Are Cycads Toxic to Cats? A Guide to Sago Palm Toxicity (Plus 7 Pet Friendly Plant Choices!)

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Are Cycads Toxic to Cats?

Are cycads toxic to cats? The cycad or sago palm is a popular plant that can be grown indoors and outside. It has long been known that ingestion of sago palm leaves causes a severe and often fatal nervous system disorder in dogs. But are cats also affected? Let’s find out!

Cycad toxicosis is the name for this poisoning syndrome which can affect dogs, cats, and humans if the plant is ingested in large enough quantities. The medical condition was recognized first in Japan but now accounts for a significant percentage of all pet poisonings by plants reported to the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center.

This article will answer the question, ‘Are Cycads Toxic to Cats?’ We’ll look at what science has to say on the subject.

Are Cycads Toxic to Cats?

It seems that the number of cases of cat poisoning by ingestion of Cycas spp. is less than dogs. Perhaps this is because cats are less likely to chew on plants than dogs. The sago palm is also a fairly tall tree, so it may be easier to keep out of the reach of cats (although cats can, of course, climb).

Vomiting and diarrhea may develop and these can be severe. Always consult a vet if your pet has consumed a piece of a plant, as you don’t know whether the symptoms are going to become more severe in time or not. Cats and dogs that develop problems after ingesting Cycas spp. should not be induced to vomit. Instead, seek medical attention for your pet. 

Sago palms are highly toxic and just one or two seeds may be enough to kill a cat. 

  • Cycas are also known as : Sago Palm or Fern Palm
  • The scientific name is: Cycas and Zamia species
  • Botanical family: Cycadaceae
  • Contains the toxic compounds: Cycasin and B-methylamino-l-alanine
Are cycads toxic to cats? Sago palms are commonly grown indoors and out and are highly toxic to cats and dogs.

Clinical signs of sago palm toxicity

Are cycads toxic to cats? Yes, Sago palms are highly toxic and just 1 or 2 seeds could kill a cat.

Complete recovery is usual as long as the cat is seen by a vet soon enough. In some cases, vomiting may be persistent and recurrent and may also contain blood. Other symptoms include diarrhea and dark stools, jaundice, and increased thirst. Depression, lethargy and weight loss can also develop within several days of ingestion.

Cycad (sago palm) ingestion by cats may also cause liver damage. The plants are associated with transient increases in liver enzymes and changes in kidney function tests, but these are nonspecific findings without any clear clinical significance.

Cycad dermatitis has also been reported in cats exposed to freshly broken fronds or leaves. These cases most often manifest as dryness, redness, and scaling on the face, ears, and limbs.

How do vets treat sago palm ingestion?

Sago palms are an extremely toxic plant, and you should seek immediate treatment for your cat if you think he’s eaten part of the plant. A vet will test your pet to determine what type of plant has been consumed.

The vet may then induce vomiting to prevent severe issues such as liver failure. It’s likely that activated charcoal will be used to absorb the toxins from the cat’s intestines. Your cat may also be given anti-nausea medications.

Recommendations for avoiding problems:

– Do not allow your cat to eat fresh or dried cycad fronds or seeds.
– Keep all cycads out of reach of your cat.
– Prevent access to all unknown plants when your cat is outdoors unsupervised.
-Rather than choosing a sago palm for your home. choose a plant that’s non-toxic and safe for pets.
-Seek immediate treatment if your cat has eaten part of a sago palm or any other toxic plant.

Related Article: Are Snake Plants Toxic to Cats? 

House plants that are safe for cats

If you have pets or young children and are searching for a safe houseplant, consider one of the plants below. These plants are easy to care for and popular worldwide. 

pet friendly house plants
Are cycads toxic to cats? Yes they should be avoided. Here are some pet friendly plant options to choose instead!

Parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans neantha)

The parlour palm is a safe plant for cats, dogs, and children. It is tolerant of low light levels and drought conditions, making it a great choice for those who don’t have a lot of time to care for their plants. This plant prefers high humidity and should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

This plant is safe for both cats and dogs and is a popular choice for households with pets. It is tolerant of a wide variety of conditions, making it an easy plant to care for, and thrives in bright, indirect sunlight. This plant loves high humidity and is also known for its ability to clean the air!

Related Article: Are Ferns Toxic to Cats? 

Haworthia (Haworthia fasciata)

The Haworthia is a succulent that is safe for cats and dogs. It does best in bright, indirect sunlight and, like all succulents should be watered sparingly. 

Prayer Plants (Maranta)

The prayer plant is safe for pets. Its care needs are relatively simple and the plant will thrive as long as the right conditions are met. Place your prayer plant in bright, indirect sunlight, provide high humidity and regular watering.

African Violets (Saintpaulia)

African violets are another popular houseplant that’s safe for both cats and dogs. These plants produce attractive blooms throughout the spring and summer months. They should be watered regularly and given a balanced fertilizer monthly.

Related Article: Are African Violets Poisonous to Cats? 

Echeveria (Echeveria)

The echeveria is another pet friendly succulent. It does best when placed on a bright windowsill and doesn’t require much water. There are several different varieties of echeveria with slightly different shaped leaves. 

Orchids (Orchidaceae family)

Orchids are a beautiful and exotic choice for houseplants. While they do require more care than some of the other plants on this list, they’re generally safe for both cats and dogs. Make sure to place your orchid in a bright spot with high humidity and water regularly.

Are cycads toxic to cats: Final thoughts

The ingestion of any plant material, even one that is not known to be toxic to cats, should prompt a call to your veterinarian. It’s wise to keep in mind that many substances which are safe for people may cause illness or even be lethal when eaten by dogs and cats.

If additional information about pet poisonings by plants is needed, the ASPCA has an excellent list of toxic and non-toxic plants. In recent decades there has been major developments in this area of veterinary medicine, and vets know more about plant toxicity than ever before.

Check out the ASPCA website for a full list of plants that are toxic to cats. You can also contact the pet poison helpline for more advice. 

If you’re looking for more advice about which plants to avoid, read of our plant section. You may also like: Are Peace Lilies Toxic to Cats? 

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