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Wondering whether succulents are safe for your furry friend? Fortunately, most succulents are harmless to pets if ingested. However, there are a few toxic varieties that are dangerous to animals.
Succulents are super easy to take care of, making them perfect for first-time plant parents. Although if you have pets, this becomes a bit more complicated.
With curious nibbles and the possibility of ingesting a toxic succulent, it’s vital to create a safe space for both pets and plants.
In this guide, I’ll provide information on both poisonous and pet-friendly succulents to help keep your precious pet safe with plants in the house.
Succulents are a group of plants that retain water in the leaves, stems, or roots. With their thick and fleshy tissues, succulent plants can survive extended periods without water.
Some succulent plants like cacti have little to no leaves and store water in their stems. Whereas others mainly retain it in their leaves. Succulents can retain the water for weeks or months.
There are around 60 different plant families with succulent members. The Aizoaceae, Crassulaceae, and Cactaceae families are made up of mostly succulent species.
Appearing in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and colors, you’ll find various succulents with unique characteristics.
Many succulent plants are indigenous to the desert and dry regions. They are typically native to Central America, South America, the European Alps, and Africa.
Although they are low-maintenance and work well as house plants, proper care is needed for the best growth and flowering. Similar to all living organisms, succulents need sunlight and adequate water to thrive.
While most are harmless, some are toxic. For instance, the jade plant is known to be poisonous to cats. Whereas the Christmas cactus is safe if consumed in small quantities.
When it comes to succulents and cats, it’s vital to keep those curious bites at bay. Toxic succulents irritate animals’ skin, mouth, and stomach – leading to vomiting and diarrhea.
With the increasing popularity of succulents, it may be overwhelming to decide which ones to bring home. Since cats are likely to be intrigued, it’s best to keep cat-friendly succulents in your house or garden.
Similarly, there are both harmful and harmless succulent plants. The snake plant is an example of a toxic succulent. It contains saponins with mild toxicity that causes nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting in pups and other pets.
If you notice your pup digging around in the garden, it’s vital to keep an eye on their behavior.
Plant poisoning in animals can be fatal if left untreated. If you suspect that your pet has ingested a poisonous plant, seek immediate veterinary care. Here’s what you can do:
- Identify the plant
- Remove your pet from the proximity of the succulent
- Contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic within reach
- Check their breathing and monitor their behavior
- Make a note of your pet’s symptoms
- Take pictures of the plant and bring a sample if possible
It’s always best to identify which plants are poisonous to pets and keep them out of the house. Luckily, succulents don’t have an inviting smell or taste, so pets tend to avoid them by instinct.
Note: If you can’t make it to the vet immediately, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Rabbits are curious creatures who love to graze while wandering around. They tend to stay away from succulents but may go in for a quick nibble if there isn’t a tastier option available.
Some succulents are highly poisonous to rabbits, including the popular aloe vera and cactus plant.
If you suspect that your pet rabbit is chewing on succulents, inspect the plant with these indicators in mind:
- Rabbits enjoy feeding on yummy shoots – especially during spring
- They graze close to the ground, sniffing for tender shoots and cropping them shorter
- If you notice a 45-degree angle cut on the stems, the clean-cut damage is likely the work of your cuddly bunny
The primary symptoms of succulent plant poisoning in pets are vomiting and diarrhea. Additional common symptoms to look out for are:
- Weakness and lethargy
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe abdominal pain
- Mouth and skin irritation
- Loss of appetite
- Unsteady walking
- Increased salivation
- Abnormal breathing and heart rhythms
- In extreme cases, pets may become non-responsive
If you want a happy home for both your beloved pets and plants, it’s best to refrain from buying potentially toxic succulents. Let’s take a look at five of the most common succulents that are poisonous to pets.
Aloe is one of the most popular succulents, commonly used for therapeutic purposes with its various health benefits. Although this plant does wonders for your skin, it has a mild to moderate level of toxicity to cats and dogs.
The components in aloe (saponins) can cause gastrointestinal irritations in pets. Keep in mind that aloe vera gel is suitable to treat human and animal skin, but it is toxic if ingested.
Another toxic chemical in aloe is a substance known as aloin. If ingested, it increases the water content in your pet’s intestines.
