Tuesday 21 September 2021

On houseplants, foods & essential oils. Which are cat friendly & which are toxic?

It struck me that as a teen with my first kitten a black moggy I named Ziggy. I wanted the name Sid, after Sid Vicious but my mother was dead set against it, and besides he turned out to be a she (the cat not the sex pistols front man). Over the years Ziggy eventually had another cat named after her by a friend of mine. Her Ziggy was a boy, but the fact she named him that in honour of our long-standing friendship and live of cats (she had one of Ziggy’s kittens !) warms my heart. But I digress. When I was a teen it was as we came out of the 70’s into the 80’s. We had no clue of an internet of things & the library was the only place to glean knowledge. Apart from the fact that it was no place for an aspiring punk rocker to hang out, I would not have had a clue that cats could be poisoned by ordinary things….

At that time, my sou roundings were the kind were it was fashionable to have houseplants dangling from ceilings suspended in a crocheted pot plant holder granny made. In it would be a common spider plant with its multiple new spiderlings on shoots dangling. In another corner hung a variegated leafed tradescantia or maybe some kind of trailing fern. 

I had hard & desperate crushes, unrequited. There was I yet to be a suitor of the caliber to buy me garage flowers. Even when I did have I had no knowledge that there were things on display or in use in our homes that could cause harm - other than those things mum kept locked in a medicine cabinet or were down in the depths of a forbidding damp & cobweb covered shed.

As the decades have passed our worlds have expanded, & so too eventually my knowledge. Underside developed a thirst for wisdom (and since age did not wholly bestow it upon me as it should, I continue to seek it!). Now the world is open & smaller. We have the kinds of exotic things in our homes we never had before. It’s important to acknowledge the joy in many of these things, but important I think to have an awareness some of what we have is laced with danger to our pets.

If I had a suitor, this mythical handsome dark stranger (& make him wealthy if you please!), he would gallop up, dismounting his charge as he came to a halt to present me with a truly glorious bouquet filled with blooms in all shades & hues. And oh my! it would be heady with its mixture of floral, sweet & musky scents . What possible danger could there that lurks within this extravagant & beautiful gift? 

Let’s take the flamboyant Lily flower as our example. As she bursts open, her showy petals curl back, exposing her leggy tendrilled stamen. I’m sure you already know that as it gets past its best it can drip orange powder which easily stains. But this powder, this stamen is toxic. In fact it’s not just the bloom as most species of lily is toxic to some extent! However, should you become the lucky recipient of a bouquet which has Lily flowers you have no need to despair. The moment she has burst open, rather than risk your cat brushing by and becoming anointed with this powder then later grooming it off thereby ingesting it instead take a pair of scissors and with care & with kitchen paper held in your cupped hand below where you cut, simply snip the stamen away, wrapping the tissue into a parcel in the closed waste bin. 

As well as the weekly (if you are lucky) or occasion flowers you may enjoy, we might have houseplants for greenery or interest. At present actually,  there’s lots of hype for those which are air cleaning. Even though you have a cat, these environment enhancing plants are not to be sneezed at (unless you are allergic - in which case, your beau should instead provide chocolate!) . Like the Lily, some plants can be harmful - especially if your cat wants to sample it. In my 40 something years of experience most cats won’t take a blind bit of notice of your flowers or your plants, however, if your cat happens to be Floozy, then you’ll know that she dies her best not to be like “most cats”. Oh no, this little madam will chew all of the leaves on the carefully chosen & possibly air cleaning cat friendly houseplants that your ever loving cat-mumma has chosen to have and tries to look after in her home! >^..^<

Luckily, because I’m no horticultural or chemistry expert & it’s a new century we have Google - our wondrous receptacle of wisdom with many many resources - as long as you pick the resource wisely. I’m not proud, I’ve spent many long moments squinting at the plant labels in a store or nursery typing in the Latin or common name of a plant in order to seek expert guidance before taking any plant to the checkout. Or not. Just as well isn’t it since Floozy needs to taste sample them all. 

