For those that enjoy keeping live plants and pets in the same home, it’s important to know what types of plants pose a threat to cats and dogs in order to ensure their safety. Rubber plants are popular houseplants that are loved by many for their distinct, waxy foliage and overall beauty.
The short answer is that rubber plants are toxic to cats. Some varieties of rubber plants are more toxic than others. In this article, we’ll cover everything related to the toxicity of rubber plants and whether they should be kept in contact with your pets or not.
Rubber plants, or Ficus elastica, are also commonly referred to as the rubber tree, rubber fig, and rubber bush. It is a species of flowering plant that’s native to Southeast Asia. Rubber plants belong to the plant family Moraceae, a group of tropical flowering plants with over 1100 species. The leaves have a waxy, distinguishable appearance. Though some of these plants can reach up to six to ten feet in height once fully matured, they are very popular houseplants.
Rubber plants prefer bright light but are highly adaptable. They can also thrive in low-light conditions. This, in addition to their beauty, and the fact that they function well in average room temperatures, makes them ideal for anyone that enjoys displaying live plants in their home.
Types of Rubber Plants
While there are many different varieties of rubber plants, we have included a list of the most common types that are kept as houseplants.
Abidjan- The Abidjan has large glossy leaves of this that have in a burgundy-bronze hue. This variety is popular for its ability to filter and purify the air indoors.
Black Prince- The dark green leaves of this rubber plant appear black, hence the name. This variety thrives on a lot of bright, indirect sunlight.
Burgundy- The burgundy rubber plant has thick foliage that is colored burgundy to black with noticeable red stems. For the most vibrant foliage, this plant requires bright light and enough humidity.
Decora- Decora is well known for its thick, shiny, dark green leaves that grow up to one foot in length. They are commonly displayed in basket planters and are well-loved as home décor.
Doescheri- The doescheri is popular for its unique, evergreen blotched foliage and narrow edges that are a creamy-white hue.
Melany- The Melany has deep glossy green leaves with a slight burgundy. This variety grows very dense and does best in lower light conditions.
Red Ruby- The red ruby has large dark green foliage with varying hues of red, purple, and white. New leaves on this variety appear in a shade of pinkish-red.
Robusta- Robusta is a hardy variety of Ficus elastica that has leathery large green foliage. This plant can withstand lower humidity indoors and reaches up to 6 feet in height when fully mature.
Tineke- The Tineke is commonly used in small planters and has dark and light green patchy leaves with cream-colored margins and pink stems.
Tricolor- The tricolor rubber plant has variegated, thick leathery leaves with that distinct waxy surface. The foliage features a combination of green, pink, and cream, hence the name tricolor.
Yellow Gem- This rubber plant is very easy to grow and is typically placed in large planters. The leathery, green-centered leaves have a golden-green hue around the borders.
Rubber Plant Toxicity
Rubber plants secrete toxins as a safeguard against being consumed. The sap of these plants is secreted when the leaves are damaged. The sap, also known as plant latex, is found in all Ficus species. Interestingly, the latex used in gloves is derived from this natural plant latex, which is known for causing allergic reactions in some humans.
Plants do not have to be fatal to be considered toxic. Toxicity covers a very wide spectrum of potential poisonous effects. The University of California has placed rubber plants in toxicity class 4, which is the least-dangerous class of four categories regarding human safety. Keep in mind though, effects of toxicity between humans and animals can vary greatly. So let’s look further into the toxicity of rubber plants and the effects it has on cats specifically.
Symptoms of Rubber Plant Toxicity in Cats
If your cat has ingested a rubber plant, irritation of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract can occur. Skin irritation is also a possibility if the sap gets on the cat’s skin. Thankfully, rubber plants are not as dangerously toxic as other plant varieties and typically are not fatal, especially if only a small amount is ingested. Regardless, the best course of action is to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for guidance on how to handle the situation. The symptoms of rubber plant toxicity include:
- Decreased appetite
- Skin irritation
American Rubber Plant
We do have some good news for fans of the American Rubber Plant. These smaller, perennial plants are of different classification and are not toxic to cats or dogs. Peperomia obtusifolia is the scientific name of this popular little evergreen. It’s known for its leathery, glossy cupped leaves (similar to other rubber plants) and green to white flowers. Other names for this type of houseplant are the Baby Rubber Plant, Pepper Face, and Oval-Leaf Peperomia.
Keeping Your Cat Safe from Toxic Plants
There is no greater tool for keeping your cat safe from the effects of toxic plants than to educate yourself on what species of plants are safe and which are poisonous. Since toxicity levels vary according to different species of plants, it’s imperative that you know what kind of danger each plant can pose to your cat, especially if you already have the plant in your home. Below we have included some tips on how to keep your cat as safe as possible.
Avoid Toxic Plant Varieties
The most obvious choice in keeping your cats safe from any kind of plant poisoning is by choosing not to keep the toxic varieties in your home. If you have an outdoor cat, be aware of the plants in your yard and neighboring yards. If you notice any toxic plants are among them, consider installing a fence or monitoring your cat more closely. If you already have toxic plants in your home that you don’t plan on getting rid of, you can try some of the tips below. Make sure to keep your emergency veterinary service number close by in case of ingestion.
Keep Plants Out of Reach
For the safety of cats and plants in the home, try displaying them completely out of reach of your cat. This goes for any kind of plant, as even the non-toxic varieties will appreciate being kept far away from those kitty teeth and claws. Your cat will likely get the desire to mess with your plants. But if you get creative, you can keep them out of reach and still beautifully displayed in your home.
Citrus is commonly used as a deterrent for cats due to the smell being unpleasant to them. You can try spraying your plants with a little citrus to keep them from wanting to go anywhere near them. Be careful when doing this, the acid in citrus can harm some plants. I may also be irritating to your cat’s little nose.
Spray Bottle Deterrent
Try using a spray bottle of water and give them a quick spray each time they approach household plants. This may not work for all cats, but it is worth a try. The downside is that you will not always be available to use this trick on your cat.
Try Cat Grass or Catnip
Two plant varieties can safely be kept in a cat-filled home. You can go online or to your local pet store and purchase catnip or some cat grass. These plants are perfectly safe for cats to chew on, ingest, and are a safe and secure choice of plant. They are easy to grow and don’t require much of a green thumb either.
Trim the Plants
If you keep your plants well-trimmed regularly, especially those that hang or have dangling foliage, it may keep your curious kitty from being enticed to go after those ever-tempting playthings.
Create a Plant Room
Some cat owners have chosen to set aside space in their homes for a plant room. Of course, not everyone is going to have this extra space, but it’s an idea for those that do. You can ensure the safety of your cat(s) and your plants by keeping them off-limits to each other but still have the luxury of owning both.
Buy Artificial Plants
If you only display plants in the home for décor purposes but share your life with a loveable cat, you can go shopping for some artificial plants to display. These plants are non-toxic and can give you peace of mind. Many plants that are toxic to cats do have artificial versions that are made to look exactly like them.
Rubber plants are toxic to cats, and you should contact your veterinarian if your cat has ingested this plant. While these plants are not as toxic as some other species, and the reaction is typically not fatal. But they can still cause severe irritation of the mouth, digestive system, and even the skin. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to keep your cat safe from poisonous plants.
Featured Image Credit: tortic84, Pixabay