This leads to several symptoms that include diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, tremors, and a change in the color of their urine.
The Kalanchoe genus includes tropical plants that are admired for their abundant blossoms and glossy leaves. They are commonly known as the mother of millions, mother-in-law plant, and devil’s backbone.
There are around 120 species of this succulent plant. Some common varieties include the Kalanchoe humilis, Kalanchoe luciae, Kalanchoe tomentosa (panda plant), and Kalanchoe pumila (flower dust plant).
Kalanchoes are succulents toxic to cats, dogs, and birds if consumed. They contain cardiac glycosides (bufadienolides) that are harmful to animals.
Cardiac glycosides can cause moderate digestive distress, lethargy, drooling, oral irritation, and abdominal pain.
If ingested in large quantities, it can result in struggling to breathe, increased heart rate, irregular heartbeats, weakness, and death in severe cases.
The Euphorbia genus consists of an abundance of diverse, flowering plants. There are over 2,000 species, including Euphorbia cereiformis (milk barrel cactus), Euphorbia polygona (snowflake), and Euphorbia echinus.
Euphorbia is commonly known to be a poisonous variety of succulents. The sap found in these plants is toxic to cats, dogs, and humans.
The milky white sap causes a rash when in contact with skin. If consumed, your pet can suffer from stomach pain, mouth irritation, diarrhea, and vomiting.
For this reason, it is best to steer clear of succulents in the Euphorbia genus including the pencil cactus, crown of thorns, and poinsettia.
Jade Plants (Crassula) are easy-to-grow plants indigenous to Mozambique and South Africa. They have a miniature tree appearance with smooth oval-shaped leaves and thick woody stems – making them appealing to pets.
With over 1,400 varieties, you’ll find numerous rare and common species of jade plants. The varieties include Crassula arborescens, Crassula argentea gollum, Crassula ovata hobbit.
They are commonly known as a lucky plant, money tree, or friendship tree. However, this succulent is likely to be toxic to your pet if consumed.
Is a jade plant toxic to cats and other pets? The short answer is yes. If ingested, they are harmful to cats, dogs, and horses.
The symptoms of toxicity include lethargy, vomiting, depression, incoordination, and a low heart rate.
The string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) is an elegant, cascading succulent with round pearl-shaped leaves. The flowering plant is indigenous to dry areas of South West Africa.
When it comes to these creeping succulents, cats and dogs should be discouraged from playful bites. Consider hanging it in a succulent pot that is out of reach from pets.
Although their leaves resemble green peas, they are more toxic than tasty. If consumed, the string of pearls symptoms includes drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy.
If you’re an aspiring plant-parent looking to adopt your first succulent or to expand your collection, don’t fret. Most succulents are non-toxic and pose no risk to your furry family members.
Here is a list of a few top pet-friendly succulent plants:
- Haworthiopsis attenuata (zebra haworthia) – a well-liked indoor succulent with an attractive appearance that is like aloe vera
- Sempervivum (hen and chicks) – a popular, low-maintenance plant also known as houseleek
- Gasteria (ox-tongue) – a thick-leaved plant with stomach-shaped flowers
- Echeveria – a family of charming, rose-shaped succulent plants
- Burro’s tail – a cascading succulent with stems that can grow up to 3 feet long
It’s best to buy pet-friendly succulents. However, if you have a toxic succulent that you cannot part with, here are few ways to keep your beloved pets from it:
- Keep the plants out of reach
- Use positive reinforcement – reward your pet’s positive behavior with yummy treats
- Use orange or lemon peels in the pots – it’s perfectly safe for pets, they’re just not fond of the smell
- Use diluted lemon juice as a natural deterrent spray on plants
- Coffee grounds are a natural repellent for cats, and it replenishes the soil
- Use plant cages
Yes! It is certainly possible to take care of both pets and plants. The best way to create a happy home would be to avoid buying toxic succulents.
Pets tend to stay clear of succulent plants by instinct. However, it’s vital to make sure that they are not easily accessible to keep those playful nibbles at bay.
If you suspect that your pet ingested a toxic plant, call your vet immediately. Similarly, if you notice that your succulent is sickly, be sure to check that out too. Read my guide on why succulents keep dying for some informative tips.