The exceptional foliage, extreme hardiness, and forgiving nature of pothos have put them on a pedestal among plant enthusiasts.
Thus, it’s not surprising if you’re looking to get one of its varieties or if you already have one at home.
Yet, everything will come to a halt for a split second if you have a buddy that meows mornings to you. “Are pothos plants toxic to cats?” you’ll start to wonder.
We’re about to answer that question in depth, so stick around!
The beautiful pothos plants, also known as “Golden Pothos” and “Devil’s Ivy,” are, unfortunately, toxic to cats and pets in general.
In fact, the Araceae family, of which pothos is a member, contains many popular houseplants that are also toxic to pets, such as philodendrons and dieffenbachia.
Here’s the thing, the plant only begins to cause serious harm when consumed. In other words, if your feline ingests the plant’s leaves, stems, or even roots, she’ll show signs of toxicity.
Whereas, if Ms. Fluffers is doing her usual catwalk near your pothos and simply rubbing herself into it, she won’t be in any danger.
Now, let’s look at what makes pothos poisonous. Simply put, this plant contains raphides, a toxic substance, in a variety of parts, including the leaves, roots, stems, fruits, etc.
Raphides are sharp needlelike crystals of calcium oxalate that are arranged and packed in bundles in the plant’s tissues.
When your pet chews on a toxic plant part, it damages a plant cell called idioblast, allowing water to enter the cell. This causes the gelatinous layer surrounding the raphides to swell.
Since these needlelike crystals are water-insoluble, they start darting out of the plant and into your pet’s mouth.
The pain of this sharp toxin penetrating the poor cat’s soft tissues begins at the mouth and extends all the way to its stomach as it’s swallowed.
If you suspect that your feline has ingested pothos, we’ll walk you through some of the toxicity symptoms she should exhibit.
We’ll start by listing the signs and then explain them:
- Mouth irritation
- Swollen tongue
- Excessive drooling
- Pawing at the mouth
- Breathing difficulty
- Trouble swallowing
- Decreased appetite
When raphides are forced into a cat’s mouth, they immediately cause a severe burning sensation. This irritation affects the inner cheek lining, tongue, and lips.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that the mouth is swollen and turning red. That’ll make sense as to why your buddy has been drooling excessively.
It won’t be long before this sharp toxin reaches the cat’s throat, causing it to swell. Breathing will be difficult from that point forward because of this airway blockage.
The gastrointestinal pain follows as the calcium oxalate crystals enter the digestive system, which can lead to vomiting.
Not only that, but you’ll notice that your feline isn’t interested in eating or drinking water.
By the way, if your cat groomed her paws and then began pawing her eyes, this can also cause eye irritation.
One: don’t freak out. Two: call the vet immediately.
Whether you caught your troublemaker red-handed or she began exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned above, you’ll need to take her to the vet.
In the second scenario, where you only suspect that your cat ate pothos, make a mental note of all the symptoms that appear.
This will help the veterinarian a lot in determining the true cause of the pain, whether it’s due to pothos or something else.
The vet will initiate treatment as soon as he identifies that your feline is suffering from devil’s ivy toxicity. Based on the severity of the case, he’ll discuss different treatment options with you.
That being said, we’ll give you a general idea of what to expect, though this may vary from one case to another.
The veterinarian will start with rinsing your cat’s mouth thoroughly as well as any other affected areas such as paws and eyes.
This is an attempt to remove as many calcium oxalate crystals as possible to alleviate pain.
Some lab work may be required to assess the amount of pothos ingested. Nonetheless, vets typically move on to a quick procedure called gastric lavage.
This procedure is primarily used to get rid of any toxic substances from the cat’s stomach to stop them from being absorbed further by the gastrointestinal tract.
You shouldn’t worry; the procedure is pretty straightforward!
All that happens is that the vet inserts a tube down your feline’s throat and into her stomach.
Then they’ll pump water into the stomach, forcing all of its contents through the tube to clean it off the crystals that have accumulated there.
The vet might administer Benadryl, an antihistamine, to your kitty to treat the swelling. Yogurt and cottage cheese are also occasionally used to soothe irritation.
