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Is Buttercup (Ranunculus) Poisonous to Cats? Keeping Your Cat Safe!

Keri-Beth Clur

By Keri-Beth Clur

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Dr. Tabitha Henson  Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Tabitha Henson

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Spring is a wonderful time of year. The temperature starts to rise, and color begins to sprout all around. As much as we look forward to the change of season, we also need to be mindful and proactive in keeping our cats safe from the dangers that accompany it. As new flowers blossom in your yard, it’s important to be able to identify them as some can be highly toxic to your cat, as well as other pets you may have in your home.

Although dainty and beautiful, Buttercups can cause a lot of damage to your cat’s little body if they decide to munch on them for self-treatment or digestive purposes. Unfortunately, even this flower’s pollen can cause harmful effects on your cat. Keep reading to find out more.

Why Do Cats Eat Plants?

We know cats are obligate carnivores who need a high protein diet, primarily consisting of animal protein, so why do they sometimes eat plants and are at risk of poisoning? Well, there are a few answers to this question.

Firstly, the age of a cat can have a role to play. Often, kittens with high levels of energy will find just about anything to play with. If they see a flower blowing in the wind, they’re likely to try to catch it as they would with their feather wands during playtime with their owners. Once caught, it’s not uncommon for them to bite, chew, and shallow the plant. Boredom or curiosity in cats can lead to the same outcome.

Another reason why cats eat plants is that it’s instinctual and, therefore, quite common to see in cats of all ages. Often eating grass or plants around the yard can help digestive problems and loosen undigested food. Greenery can also be used for medicinal purposes when a cat has an infection.

Cats can generally instinctively distinguish between toxic and non-toxic plants. For the most part, cats choose correctly and benefit from the fiber and nutrients from the plants and grass. However, if their choice is limited to an environment that contains a variety of toxic plants, they may eat whatever is around, which may have dire consequences.

Orange Ranunculus
Image Credit: 1195798, Pixabay

Are All Plants Toxic to Cats?

Not all plants are toxic to cats. However, what may not be toxic to your cat may be toxic to another pet and vice versa, so always do your research on the plants around your house before allowing your pets to play around them.

Some plants may not be toxic enough to kill your cat if ingested but may still cause a reaction in them. Some reactions may cause allergic symptoms in your cat, such as excessive licking and scratching due to itchy skin, while other plants may be toxic enough to cause organ failure.

The amount of plant your cat ate can play a role in the severity of their symptoms. Often, they’ll have had to have eaten a large amount of the plant for it to be life-threatening to your cat. Unfortunately, some plants are so toxic that even a bite can send them to the emergency room.

Some toxic plants may not be poisonous throughout their structure. Sometimes it may just be the bulbs that contain high levels of poison, while other times, all parts of the plant can be dangerous. If your cat does eat a poisonous plant, check which part of the plant they chewed on and inform your vet, as it’ll help them better treat your cat.

Image Credit: Ralphs_Fotos, Pixabay

Other Poisonous Plants to Watch Out For

Although there are hundreds of plants that are toxic to cats, we’ve listed a few common ones below:

  • Sago Palm (Coontie palm; cardboard palm; cycads; zamias): The seeds of this plant are the deadliest.
  • Daffodils: The bulbs are the most toxic part.
  • Lilies: Highly poisonous. Simply licking the pollen can cause death in cats.
  • Autumn Crocus(meadow saffron; naked lady): All parts of this plant are toxic.
  • Hyacinth and Tulips: All parts are dangerous, but the poison is most concentrated in the bulbs.
  • Azaleas and Rhododendrons: Even ingesting a small amount is dangerous to cats.
  • Dieffenbachia(charming dieffenbachia; dumb cane; exotica perfection; tropic snow): Not deadly but will cause pain and discomfort if bitten into.
  • Cyclamen(Persian violet; sowbread): The most toxic parts are the tubers and roots.
  • Oleander (Nerium/white oleander; Rose-Bay): All parts are toxic, including the water the plant has sat in.
  • Kalanchoe(mother-in-law plant; devil’s backbone; chandelier plant): All parts are toxic.
Image Credit: epicantus, Pixabay

What Happens if My Cat Eats a Buttercup?

Thankfully, Buttercups have a bitter taste that typically deters cats from eating them. However, they do produce pollen that can rub onto your cat’s coat. If your cat licks pollen off the flower or their coat while grooming, it can be an irritant.

Buttercups contain protoanemonin that is released when the plant is chewed. This substance is what is toxic to cats and affects their gastrointestinal tract. The highest density of the toxic is within the flower part of the plant; however, the whole plant is dangerous to cats.

When chewed and ingested, a cat’s mouth will swell, become red, and blisters will form. If the bitter taste didn’t deter the cat from the plant initially, this mouth discomfort generally does and stops them from ingesting more of the plant. Blisters and swelling may also form on your cat’s face in all the areas that made contact with the chewed plant.

Other symptoms that may arise are excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, no longer eating, wobbly gait, weakness, tremors, bloodied urine, and seizures. The severity of the symptoms depends on how much of the Buttercup plant your cat ingested.

Symptoms are likely to occur within three hours of chewing or ingesting the Buttercup plant. If you’ve noticed a chewed-up Buttercup in your garden, check your cat for blisters or swelling in their mouth or on their face. Also, determine which part/s of the Buttercup were eaten.

Determining how much of the plant and which parts of the plant were eaten will help your vet better treat your cat. However, whether you’ve caught your cat in the act of eating a Buttercup or noticed symptoms, take them to the vet immediately as they will need treatment. If you cannot get to your vet quickly, phone a pet poison hotline for advice on what to do to help your cat.

siberian cat in garden
Image Credit: Michael Hüttl, Pixabay

Cat Safety Around Buttercups

Your cat may be fueled with energy and eager to explore their colorful yard. However, sectioning your yard off so that your cat cannot play around your Buttercup flowers is necessary.

You could also spray strong-smelling substances around your Buttercups to deter your cat from playing around them. Cats hate the smell and taste of citrus, making it an excellent option to mix with water and spray on your plants without causing harm to them or your cat.

Another option to consider is removing the Buttercups from your home and re-planting them in a pet-less friend’s yard with their permission. A risk-free yard is a safe yard for your cat to explore, play, and run in.


Buttercups are poisonous to cats. When they’re chewed on, the toxins are released and can cause swelling and blisters, along with more severe symptoms on and in your cat. Not all plants and flowers are toxic to cats, but it’s your responsibility as a cat owner to distinguish which plants are and which aren’t to better protect your cat from accidental poisoning.

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Featured Image Credit: DanielWanke, Pixabay

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