The ZZ plant, nicknamed Zanzibar gem, is admired as a low maintenance and pet-friendly houseplant. However, while ZZ plants aren’t highly toxic, they can’t be considered 100% safe for curious cats. Certain ZZ plant parts contain compounds that may cause stomach upset, vomiting or skin irritation in cats if ingested or nibbled frequently. Understanding ZZ plant toxicity allows cat owners to make smart choices.Here’s a dive into keeping your cats safe from these indoor plants.
Toxicity Risks ZZ Plants Pose to Cats
All parts of the common ZZ plant, including the stems, leaves, berries and sap, contain varying concentrations of the toxic compounds calcium oxalate and oxalic acid. Ingesting these compounds provokes the following reactions in cats:
Upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea if a significant amount of foliage or stems are eaten.
Oral irritation, drooling and difficulty swallowing if plant parts are chewed.
Skin redness, swelling and itchiness if the cat brushes against oozing ZZ sap.
Fortunately, the ZZ plant’s toxicity is considered mild to moderate. However, some severe symptoms do warrant immediate emergency veterinary care.
Symptoms that Require Immediate Medical Care
Seek veterinary help right away if your cat exhibits any of these symptoms after exposure to a ZZ plant:
- Noticeable difficulty breathing in your cat. This may indicate throat swelling, airway constriction, or fluid in the lungs.
- A significantly swollen tongue, mouth or throat area that inhibits swallowing or breathing properly.
- Excessive drooling paired with obvious oral pain or bleeding. This suggests significantinternal mouth irritation and blistering.
- Repeated vomiting or diarrhea with traces of blood present. This points to internal irritation and gastrointestinal ulceration.
- Loss of appetite or refusal to eat that persists beyond 24 hours after the ZZ plant exposure occurred. This can lead to liver problems.
- Visible abdominal cramping, bloating and tenderness in the belly when touched. Indicates GI upset.
- Development of a skin rash with extensive swelling, welts, blisters or hives. Signals an allergic reaction.
In instances of any of the above, emergency vet care provides vital supportive treatment to ease discomfort and prevent dehydration or malnutrition related to ZZ plant poisoning. Vets can safely induce vomiting if ingestion just occurred. Your cat may require hospitalization in severe cases.
Precautions for Safely Keeping Cats and ZZ Plants
While ZZ plant toxicity cannot be eliminated entirely, you can greatly reduce risk with these simple precautions:
Place ZZ plants completely out of reach of cats, ideally 5-6 feet high. Use wall mounts or high shelves.
Keep ZZ plants in rooms cats do not access, such as a spare bedroom or home office. Shut doors securely.
Provide alternative greens for cats to nibble like cat grass. This curbs the temptation to munch the ZZ.
Use bitter apple sprays on and around the ZZ plant as a taste deterrent and reapply weekly.
Remove any fallen ZZ leaves, stems or berries before cats can ingest them.
Trim ZZ plants to limit foliage and remove toxic berries. But avoid forcing new growth.
Use cabinets and closets to house ZZ plants safely away from cats when other options aren’t feasible.
If possible, opt for less toxic cat-friendly plants instead of a ZZ if your cat is extremely curious.
Pet-Safe Houseplant Alternatives to ZZ Plants
Spider plants: Non-toxic dangling shoots fascinate curious cats.
Pothos: hardy vines suit fun high climbable shelves.
Ponytail palm: Cat-safe fountain shaped plant.
Prayer plant: Low toxicity colorful leaves.
Swedish ivy: Trails safely and thrives indoors.
Air plants: No soil and totally pet friendly.
Always thoroughly research a houseplant’s toxicity before bringing it home when you own cats.
It’s easy to safely share your home with plants and cats with smart precautions. Doing a little homework goes a long way in preventing potential ZZ plant poisoning of cats and related health risks.