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Is Schefflera Toxic to Cats? Keeping Your Cat Safe

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Schefflera

Household plants can add a splash of color to your home décor and make your living area feel more alive. Not all plants are safe for pets, though, especially considering a cat’s tendency to nibble on foliage that they’re curious about. Common household plants, like Schefflera, are toxic to both cats and dogs.

Schefflera and other toxic plants can cause a wide range of unpleasant symptoms for your cat, from difficulty breathing to stomach upset. This guide will tell you why Schefflera is toxic to cats and how to keep your kitty safe.

What Is Schefflera?

One of the easiest plants to care for is the Schefflera, which makes it popular for plant lovers who don’t have much time to dedicate to more difficult plants. Also known as the “umbrella tree,” Schefflera is a family of evergreen trees or shrubberies that are native to the tropics.

While large Schefflera plants are often used in landscaping, a small dwarf species, known as Hawaiian Schefflera, finds its home in many households.

Schefflera
Image Credit: Pixabay

Which Part of the Schefflera Plant Is Toxic to Cats?

Schefflera plants contain cells called “idioblasts” that are filled with calcium oxalate crystals. These crystals are microscopic, and they’re released into your cat’s body when they chew on or bite plants in the Araceae family, which include the Schefflera. They cause physical damage to the mouth when chewed.

These oxalate crystals are found throughout the plant — the roots, stem, and leaves — which makes the entirety of the Schefflera toxic to your cat.

What Are the Symptoms of Schefflera Poisoning?

Cats are curious by nature and are bound to get into trouble, whether you’re watching them or not. While you can catch your cat in the act of nibbling on your beloved Schefflera if you’re at home, keeping an eye on things is more difficult when you’re at work. Recognizing the symptoms of Schefflera poisoning can help you figure out whether your cat needs to go to the hospital.

The symptoms of Schefflera poisoning include:
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Burning of the mouth, lips, and tongue
  • Oral irritation
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Vomiting

If you know your cat has eaten your schefflera and is displaying the above symptoms, offer them a small amount of milk or yogurt to help bind the crystals and contact your vet.

sick grey cat
Image Credit: Anna Nikonorova, Shutterstock

Which Other Plants Are Toxic to Cats?

Schefflera isn’t the only house plant that’s toxic to cats. Many common and popular plants can cause health issues for pets, not just felines. This list isn’t all-inclusive, but here are a few of the most common toxic plants.

  • Azalea
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodils
  • English ivy
  • Lily
  • Marijuana
  • Peace lily
  • Sago palm
  • Tulip

How to Keep Your Cat Safe From Toxic Plants

When you welcome a new cat into your home, you’re also taking on a great deal of responsibility for their welfare. Keeping them safe, well-fed, and healthy is the most important thing that you have to do as a pet owner.

Their inquisitiveness can make this task difficult, but here are a few tricks that you can try to protect your cat from your plants and vice versa.

Aluminum Foil

Although it might seem strange to surround your planters with aluminum foil, it’s an effective way to convince your cat to find somewhere else to sit. Cats don’t like the texture or noise that aluminum foil makes when they walk on it.

By surrounding your toxic plants with aluminum foil or even double-sided tape, you’ll be making the area unpleasant for your cat to explore. Eventually, your cat will learn to avoid the spot, and you can remove the foil.

Aluminum Foil
Image Credit: Pixabay

Cat Repellent

There are two types of cat repellent that you can try: spray bottles — both commercial and homemade — and electronic deterrents.

Electronic deterrents usually work through motion sensors that detect when your cat is in the vicinity. These devices might be better for protecting your outdoor plants, especially if you use a motion-activated sprinkler system.

The sprays can be used on both indoor and outdoor plants. You can buy deterrent sprays online, provided that you make sure they’re safe for both your plant and your cat.

Cat-Safe Plants

Despite our best efforts, some cats can’t be deterred. Perhaps they’re too mischievous, or they just enjoy your exasperated groans every time they climb onto places where they’re not supposed to be. Some toxic plants are dangerous to pets through pollen alone, though, meaning your cat doesn’t have to nibble on the leaves to get poisoned.

Sometimes the easiest and most effective way to protect your cat from toxic plants is to remove the plants completely.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have any plants at home, and they don’t have to all be made of plastic either. There are plenty of plants that are non-toxic to pets and can still brighten up your home.

Popular safe plants include:
  • Asters
  • Freesia
  • Orchids
  • Snapdragon
  • Sunflowers

Roses are safe for cats too, although some plants with “rose” in the name might not be. Double-check that the roses that you’re interested in are definitely safe before taking them home.

orchids in the house
Image Credit: RainerBerns, Pixabay

Clean Up Fallen Foliage

Fallen leaves and petals are just as dangerous to your cat as the actual plant. Whether they fall on their own, get knocked off when the plant is accidentally jostled, or the plant falls off its perch, clean up the mess as quickly as possible. This will reduce the risk of your cat playing with or chewing on the bits of plant scattered on the floor.

Plant Terrarium

While you can shut all your toxic plants in a separate room if you have space, it’s easy to forget to shut the door. This is where a plant terrarium can come in handy. You can buy either plastic or glass options, but make sure you get one with a lid to keep your plants out of your cat’s reach.

cat with orchids
Image Credit: rorieffel, Pixabay

Reduce Boredom

The amount of mischief that your cat gets into may be an indicator of how bored they are. Climbing on shelves and nibbling at plants is their way of satiating their curiosity and ridding themselves of boredom, especially if they’re house cats and feel cooped up.

Giving your cat more opportunities to entertain themselves is one way to divert their attention away from your plants. Giving them cat trees and puzzle toys or spending more time playing with them are great ways to keep their minds active and avoid the onset of boredom.

Conclusion

Hardy and easy to care for, the Schefflera is a popular plant for many households. Unfortunately, it’s not as friendly to cats or dogs. If your cat ingests any part of the Schefflera plant, they can suffer from excessive drooling, vomiting, and intense burning on their lips, tongues, and mouths.

While there are ways to keep your cat away from toxic plants, the safest option is to avoid bringing toxic plants into your home at all. You can find pet-friendly options to make sure your kitty stays healthy, even if they’re fond of nibbling your foliage.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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