You are discovering how easy succulent plants are to grow and how they add a unique and colorful touch to your home. But is it safe to have succulents if you also have pets?
Some succulents are safe to grow around cats and dogs. But there are also some toxic varieties, including common ones like Aloe Vera. These toxic succulents are potentially dangerous if ingested by your pet.
Understanding any potential dangers from the succulents you’re interested in growing will help keep your pet safe. So, which succulents are bad for cats and dogs? Is there a safe way to enjoy growing succulents if you have pets? What do you do if your cat or dog eats part of a succulent? Growing succulents is becoming more and more popular—here’s what you need to know.
Are Succulents Safe for Cats and Dogs?
Succulents appeal because of their beauty but also because they’re practically indestructible. Their fleshy (succulent) leaves and stems store water, so the plants require minimal care. Succulents also help purify the air—taking in toxins and releasing oxygen. However, succulents, especially those with dangling stems and leaves, are also tempting targets for pets to play with and chew on and can potentially harm them.
Succulent plants can be safe or toxic to cats and dogs, depending on the species. For example, popular succulents are Aloe Vera, Jade plants, Christmas Cactus, and Hens and Chicks. Of these, only the Christmas Cactus and Hens and Chicks are safe. Aloe and Jade plants are toxic.
Luckily, you can enjoy succulents and keep your pets safe by learning more about the plants you choose and whether they are toxic or not.
Are Succulent Plants Poisonous for Cats or Dogs?
Given that Aloe Vera, one of the most popular succulents, is also the most toxic, it’s essential to know which succulents are safe to have around your pets and which are not. Let’s start with the succulents that are most dangerous and why.
Here’s a table of ten of the succulents most toxic to your pets. Ingesting any of these means GI distress for your pet and possibly tremors and cardiovascular issues.
Silver Dollar Jade
String of Pearls
Crown of Thorns
Succulent Plants Safe to Have Around Pets
Fortunately, some succulents are safe to grow around pets. Here are some of the most popular ones:
Hens and Chicks
Mexican Chenille Plant
What Makes Some Succulents Toxic to Pets?
Some succulents contain phyto (plant) chemicals and other substances that are toxic to pets. These same substances may or may not be toxic to people as well.
In general, there is not a difference between how these toxins affect dogs versus cats. The degree of reaction may vary according to the age and size of the dog or cat. Younger pets are more at risk as they’re still developing. Cats are more sensitive to some toxins as they lack the liver enzymes needed to help process them.
Aloe and other succulents toxic to pets also contain saponins. These phytochemicals occur naturally in many of the plants we consume – like peas, for example. They have antibacterial properties and can be found in many household cleaning products. However, saponins are toxic to dogs and cats, causing gastrointestinal distress.
Because it’s such a popular plant, here’s the rest of the story on Aloe. The poisonous part of Aloe is the latex between the gel (which we use as first aid for burns) and the inner layer of the leaf. The latex contains anthraquinone glycosides which act as purgatives (not pleasant for your pet or you.)
What if Your Pet Eats a Succulent Plant?
Although usually not life-threatening, if your cat or dog chews and ingests part or all of a succulent plant, the safest path is to call your veterinarian. You can also contact an emergency veterinary clinic or pet poison control center for advice. The ASPCA poison control center number is (888) 426-4435, and you can reach The Pet Poison Hotline via (800) 213-6680.
Be prepared to share your pet’s weight, age, the type of succulent, and how much was ingested. Watch your pet to see if there are signs of distress such as GI issues, salivation, dilated pupils, or tremors. If so, and your veterinarian is not available, if possible, take your pet to an emergency veterinary clinic.
Keeping Your Pets Safe from Succulents
Fortunately, there are ways to keep your pets safe, no matter which succulent plants you decide to choose.
Do Your Plant Homework
There are several online resources where you can look up detailed information about succulent plants, especially to see if they’re safe to have around pets. For example, the ASPCA site has a comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants for pets.
In addition to the succulents you cultivate and enjoy in your home, there may also be succulents growing in the wild, depending on where you live. Particularly in more arid regions, succulents such as Agave are popular landscaping plants. It’s always a good idea to identify outdoor plants in your area and whether or not any of them are toxic.
Keep Succulent Plants Out of Reach
If you are interested in a toxic succulent plant such as Aloe, find a place that’s inaccessible to your pets (which may be challenging if you have an energetic cat, but try). Even if not toxic, remember that cats especially enjoy suspended “tug toys,”—which can translate into succulents such as Burro’s Tail and your prize Christmas Cactus.
Another alternative is to have a “plant room” that’s closed off or out-of-bounds to pets. (Regarding “off-limits” areas—remember, you did housebreak your dog. Cats, not so much.)
Make Your Succulent Plants Unappealing
There are ways to repel pets from your succulents. There are, of course, commercial sprays, but there are also some easy interventions.
- To keep your cat (who hates citrus) from playing with the leaves, spray the plant with a mixture of water and lemon juice (1 tbsp of lemon juice to a cup of water). You can also place lemon, lime, or orange rinds around the base of your plant. (Dogs aren’t fond of citrus either, by the way.)
- One other way to nix the idea of digging in the dirt (and we know why cats do that) is to put a sheet of aluminum foil around the plant, anchoring it with a thin layer of soil. (Cats hate how aluminum foil feels and sounds.)
You Can Enjoy Both Succulent Plants and Pets!
Hopefully, this article has helped assure you that it’s possible to have pets and still enjoy succulent plants. Just be aware of what succulents you’re purchasing and give them appropriate (i.e., safe from your pets) dwelling places in your home. Remember:
Many succulent plants are safe to have around your pets. Even though some popular succulent plants like Aloe Vera are also toxic, understanding how to keep your dogs and cats safe means you can enjoy these as well.
Succulents are easy to grow and care for and, along with your pets, can help make your home a beautiful and welcoming place!
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