If having read this, you want to know more, do please Google a good & reliable source. Many nursery websites have taken time to provide lists of safe plant species for both indoors and out. I’ll start you off if I may by linking to a Petplan article you can see by clicking >>> Here And one from the PDSA >>> Here

Linked closely to plants since they are the origin of them all, some essential oils which are by nature super concentrated, are highly toxic to cats (& some they just don’t like!) This is not to say that if you enjoy them for fragrancing your home or use essential oils therapeutically or holistically (or to deter certain visitors) that they are out of bounds, only that it’s important to be aware so that you can take that extra care. To know more, have a look at what PDSA says on the subject by clicking >>> Here

Also coming from plants, you may be interested to read about foods that are poisonous to our pets. You can do this by clicking >>> Here and, should you be interested while you are on the PDSA’s website you’ll be able to download their free pet first-aid guide

Please understand, in writing this post the last thing I want to do is to scare anybody.  As I write I’m always particularly mindful that my wonderful new pet parents will be readers & may soon be taking home their first cat or may not long have kept cats. Let me say this,  to redress the balance a bit; I’ve lived with cats for over 40 years and I’ve had ZERO events happen to my cats ever whether they’re indoor only or were outside venturing furries. And that includes plant sampling Floozy!  

Additionally it was a looooooong time into my cat keeping before I knew any of this stuff in order to do a reconnaissance of my home in such a way that would eliminate/prevent harm to my cats from this kind of toxin. The reason that I post about this now is for those new pet parents, for all pet parents so that you are forewarned and armed to manage risk & prevent harm.

The point of my going right back to my first cat - and talking about the antics of my most recent addition, is to provide example of how rare such sn event is - even when you are ignorant as I was. Yes, it’s probably true that back then, we didn’t know about such hazards and equally didn’t have quite so many hazards in our homes as we do now (I’m thinking here about exotic oils and foods we might have). 

Yes Granny, your spider plant is cat-safe, but I still say that the crochet thing can go! (Actually, don’t tell Gran but I believe crochet is enjoying a bit of a revival! Oh, and don’t let me stop you, I’m not gonna be all judgy if you want to crochet yourself a pot hanger thingy). 

Floozy is the first and only cat I’ve ever had to bite my plants. In point of fact she has eaten them. And she still will. And yes, when she’s eaten them she’s puked them out again too. I find the evidence plus my poor plants look awful. Phew, luckily for her they are cat safe plants! 

It’s true cats do sometimes eat grass. Fur cats are said to nibble grass to make themselves sick as a way to rid themselves of a fur ball. By the way this is not the same as cat grass which you can buy as seed kit in pet stores grow and give your indoor cat access to if you wish. My miaustore water fountain even has an option of a little cat grass container to set in it.  

Now that I’ve introduced you to this subject and no doubt I’ve put a healthy dose of fear into you which in many ways I’m sorry for. Believe me, I almost feel your anxiety to get to the end of this post so that you can start your home audit to Google every single houseplant you’ve got and lock away the lavender and tea tree oil quick smart! 

But, while I do appreciate that it’s a scary subject. I hope that on balance you’ll be glad to know these things. And, to go with that, maybe you should know what do you do if you ever did suspected that your cat (or dog) had ingested something that she or he ought not to have… 

What are the signs? Again, I’m no expert, but a brilliant source of info for us cat people is the website cats.org.uk and their page on which site this kind of info can be viewed is >>> Here. And in a real life emergency the vet is definitely where you should be headed. 

I’ve deliberately not spoken in this post about our current kitten litter. Please don’t hold that against me. Yes I’ve mentioned my girls the kong departed but not forgotten Ziggy & the very precocious Floozy, but only as an example and to evidence that in the 40 +  years I’ve shared my life & home with cats that in all that time I’d not had a cat who even wanted to taste sample everything. And that when she did, because I did by then know. the plants she nibbles are cat safe plants & while she has been sick in removing them, she has not been poisoned.  The reason I do not wish to speak about a litter here is because in years to come I want to  re-post this so that the next generation of new kitten parents will be given the information that for so long I was ignorant of.