20 houseplants that aren't safe for pets—and what to get instead
Think twice before you buy that snake plant.
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Houseplants can be a great way to decorate your home, and whether you’re shopping for the best ones online or in-stores, there are tons of options out there that may help to boost your mood and bring some much-needed color to your living spaces.
However, not every plant deserves a pot in your home, particularly if you have pets. Some plants toxic to cats and dogs can be harmful if ingested and lead to upset stomachs, respiratory issues, and in some tragic cases, death.
While there are certain tips and tricks you can draw from to help keep plants out of your pet’s mischievous paws and curious mouths, the truth is, sometimes it’s just best all around to avoid the risk completely. Unsure which toxic plants to avoid and why? Here are 20 of the most toxic plants for cats and dogs that you should definitely watch out for as you’re adding to your plant family—and suggestions for what to get instead.
1. Aloe Vera
Looking for pet-safe greenery? You may want to skip aloe vera plants.
While not considered lethal, these super-common plants contain anthraquinones and saponins, the latter of which is produced by plants to protect against insects in the wild. Both of these toxins can be mildly to moderately toxic to cats and dogs, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, and potentially issues with urine discoloration.
Instead, you may want to consider a hawthonia, as these striking plants conjure up the same spike-like look of aloe vera, but without the potential risk to pets.
If you have a new puppy, you may want to avoid having amaryllis around the house. That’s because this vibrant plant—also known as the Belladonna lily—contains lycorine, which is a highly poisonous ingredient that may lead to vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, tremors, diarrhea, and other nasty side effects.
While puppies are smaller and more vulnerable than adult dogs, they may be harder hit by these side effects, although dogs (especially those with pre-existing conditions) may be impacted, too. Instead of an amaryllis, a polka dot plant—which is splashed with shades of pink, red, and white on top of its green leaves—can be stunning, and won't pose as a potential hazard for your beloved pup-pup (although it's considered non-toxic to pets, it may cause mild tummy issues for very sensitive pets, however).
3. Autumn Crocus
If you suspect your dog or cat has been exposed to an autumn crocus, it’s in their best interests that you get them to a veterinarian, ASAP. These highly toxic plants for pets can lead to bloody vomiting, diarrhea, bone marrow suppression, and even put your four-legged companion into toxic shock.
In severe cases, exposure to an autumn crocus may even lead to multi-organ damage for pets, as this plant contains colchicine and other alkaloids, which inhibit cell division. Exposure may even be fatal, so this is one plant you should absolutely avoid at all costs.
Also known as the Moth orchid, a Phalaenopsis orchid could be a vivid addition to your closest windowsill in the way that an amaryllis would be, but unlike that flower, this common orchid is completely pet-safe.
If you’ve always envisioned your yard decorated with stunning azalea patches but you’re also a dog or cat owner, you may want to hit pause on your plans.
Instead of azaleas, you can add a burst of color to your office or bedroom with African violets, which bloom in eye-catching shades of purples and are relatively easy to care for, too.
5. Castor Oil
Castor oil plants—and specifically, castor oil beans—are extremely toxic to both dogs and cats, and should be absolutely avoided if you’re a pet parent. The reason? This plant, which is also known as Ricinus communis, contains ricin in both its seeds and leaves.
For pets, ingesting as little as one ounce of castor oil plant seeds can be lethal. Other signs of exposure may include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, excessive drooling, trembling, and more. If you suspect your pet might have been exposed to this plant, you should immediately contact a veterinarian.
While castor oil plants should be absolutely avoided if you have pets, one plant that you won't have to stress over bringing home if you have dogs or cats are bromeliads. These uniquely shaped plants bloom in deep red and orange hues and can be an incredible focal point in a room, but they're also known for being non-toxic as well.
When daffodils bloom, it’s usually a much-welcome sign that spring has officially arrived. However, if you’re a pet parent, you may have to admire these vibrant yellow plants from afar.
For dogs and especially cats, daffodils can be toxic because they contain lycorine, an alkaloid that can trigger vomiting, drops in blood pressure, rapid heart rate, trouble breathing, and even heart arrhythmias in pets if ingested.
But just because daffodils are out doesn't mean that all flowers are a no-no if you have pets. Gerber daisies can be big, bold, and lovely alternative that can add a burst of vibrancy to your home and they're completely safe to have around dogs and cats.
7. English Ivy
Puppy owners, take heed: English ivy is one of those plants that may your four-legged companion could have a difficult time with if ingested.
While adult dogs and cats can also experience vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, and excessive drooling brought on by ingestion of English ivy, puppies in particular may have more intense side effects because they’re still growing. This plant is considered mildly toxic, not lethal, but it’s still not a fun time for any of the parties involved, so watch out for it.