Since there’ll likely be a lot of vomiting going on, the vet may have to give your cat IV fluids to prevent dehydration. This is particularly true if your cat had been throwing up before visiting the clinic.
The recovery time will depend on a variety of factors. Among these factors are how many crystals your feline digested and whether or not she received immediate medical attention.
Remember that the sooner toxicity symptoms are treated, the better.
Generally speaking, recovery from plant toxicity in cats is relatively quick. They begin to feel better immediately or after two hours of treatment.
So get ready to shower your furball with cuddles as she returns home with you on the same day! The even better news is that most cats fully recover in just 24 hours.
In some cases, the vet may request that you leave your cat at the clinic overnight.
This can happen if, for example, the cat lost lots of fluids during treatment and became dehydrated. Thus, they’ll need to keep an eye on her until she’s fully recovered.
As you leave, the vet may advise you to keep your cat on bland foods for a while until her digestive system is back up and running.
Thankfully, normal pothos toxicity doesn’t cause irreversible or severe harm. Only in rare instances have pothos plants been reported to be fatal to cats.
Besides, felines are unlikely to consume large parts of this toxic plant. It causes immediate irritation, so they’ll either stop biting or try to spit out the part they’re chewing on.
What’s more, the symptoms of pothos toxicity aren’t hard to detect. Matter of fact, they appear right away and are quite visible to us.
This increases the likelihood of receiving prompt treatment and avoiding further complications.
Let’s try to outsmart your curious friend. If you’re not ready to lose your precious pothos just yet, here are three ways to keep your cat away from it:
We would’ve advised you to place your pothos on a high shelf, but we know better. All cats are jumpers, so if you think yours won’t be able to reach that high cabinet, think again.
What would work is to hang your devil’s ivy from a basket. Actually, this plant is perfect for hanging baskets because of its vining nature.
Having said that, you must ensure that the vines don’t grow to touch the ground. You can do so by hooking the vines to the wall and maintaining a pruning schedule.
If you’re not into the idea of hanging your pothos, make it inaccessible. One thing that might work is covering your pothos with a plant cage.
If you’re going to get one make sure to choose a large size. Again, pothos is a vining plant, so if a vine strayed too close to the edge of the cage, your cat could easily grab it.
Better yet, dedicate a room to your plants and keep the door closed at all times. When it’s time to water them, make sure you’re not being followed before shutting the door behind you!
Finally, try to make the pothos setting as unappealing as possible. Luckily, there are several scents that cats simply can’t stand, such as:
Citrus scent has long been known to repel cats. You can take advantage of this by sprinkling lemon, orange, or grapefruit peels on the soil’s surface.
You can also make a spray bottle of diluted lemon or orange juice and spray it on your pothos.
On a side note, citrus essential oils, like all essential oils, are toxic to cats, so avoid using them.
The thing is, they can be harmful not only when ingested, but also through skin contact. You don’t want to risk accidentally spilling drops on the floor for your furry friend to find later.
Simply soak a few items in vinegar and place them around your devil’s ivy, and that should do the trick.
Keep in mind that spraying vinegar on plants, even when diluted, isn’t a good idea because it can damage the leaves.
It would be a wise move to pair your pothos with a fragrant plant that cats don’t like. Several aromatic plants deter cats, including rosemary and lavender.
Although cats dislike the smell of lavender, this plant is toxic to them, so it’s best to leave it off your list.
Sticking with rosemary will be your best bet. It’s a highly aromatic plant that’ll keep your furball away without harming him while also leaving a pleasant odor in the house.
It’s worth noting that there’s a plant known as the scaredy cat plant, which as the name implies, is used to repel cats and other animals.
However, it emits an unpleasant smell, which we doubt you’d want in your home.
So, are pothos plants toxic to cats? Sadly, they are.
If you don’t already have one, we recommend looking for alternatives that’ll be safer for your feline to coexist with.
For example, the polka dot plant and the calathea have gorgeous foliage and are easy to care for. Plus, if you want vibrant blooms, the African violet plant would make a fantastic choice.
In case you already have a pothos, we sincerely hope the methods we suggested keep your curious friend away from it!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.