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Is Cordyline (Hawaiian Ti) Toxic to Cats? How to Keep Your Cat Safe

Luxifa Le

By Luxifa Le

wet cordyline leaves close up

“Curiosity killed the cat” is one proverb that has a strong basis in reality. Cats are curious creatures that tend to explore their surroundings using their mouths. Unfortunately, this can lead to them ingesting many substances that they’d be better off leaving alone. Hawaiian ti, or cordyline plants, are one such object since they’re mildly toxic to cats.

Cordyline plants are mildly toxic to cats and are associated with symptoms such as gastrointestinal upset, but in rare cases, severe toxicity can occur. Severe toxicity of cordyline plants requires the cat to ingest a large amount of cordyline material, but severe poisonings have been recorded.

What Is a Cordyline Plant?

Cordyline plants are colloquially known as “ti plants” and are commonly mistaken for dracaena plants. However, these evergreens and perennials belong to their own distinct genus of plants. There are around 15 different species of ti plants native to the Pacific Islands and some parts of Southeast Asia.

Growing them outdoors in the continental USA can be tricky since ti plants won’t fare well in colder temperatures, but they’re relatively easily grown as houseplants; they just need warmth, sunlight, rich soil, and water.

Cordyline plants should be relatively easy to find at a local plant nursery as they’re popular houseplants. Most plant nurseries will carry and care for several different types of ti plants. All ti plants produce leather-like spear-shaped leaves, but the color and patterning of the blooms can vary from species to species.

Cordyline plants produce toxins that protect them from fungi, illnesses, and insects in the wild. These toxins are mildly toxic when ingested by cats.

Cordyline fruticosa
Image Credit: Indra Adi Gunawan, Shutterstock

Are Cordyline Plants Deadly to Cats?

Cordyline poisoning in cats is rarely deadly. Most instances of cordyline poisoning are associated with gastrointestinal upset but not much else. Cats who experience cordyline poisoning are likely to display vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea symptoms.

The prognosis of cordyline poisoning in cats is generally good to excellent if a veterinarian oversees your cat. Most cats will start to improve their condition within 24 hours when treated by a veterinarian.

How Is Cordyline Poisoning Treated in Cats?

Cordyline poisoning is generally treated by removing the toxic substance from the cat’s system and administering activated charcoal to absorb the toxins and prevent them from affecting the body.

Undigested cordyline material will be removed by administering an emetic to your cat to encourage them to vomit. If necessary, activated charcoal will be used to bind the toxins present in the stomach and prevent them from being absorbed into the rest of the body.

If the consumption of Hawaiian ti has irritated the lining of your cat’s stomach, the vet may administer Kapectolin to provide the stomach walls with a thicker lining and lower irritation. In addition, sucralfate may be administered to reduce the stomach’s acidity and prevent the stomach acid from eating through the mucous layer protecting the stomach’s walls.

Cordyline
Image Credit: Skyprayer2005, Shutterstock

How Can I Keep My Cat Safe?

The easiest way to keep your cat safe from Hawaiian ti is not to grow the plants at all. However, if you must grow Cordyline plants, you’ll want to keep them where your cat cannot reach them.

If you simply want to grow plants, consider growing cat-safe plants that won’t harm your cat if they take a curious nibble off one of the leaves.

What Plants Are Safe for Cats?

There is a wide selection of plants that are safe to have around your cats. There’s no need to grow plants that are toxic to your cats when there are so many safe plants! Here are just a few safe plants that you can grow in your home or garden for both you and your cats to enjoy.

The ASPCA populates and updates a non-exhaustive list of safe, toxic, and mildly toxic plants for cats, dogs, and horses, which can be found here.

Catnip

cat with green eyes in catnip
Image Credit: Georgia Evans, Shutterstock

Catnip is safe for cats to ingest. However, many pet parents don’t know that you can grow catnip plants at home; your cats can even safely snack on the catnip right off the plant if they wish!

Additionally, catnip is in the mint family of plants and will leave your house smelling fresh and minty if you grow it! You can also take clippings from the plant and dry them in the oven; if your cats are fond of the dried catnip, you can buy them in stores.

Cat Grass

cat and kitten with a pot of cat grass
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

Cat grass isn’t a plant but a seed mixture of grass seeds that your cats can safely snack on. Cat grass mixtures will include seeds for barley, rye, and oats that your cat can nibble on as they grow.

Spider Plant

Spider Plant on a wooden table
Image Credit: Bozhena Melnyk, Shutterstock

Spider plants won’t just attract your cat because they’re curious; the long, dangly leaves will smile on your cat’s face as they bat them around and play them. Spider plants are also cat-safe. So, no harm will come to them if your cat takes a nibble while they play.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, Hawaiian ti plants are toxic to cats, even if only mildly. But the good news is that aspiring plant parents have a lot of different plants to choose from.

If you think your cat has ingested something that may be toxic, your first contact should be with a veterinarian. A vet can help you determine if your cat needs to be brought in for observation or treatment.


Featured Image Credit: David Clode, Unsplash

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