If you're looking for a plant that's similar to English ivy but poses less risks for pets, you may want to consider Swedish ivy, as these adorable creeping plants are non-toxic for cats and dogs and can flourish in light shade.
8. Fiddle Leaf Fig
They’re so trendy right now, but before you order a fiddle-leaf fig tree from a plant retailer, you may want to hang tight. Because they’re technically in the philodendron family—and these are plants toxic to cats and dogs alike—fiddle leaf figs are best avoided if you’re a pet owner.
Although not lethal, they contain insoluble calcium oxalates, which may cause intense burning sensations and irritation on the tongue and lips for pets, as well as excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, and other side effects. If your heart is really set on one, you can always opt for an artificial version, as those are readily available and don't pose the same risks to pets.
Also known as money plants, jade succulents can be an verdant addition to any desk or shelving unit, and are purported to bring good luck to owners. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for pets that nibble on one of the rounded leaves of this plant.
While the toxic component of this plant is currently unknown, jade can lead to vomiting and lack of coordination in both dogs and cats if ingested.
If you want to stay on-theme and grab a pet-safe alternative that may (or may not) bring good fortune your way, a money tree might be a better option. They're non-toxic to cats and dogs, although chewing on them is still something you should discourage your four-legged pal from doing, because it may cause an upset tummy.
10. Jerusalem Cherry
At first glance, you might mistake the juicy berries hanging from a Jerusalem Cherry tree for cherry tomatoes—and most importantly, so might your dog. But this is a big problem, because this plant (part of the nightshade family) can actually be quite hazardous if ingested by your fluffy companion.
Jerusalem Cherry contains solanocapsine, which can negatively impact a pet’s central nervous system, leading to convulsions, seizures, and potential paralysis. This plant can also negatively impact the gastrointestinal tract, leading to vomiting and diarrhea, and if your dog consumes a lot of one, it could be lethal. (It’s important to note that these plants can be extremely hazardous to children if ingested, so be careful about bringing one home if you have kids around, too.)
If you're looking for a unique plant that has a lot of character like Jerusalem Cherry trees do, you might want to consider a pet-safe alternative, like a donkey's tail. With their hanging stems and full, silvery green leaves, this succulent stands out in a room, but if your pet nibbles on it, they won't be at risk, because it's non-toxic to cats and dogs.
Lilies—in particular, peace lilies, Easter lilies, and calla lilies—are incredibly common houseplants, yet they’re toxic and potentially fatal to cats because they contain insoluble calcium oxalates.
If ingested, lilies can cause gastrointestinal issues, as well as vomiting, irritation to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, drooling, severe kidney and/or electrolyte imbalances, seizures, and even lead to death. While the effects are less severe with dogs, lilies may still cause problems, especially for puppies. Your best bet is to avoid them altogether if you have pets, or to opt for a set of fake lilies, which can offer the look of these precious flowers, sans the risk.
Milkweed—along with other plants that contain glycosides like oleander and dogbane—can be harmful to pets because this toxin is known to negatively impact the heart.
Exposure to milkweed can set off negative effects within a pet’s cardiovascular system, leading potentially to abnormal heart rhythm, as well as gastrointestinal issues like excessive vomiting and drooling. Pets that ingest milkweed may also suffer from seizures, tremors, and other negative side effects to the central nervous system.
Instead of milkweed, you may want to explore pet-safe plants like a Boston fern, which can thrive in indirect sunlight and doesn't require a ton of upkeep to stay verdant. These gems are not only non-toxic to cats and dogs, but because they're hanging plants as well, they'll be out of reach for mischievous furry pals, too.
During the holiday season, you may be tempted to deck the halls, but ornamental plants like mistletoe might be one of the things you should leave out of your festive décor scheme if you have dogs or cats (or both).
Although this plant is steeped in tradition and an iconic way to spread the cheer, it contains lectins and phoratoxins, which can prompt mild to moderate gastrointestinal issues for pets, including excessive drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. Ingesting mistletoe may also cause your dog or cat’s blood pressure and/or heart rate to drop, so you may want to explore other ways to get a holiday smooch this season.
If you're still in the mood for something green and festive, you may want to consider grabbing a Christmas cactus, as these plants—which can bloom with gorgeous pink or lilac flowers—are easy to care for and safe around pets.
While pothos plants have a reputation for being extremely easy to care for, they’re something to avoid if you have pets.
As part of the Araceae family, they contain insoluble calcium oxalates, which can be harmful to dogs and cats. If nibbled on or ingested, a pothos could result in oral problems for your four-legged pal, specifically swelling and irritation of the tongue and lips, as well as difficulty swallowing. Pets may also experience vomiting or excessive drooling.
