they are awake when trying to induce vomiting.
Giving CPR to Cat
Giving CPR to Cat (Source: Tenor)
  • You can use an oral syringe, a clean-eyedropper, or a spray bottle.
  • Allow your cat to rest or walk around 15-20 minutes for vomiting.
  • You can administer one more round of hydrogen peroxide if they fail to vomit.
  • Do not forget to clean up the vomit and dispose of it out of reach of other pets and children.
  • Administer activated charcoal syrup to inject your cat to detoxify the inside. Use one gm. of activated powder for every pound of the cat.

Note: Administering yogurt and lactose-free milk will help soothe the burning sensation after poisoning, but keep the dosage to a minimum to avoid complications.

First-Aid Kits

Here is a list of a few first-aid kits that you should always keep at home.

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 your cat does not seem to respond to first aid, the next step is to call up the veterinarian.

Immediately call a veterinarian to inform them about plant poisoning in your cat. Do not forget to mention plant poisoning, type of plant, dosage, and duration after poisoning.

The veterinarian will immediately administer dexmedetomidine, hydromorphone, and xylazine.

Once your cat is done vomiting, they will administer other medication to treat nausea and sedation from the dexmedetomidine and hydromorphone.

Cat-Intubated-Wikimedia
Cat Getting Treated (Source: Wikimedia)

Your veterinarian will administer additional medicines or IV fluid for rehydration, depending on its condition.

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

Call the helpline immediately if you notice plant poisoning in cats.

Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

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

Duration of Side Effects and Recovery

The recovery duration may depend on the severity of the poisoning, poisoning dosage, and time the medication was administered.

  • Depending on the dosage, the poisoning may kick in within a few hours or 3-4 days. In comparison, the side effects can last between 12 to 24 hours.
  • Most early signs such as drooling, itching, eye redness, and pawing at the mouth may begin within 4-5 hours.
  • On the other hand, more severe signs such as periodic seizures, dilated pupils, and cardiac abnormality may show within 12 to 24 hours.
  • Failing to treat them on time may cause kidney failure and even death.

However, 25% of poisoned pets recover within two hours after initial treatment.

Hence, immediately administer the first aid or take them to a vet to prevent severe issues.

How to Prevent Accidental Schefflera Poisoning in Cats?

Cats are innocent yet curious beings who are hard to keep in one place.

To make matters worse, they like the taste and texture of plants that may lure them.

Hence, it is not uncommon for these agile beings to get close to houseplants and sometimes nibble on them.

However, you can prevent this by keeping safety measures in place.

  1. Make Your Plant Unappealing: Cats dislike the taste and smell of anything citrus; hence, you can spray some lemon, lime, or orange juice diluted with water on the plant leaves.
  2. Apply Neem Oil: Regularly apply neem oil, a herbal pesticide, to ward off cats and pests from your Schefflera plants.
  3. Gift Them a Plant: Providing them with a plant to play with, such as wheat, barley, or cat grass, will draw their attention away from Schefflera.
  4. Apply Chemical Pray: Use sprays like spritz deterrent to irritate the cat from coming close to the plant.
  5. Spray Vinegar-Water Solution: Cats dislike the vinegar taste, which will keep them coming close to Schefflera.
  6. Use Fragrances: Natural fragrances like lavender and rosemary will help your cat away from the plant.
  7. Add Hurdles: Cover the plant surrounding with a plastic carpet protector with a knobbly side up.
Sick Cat being Treated
Sick Cat being Treated (Source: Pinterest)

Conclusion

Cats are curious beings by birth, and they will likely come close to your Schefflera at any point in time.

Therefore, it is essential to look for ways to prevent them from licking, nibbling, or eating your plants.

However, you must always be prepared to diagnose plant poisoning so you can treat it before it becomes fatal or life-threatening.

Use this guide to identify Schefflera poisoning symptoms, diagnose those symptoms, and provide timely treatment.

Save your pet from toxic houseplants including Rubber PlantPeace LiliesZZ PlantPolka Dot Plant, and Aloe Vera.

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