Six Deadly Plants For Dogs And Cats

These plants may look pretty, but they pose big risks for our cats and dogs.

Meet my little bundle of joy. His name is Jean-Luc (after the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise). He likes going where no cats have gone before.

Grumpy's cat Jean-Luc

Steve Bender

Usually, that's fine, but he enjoys the garden where some plants are poisonous to dogs and cats. After eating these plants, dogs and cats can get sick or, even worse, may have fatal reactions. Keep your furry friends safe by avoiding these plants. Here's a list of six of the worst plants for your pets.

01 of 06

Sago Palm

Cycad sago palm
Getty Images
  • Botanical Name: Cycas revoluta
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun (Indoor: Medium, Bright)
  • Soil Type: Sandy, Moist, but Well-Draining
  • Soil pH: Acidic (5.5–6.5)

This cycad, grown both as a houseplant and an outdoor plant, is popular for its exotic, palm-like fronds. Plants are either male or female—The latter causes concern. They bear egg-shaped, red to orange seeds that contain a potent toxin called cycasin. Ingestion of just one or two seeds can destroy the liver and be fatal. If you have a female sago, always remove all the seeds and throw them in the trash.

02 of 06

Japanese Yew

Japanese Yew
Laurey W. Glenn
  • Botanical Name: Taxus cuspidata
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Full Shade
  • Soil Type: Well-drained, Sandy, Loamy
  • Soil pH: Acidic (6.0-7.0)

This handsome, needleleaf shrub is widely used in foundation plantings and sheared hedges because it stays green all year and takes pruning well. Unfortunately, almost all parts of the plants contain toxins, taxine A and B. Eating them can cause heart failure in dogs and cats. However, the toxins don't affect deer, so deer often eat them to the ground.

03 of 06


Shocking Lily in Mary Startzman's Garden in Berea, Kentucky
Robbie Caponetto
  • Botanical Name: Lilium sp.
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Partial
  • Soil Type: Well-drained, Rich, Moist
  • Soil pH: Acidic (6.5-7.0)

If you have cats, don't plant lilies. All parts of the plants are deadly to cats—the petals, pollen, leaves, and even the water in vases that holds cut stems. Cats who eat lilies need immediate veterinary care because total kidney failure can occur. Dogs aren't affected.

04 of 06

Azaleas & Rhododendrons

Light Pink Rhododendron Shrub
Ralph Anderson
  • Botanical Name: Rhododendron sp.
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Soil Type: Well-drained, Light
  • Soil pH: Acidic (4.5-6.0)

It's hard to find a garden in the South that doesn't contain at least one azalea or rhododendron, so it's curious why many more poisonings don't occur. (My guess is cats and dogs don't find the foliage and flowers munch-worthy.) Nevertheless, leaves contain grayanotoxin, and ingestion can lead to heart failure, coma, and death.

05 of 06

Castor Bean

Castor bean seed pods
  • Botanical Name: Ricinus communis
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Soil Type: Well-drained, Moist, Rich
  • Soil pH: Acidic to Neutral (5.0-8.0)

This tender shrub, grown for its colorful leaves and seeds, is the source of ricin, one of the most potent natural toxins on Earth. Ricin resides in the bean-like seeds and is released only when the outer hull breaks. It only takes a little ricin for the poison to take effect. Curiously, the seeds also contain castor oil that is not toxic when heated during extraction.

06 of 06


Okra or marijuana? It's SO hard to tell!
Photo: Steve Bender
  • Botanical Name: Cannabis sativus
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Soil Type: Loamy, Clay, Sandy
  • Soil pH: Acidic to Neutral (5.8-6.3)

In states where marijuana is legal, keep it away from your pets. Today's weed boasts levels of psychoactive THC far greater than decades ago and can overwhelm your pet, no matter the source. Dogs are even more sensitive than people and may lapse into comas.

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