However, if you have your heart set on adding a new plant-baby to your home, you may want to consider picking up a Prayer plant, as these beauties feature exquisite lemon-lime hues and are completely non-toxic to cats and dogs.
Chances are, you’ve heard that poinsettias are lethal to cats and are one of the biggest plants to avoid if you have a furry feline companion. But actually, the risk surrounding poinsettias isn’t as huge as it once was thought to be.
While these vivid red plants aren’t lethal to cats or dogs, they can still cause some mild irritation. This is due to the milky white sap they produce, which if ingested, can lead to dermal irritation, such as swelling, itching, and redness around a pet’s mouth. It may also cause excessive drooling, and in some rare cases, diarrhea. To be extra sure, check with your veterinarian before you bring a poinsettia home.
Still hankering for a brilliantly red flower to bring home and show off, not just during the holiday season, but throughout other parts of the year? Roses are completely safe for pets and they can be a sweet addition to any garden, and look even better shown off in a vase.
16. Sago palms
They’re referred to as “palms,” but in fact, sago palms aren’t really palms at all. Rather, they’re cycads, and all parts of these plants are poisonous to dogs and cats and can be fatal if consumed.
Cycasin is a toxin found in sago palms that can attack a pet’s liver and could lead to liver failure, depending on the amount consumed. It can also lead to vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, nose bleeds, bloody stool, seizures, and more. If you’re making a list of plants to absolutely avoid at all costs as a pet owner, sago palms should be at the top of it.
You can snag a real palm that's non-toxic for pets if you pick up a Parlor palm. This dog- and cat-friendly alternative has tropical fronds and has a reputation for being hearty compared to other palms.
17. Snake plants
As one of the most popular houseplants ever, snake plants can seem like a wonderful addition to any intimate space. Pet parents, however, might want to be careful before bringing a few home.
Although snake plants aren’t lethal for pets, they’re still one of those common plants toxic to cats and dogs if consumed. This is because they contain saponins—which are natural chemicals produced by a plant to protect against fungi and insects—and may cause mild to moderate gastrointestinal problems for pets, like vomiting and diarrhea.
But here's the good news: Spider plants are an equally popular plant, have a name that similarly conjures up creepy-crawlies, and best of all, are safe to have with pets. This arched foliage can look especially lovely on a top shelf, far out of a cat's roving paws and curious teeth, too.
A sure-fire sign that spring is in the air? The sight of fresh tulips blooming along a garden. However beautiful these striking flowers can be, they can create a bouquet of problems for pets if chewed on and consumed, so pet parents should take heed.
Along with hyacinths, tulips belong to the Liliaceae family of plants and contain lactoids. In the case of tulips, the toxin is in the bulb of the plant itself, and if ingested, could lead to excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms. If pets—and in particular, dogs—consume large amounts, it may lead to more severe side effects, such as difficulty breathing and changes in heart rate.
Gloxinias, on the other hand, are completely non-toxic plants for cats and dogs, and they can bloom during the spring and summer, which makes them a solid alternative to tulips, especially if you love flowers.
Known for its red berries and hardiness, yew can seem like a great shrub to grow in the backyard. However, it’s hands down one of the most dangerous plants to have on your property if you’re a pet owner.
From the berries all the way down to the bark, yew can be extremely toxic to both cats and dogs, but is particularly harmful to dogs because it can lead to seizures. This plant contains taxine A and B and volatile oil, which can also result in vomiting, tremors, breathing problems, and acute heart failure in pets, so you should absolutely keep it far away from your pets.
Instead, consider skipping the yew and grabbing a plant that promotes good vibes: a friendship plant. With its bright green leaves and striking textured look, this pet-friendly flora is fun for homes with four-legged companions within it.
20. ZZ Plant
If you’re looking for some low-maintenance flora, the ZZ plant has a reputation for being extremely resilient and can thrive in virtually any conditions, including in areas that offer low lighting. But before you grab one off The Sill or another site, you should be aware that they’re not so ideal if you have pets.
ZZ plants produce a sap that contains calcium oxalates, which can be an irritant for dogs and cats alike (it may also cause skin irritation for humans with sensitive skin). Although not considered lethal, this is one bit of greenery that you should think twice about—or consult a vet about—before adding it to your home.
Also known as baby rubber plants, peperomia obtusifolias are a pet-safe alternative to ZZ plants that have spoon-like leaves. Thick and hearty, these plant-babies relish indirect or low light, and only need to be watered every week or so, which makes them a good option for those looking for a low-maintenance plant on the level of a ZZ.
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