Is String of Pearls Toxic to Cats?

The beautiful pearl-like leaves on trailing vines are the reason behind the growing popularity of the String of Pearls plant.

But under this flawless pearly beauty, String of Pearls hides a much darker and fishy fact.

The String of Pearls is toxic to cats due to pyrrolizidine alkaloids in its sap. The University of California has classified the String of Pearls under the 2 and 4 levels of toxicity. The ingestion of the Succulent in smaller amounts may develop diarrhea and vomiting, but severe poisoning can lead to critical liver failure in cats.

String of Pearls toxic to cats
The String of Pearls is one of the popular succulents with pearl-like foliage.

Due to the curious nature of cats, it is almost impossible to contain their claws away from toxic plants.

But do not worry! You can nullify the String of Pearls poisoning in cats with proper treatments. 

Therefore, continue reading to learn how to handle the situation if your cat accidentally eats the plant and tips to keep them away from each other.

How Toxic is String of Pearls to Cats?

The String of Pearls is one of the most exotic Succulents that has been reigning its glory worldwide.

Its pearl-like foliage has become a beautiful decorative element to elevate the interior decor of many households.

But unfortunately, according to ASPCA, String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) is mildly toxic to cats and dogs and even humans.

cats trying to eat string of pearls
The String of Pearls is toxic to cats due to pyrrolizidine alkaloids in its sap.

The main culprit behind the String of Pearls being toxic is the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloid in its sap.

To make matters worse, almost every part of the String of Pearl contains toxic alkaloids.

The University of California has classified the String of Pearls under 2 and 4 level of toxicity. 

Class 2 toxicity means minor toxicity that includes minor illnesses such as diarrhea and vomiting. Similarly, class 4 toxicity means dermatitis that includes skin rash and irritation due to the plant’s sap.

Accidental ingestion of a String of Pearls in smaller amounts is not fatal but will cause minor discomfort.

Similarly, there is always a possibility of your cat choking on the pearl-like small leaves of the plant.

Meanwhile, ingesting a String of Pearls in larger quantities can severely harm the liver and may lead to liver failure. Therefore, prompt attention and proper treatment are crucial for your cat’s safety.

Symptoms of String of Pearls Poisoning  in Cats

Various telltale signs can determine the symptoms of String of Pearls poisoning in cats.

Depending upon the amount of ingestion, the poisoning symptoms can vary, and small nibbles may not even develop any symptoms.

string of pearls toxic to cats
Minor symptoms will develop from consuming String of Pearls in small amounts.

Here are a few telltale signs of String of Pearls poisoning in cats you shall look out for.

SymptomsSpecification
Vomiting or Dry HeavingThey will throw up even without eating anything.
Whining in a weak voice, dry heaving.
DroolingExcessive salivating is common in mild to severe poisoning.
Abdominal discomfortIf the cat is unable to sit in one position, produces audible gut sounds, licks at flank.
DiarrheaLoose stool is common in String of Pearls poisoning.
Skin rash and inflammationGrainy and red bumps may appear on the surface of cats skin
LethargyCats showing no interest in playing and appear weak, restless with minimal activity. They may even hide or sleep all the time.
Pawing at the mouthSkin irritation will encourage them to paw at their mouth

Your cat is most likely to develop these symptoms within a few minutes or hours.

Under severe conditions, the pyrrolizidine alkaloid induces cell division in the liver, which results in complete liver failure.

That said, do not panic if your cat seems to have nibbled a String of Pearls.

You can treat and negate String of Pearls poisoning in cats with proper medications.

Diagnosis of String of Pearls Poisoning

Before giving your cats any medication, you must identify and confirm the early-stage symptoms.

Remember, common food poisoning can also have identical early symptoms to poisoning.

Therefore, you must nail down the specific reason for your cat getting sick before you blame String of Pearls.

1. DIY Diagnosis

Thoroughly inspect the String of Pearls your cat may have nibbled on, so you can be confident about poisoning.

Here are a few things to consider while inspecting the plant.

  • Broken foliage or stems on the floor
  • Plants residue lingering around the cat’s mouth
  • Strangled or damaged plant parts
  • Visible signs of cat paw scratch on the plant
  • Cat vomit around the plants
  • Unusual scratching due to skin irritation

Alongside these signs, if you notice your cat showing minor weakness or lethargy, contact for professional help.

2. Veterinarian Diagnosis

After confirming the root cause, you shall fasten your seat belt and seek veterinarian help.

Although minor symptoms may go away with time, we must not take risks with the health of our beloved, right?

But before you leave for the vet, remember to take all of your cat’s previous medical cards or documents.

Also, you can take the nibbled parts of the String of Pearls plant to show vets if there are any.

cat dressed as doctor
Immediately call for professional help if first aid does not seem to work.

Once you get to the vet, they will most likely perform a general veterinarian’s diagnosis.

  • Analyze Medical Reports: Before administering medications, they need to know about the immunizations, diseases, or other behaviors.
  • Oral Examination: To inspect any harm in the mouth from poisoning and to remove any plant residues
  • Physical Examination: To test any abdominal discomfort, palpation, heart pulse, body temperature, and respiratory rate
  • Blood Test: Create a biochemical profile of blood and complete blood count, which is useful for diagnosis processes
  • Urinalysis: Analyze the physical and chemical composition of the urine to get information about the conditions of the liver
  • Doppler Blood Pressure: To determine if the cat is suffering from hypertension or not from poisoning

Even after following these processes, if they can not conclude, they may opt to do an endoscopy.

