schefflera plant

The umbrella plant, also sometimes known as Schefflera, is a species of flowering plant that is found in Southeast Asia and Australia. It’s known for its beautiful, lush leaves and is a common pick amongst plant lovers as it can grow in areas with very little light. But is it worth trying to grow an umbrella plant when you share your home with cats? Is it toxic?

Unfortunately, every part of the umbrella plant is toxic for cats. Though serious side effects are very rare, it’s important to brush up on your plant and cat knowledge so you can keep your beloved pet safe. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about cats and umbrella plants.

Are Umbrella Plants Toxic?

Yes, umbrella plants are toxic for both cats and dogs. Every part of the plant contains toxic compounds. Three main chemicals are responsible for the symptoms of poisoning: insoluble oxalates, saponins, and terpenoids.

Insoluble oxalates are small sharp crystals that will dig themselves into any tissue they touch. This will show up as skin irritation and inflammation in your pet, as well as vomiting and diarrhea.

Saponins bind and attack cells and will worsen the gastrointestinal upset your cat may be experiencing from the insoluble oxalates.

Terpenoids are a naturally occurring compound that many different plants produce to make them less attractive to herbivorous animals.

What Are the Symptoms of Umbrella Plant Poisoning in Cats?

While the umbrella plant does contain toxic substances, the most common symptoms you’ll notice in a cat that has ingested the plant is mild vomiting and diarrhea.

You may also notice symptoms such as:

  • Drooling
  • Swelling around the mouth and face
  • Pawing at the face
  • Oral irritation
  • Itchy skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
cat is drooling out of his mouth
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

What Happens If My Cat Ate This Plant?

Though most cats will only experience minor gastrointestinal upset from eating the umbrella plant, it’s always best to reach out to your vet for assistance. Just because serious side effects are rare doesn’t mean they won’t happen to your cat.

If your vet determines that an in-person visit is necessary, bring a piece of the plant along with you to your appointment. This will allow them to view the plant to confirm its species and help them provide an accurate diagnosis.

Your vet will perform a physical examination of your cat and test its vital signs. The symptoms of oxalate and saponin poisoning are quite clear to the trained eye, so your vet could even diagnose your cat by just performing a physical exam and not diving any deeper. If the cause of the symptoms is still unclear, your vet may call for bloodwork to see if there are any notable changes in your pet’s blood cells.

If your vet determines that your cat is indeed suffering from umbrella plant poisoning, they will begin to treat the symptoms of the poisoning.

If your kitty is dehydrated, they will start him on intravenous fluid therapy as soon as possible. Not only will IV therapy treat dehydration, but it will also encourage your cat to rid its body of toxins through urination.

Your vet may also try to induce vomiting to further remove the toxins from your cat’s stomach. They may offer your cat yogurt or other calcium-containing substances to help dislodge any oxalate crystals in their system.

The prognosis for umbrella plant poisoning is very good. Your vet may require your kitty to spend the night so they can observe him to ensure no further complications arise. You’ll most likely be able to take your cat home the next day, though you may need an appointment the following day for one more check-up to ensure your cat is recovering as he should be.

Final Thoughts

Though serious and long-lasting side effects from umbrella plant poisoning are rare, it’s always best to reach out to your vet for clarification if you know your cat has had a run-in with your plant. Never try to treat symptoms of plant poisoning at home, as you may unintentionally do more harm than good.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay