If you have both a peace lily and a cat, you may be wondering whether your plant presents a potential danger to your cat. Do you need to keep the two separate from each other?
Peace lilies are considered mildly poisonous to cats. If your cat eats your plant, it is quite likely to suffer from stomach issues and a burning sensation around its mouth and throat. Peace lilies contain calcium oxalate crystals, and these are not cat-friendly.
If you’re worried about your cat and your plant, you aren’t on your own. In this article, we’ll explore how dangerous peace lilies are to cats, what symptoms you should watch out for, and how to stop your cat from eating your peace lily.
What Happens If Your Cat Eats A Peace Lily?
Some cats are keen to chew on plants, and if your cat is constantly trying to get a bite of your peace lily, you might be worried.
True lilies are extremely toxic to cats and can kill a cat within a few hours. Peace lilies are not so dangerous, but biting one can still cause some serious symptoms. These may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Whining or growling
- Pawing at the mouth and nose
- Throwing up
- Swelling around the mouth
Your pet may experience all or some of the symptoms above. They are caused by the plant’s calcium oxalate crystals, which are tiny, sharp crystals that will pierce your cat’s mouth when it bites the plant, damaging the tissues on a microscopic level. This is very painful and will produce a burning sensation that will leave your cat miserable.
You should not be surprised if your cat howls and whines after eating a peace lily, because the burning will likely continue into its stomach. Fortunately, the fact that peace lily leaves create this burning sensation usually means that cats do not eat a lot of them. It is a very good deterrent.
Unfortunately, however, it can have even more serious effects. If it causes swelling in your cat’s airway, your cat might struggle to breathe. This is rare, but it is something to be aware of.
How Dangerous Are Peace Lilies?
On the whole, peace lilies are not considered enormously dangerous to cats. Because they create an immediate sensation of pain, the cat is unlikely to ingest very much of the plant, and will probably only chew the leaf for a few moments and may even spit it out.
However, if your cat does swallow a few leaves, it will probably experience extreme discomfort and may show signs of distress. You may find that it doesn’t want to eat anything and that it is stressed and miserable. It might throw up some food, especially if it has recently eaten.
You may also see it rubbing frantically at its face as though it is in pain, and its face may swell up in response to the microscopic lacerations. These symptoms should pass, but it may take a few hours.
Eating a peace lily is very unlikely to kill your cat, and many people keep both cats and plants in the same home. Even so, you may still want to take a few precautions, which we will discuss next.
How Can I Stop My Cat From Eating My Peace Lily?
The best way to prevent your cat from eating your peace lily is to put the plant on a high shelf and keep it out of your cat’s reach. Remember that cats are good climbers and like to hang out in high areas, so you will have to choose the shelf with care.
Some people suspend their peace lilies in hanging baskets beneath shelves or from the ceiling so that their cats definitely cannot reach the plant. This might be overkill, but if you’ve got a particularly determined plant-eating cat, it’s worth considering. Sometimes cats fixate on something like a plant and will go to great lengths to try to eat it.
You can also discourage your cat from going into the room where the peace lily is located. You might keep the peace lily in a bedroom or home office, and keep the cat out of that room. This is a good precaution to take, but you will need to make sure you are consistent about shutting the door.
Another option is to discourage your cat from going near the peace lily by squirting it with a water pistol or making a sharp noise when it does so. However, many cats are difficult to train, and this might not be enough to deter your cat, especially when you aren’t around. It’s better to move the plant out of reach, or there is still a risk of your cat eating it.
What Should I Do If My Cat Has Eaten Some Peace Lily?
If the worst happens and your cat does eat some peace lily, the first thing to do is locate the cat and see if it still has any of the plant in its mouth. You should use your fingers to remove as much of the plant matter as possible, being careful not to hurt the cat as you do so.
If you are concerned and the cat has eaten a lot of the plant, get in touch with your vet before doing anything else. If the cat is showing serious symptoms, like difficulty breathing, get it checked by a vet as soon as you can.
However, if you think the cat has only eaten a little bit of the plant and it seems okay, you can give it some cool water to drink and wait for the symptoms to pass. This could take a few hours, but the discomfort should wear off and your cat will calm down again eventually.
If your cat’s mouth has swelled up and the swelling does not go down after a few hours have passed, get in touch with your vet for advice. The vet might ask you to come in, and you should take a sample of the plant with you if this happens.
Should I Get Rid Of My Peace Lily?
It is unlikely that you need to get rid of your peace lily just because you have a cat and you have learned that they are potentially toxic. Most cats will not touch a peace lily, as they are not generally interested in plants. Even if your cat is extremely interested in plants, you probably don’t need to get rid of the peace lily.
You should take some simple precautions to minimize the risks, and keep an eye on your cat. If it seems curious about the peace lily and is constantly trying to paw or chew it, move the peace lily out of reach. Suspend it from a shelf or put it somewhere high, and everything should be fine.
Many people successfully have both peace lilies and cats, so this is unlikely to be a big problem.
Do Other Plants Contain Calcium Oxalates?
There are a lot of plants that have these crystals in them, so peace lilies are far from alone. Other common houseplants that contain them include:
- Chinese evergreens
- Calla lilies
- Umbrella trees
- Dumb canes
- Elephant ears
If you have a cat, especially one who is interested in plants, you should be cautious about owning any of these plants. However, like the peace lily, it should be reasonably safe to have one as long as you take some precautions and keep your cat away from them.
Will Rubbing Against A Peace Lily Hurt My Cat?
You should not need to worry about touch contact being harmful, so if your cat likes to nuzzle your plants but never bites at them, there’s no reason for concern. Peace lilies are perfectly safe to touch; it’s only when a leaf breaks that they become potentially problematic.
However, you may wish to deter this behavior anyway, because there is a risk that it will progress to biting at the leaves. The leaves will move when the cat rubs on them, and this may trigger the cat’s hunting instinct, which could then lead to biting.
If your cat spends a lot of time rubbing around the plant, you may want to place it on a higher shelf or otherwise block off your cat’s access.
Peace lilies are considered toxic to cats. They are not as toxic as true lilies and they are unlikely to kill your cat if it ingests a small amount, but they are not harmless. Even a small piece of leaf will cause burning, nausea, and possibly swelling around your cat’s mouth.