Treating String of Pearls Poisoning in Cats

The toxic nature of String of Pearls is cumulative, so consumption in larger amounts can become life-threatening.

Furthermore, you should give your cats first aid treatment even if they nibble just a little.

1. First Aid Treatment

Whether you are waiting for a vet’s help or your cat took just a small nibble, giving your cat first-aid will never go in vain.

Therefore, here are a few things you can do as first-aids for String of Pearls poisoning in cats.

  • Bring your cats to a well-ventilated, well-lit room to ensure they will not have trouble breathing.
  • Regardless of your cat’s consciousness, please do not force it to vomit, as it will weaken your cat more.
  • If your cat struggles, you might want to wrap them with a clean, soft towel.
sleeping cat
If the cat is struggling, you can wrap them in a soft blanket.
  • Inspect the cat’s mouth to see if there are any leftovers of String of Pearls plants. If present, remove them with the help of clean water.
  • If your cat vomits, clean up the mess and the cat’s mouth with lukewarm water and properly dispose of them away from children.
  • Give your cat only one gram of activated carbon powder per pound of cat weight to absorb poisons in the stomach.
  • Do not feed your cat without consulting with professional vets first. Only provide them with things vets recommend.
  • As toxic alkaloids of String of Pearls cause liver damage in cats, give your cat clean water to drink as it reduces the risks.
  • You can make them drink water with the help of a syringe slowly if they do not drink voluntarily.

Here are a few hotlines you can rely on if you notice String of Pearls poisoning in cats.

Having a first-aid kit in a House never hurts, as you can give emergency care immediately and prevent fatal injury.

Therefore, here I have included a few useful first-aid kits for pets.

Name of first Aids KitsBrand
Pet First Aid Cat KitRayco International
Johnson First Aid KitJohnson & Johnson
American Supplies Pet First Aid KitAmerican Pet Supplies
Certified Pet First Aid KitNM2
RC Pet Products Pet First Aid KitRC Pet Products

2. Veterinarian Treatment

After administering first-aid to your cats, you must take them to professional practitioners for further assistance.

Vets are most likely to induce vomiting to clear out any plant leftovers in the stomach with the help of hydrogen peroxide.

Furthermore, they use intravenous fluid therapy to flush out more toxins and restore the electrolytes.

And lastly, vets will administer various medicines to treat your felines, such as Antiemetics, anti-diarrheal meds, muscle relaxants, etc.

Here are some medicines your vet may use to treat your cat.

MedicinesDosagePurpose
AntihistamineDiphenhydramine: 2-4mg/kg every 8 hours if neededTo minimize swelling, distress, and potential airway blockages caused by the body's inflammatory reaction
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
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
Muscle RelaxantsMethocarbamol:7-20 mg/ pound

5mg/ cat (Baclofen- causes toxicity on higher dose)
Muscle relaxation and control muscle spasm
Activated Charcoal1-5 gm/ kgTo lessen effects of poisoning
AnticonvulsantsPhenobarbital:2-3 mg per pound twice a dayRelieves nerve pain
ProtectantsSucralfate:1/4 to 1/2 gm every 6 to 8 hoursTo protect internal organs from acids and toxins.

Disclaimer: Do not administer any type of the medicine to your cats without consulting with vets.

Recovery of String of Pearls Poisoning in Cats

Depending on the immediate action for treatment and quantity of consumption, your cat is most likely to recover within the first 18 hours.

Let your cats rest in a quiet, peaceful place after giving them veterinary treatment.

String of Pearls in cat shaped pot
Depending upon the severity of the poisoning, your cat can recover within the first 18 hours to 2 or three days.

You can continue feeding them with soft, simple diets filled with enough liquid. Else you can follow the advice from a veterinarian.

Remember, even though String of Pearl is considered mildly toxic to cats, you must not delay getting help from vets.

Moreover, the sooner you get them treatment, much sooner they will be back exploring your House.

How to Prevent String of Pearls Poisoning in Cats?

It is almost impossible to keep plants away from the sneaky claws of cats. Their curious nature can become an inevitable headache, especially when you own exotic plants alongside cats.

That said, there are a few ways to discourage cats from invading your plants and getting themselves sick.

Here, I have included some tips and tricks to keep your cats away from String of Pearls.

  • Use hanging baskets: A String of Pearls plants looks much more stunning if you place them in hanging pots. At the same time, keeping pots at much higher heights will ensure no cat intervention. 
hanging String of Pearls
Hanging pots improve the elegance of String of Pearls while keeping cats at bay.
  • Apply cat deterrents: You can repel cats away from plants by applying deterrent sprays and sticky tapes. These sprays have a strong scent, whereas placing the sticky side facing up discourages their sensitive paws from stepping near plants.
  • Grow cat grassYou can satisfy their hunger for grass by giving them edible cat grass. It will also act as a distraction and keeps cats busy. 
  • Entertain your cat: Bored cats are most likely to do stupid kinds of stuff, so give them lots of toys to keep them entertained most of the time. Also, take out some time to play with your plants.
  • Apply Neem Oil: You can apply multipurpose Neem oil to keep cats and other plant pests away. Also, citrus and peppermint oils can effectively repel cats away from the plants.

Conclusion

Although String of Pearls is one of the popular houseplants, they are not cat friendly and are mildly toxic.

Do not worry if your cat takes some nibbles out of the plant because prompt treatment can reverse poisoning.

But you know, caution is much better than the cure. Therefore, prevent your cats from getting near the String of Pearls.

Do you know Pilea is also a popular succulent that is not toxic to cats? Discover more about plants that are toxic to cats.

Happy Parenting!!

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