Are Ferns Toxic to Cats? A Guide to Which Ferns are Toxic to Cats

are ferns toxic to cats?

Are ferns toxic to cats? As I was researching this topic, it became clear that the question is much more complicated than it seems at first. When we speak of “toxicity,” we mean anything that causes an increased probability of causing harm if its consumed by a cat.

Some ferns are toxic while others aren’t. This doesn’t necessarily mean death or serious harm, but it does mean that certain plants are more likely to cause some kind of negative effect than others. While this is not an exhaustive list of fern toxicity studies, I think it’s helpful since many people search for this information.

Are ferns toxic to cats?

Are ferns toxic to cats?

Many fern varieties have been studied to determine their toxicity levels. Unfortunately, the vast majority show some level of toxicity when directly ingested by cats. There seems to be some debate whether cats should be given access to ferns due to their toxicity.

Ferns have been used as ornamentals since ancient times. In addition to their ornamental value, many were also used medicinally by the aborigines and early settlers. It seems that most ferns are safe for cats if they happen to ingest a small piece. That doesn’t mean that they are all safe to use as houseplants or to plant in your yard, though.

According to the ASPCA, there are many fern varieties that are toxic to cats; these include the following species:

Palm ferns aren’t really a fern at all but are a small palm commonly called sago palm. The leaves of this tree look very similar to the foliage of fern plants. Palm ferns can cause severe symptoms, including liver damage and death. More commonly, cats will vomit after eating even a tiny piece of the plant. 

Asparagus ferns, also commonly referred to as emerald or lace ferns. These plants have the botanical name Asparagus densiflorus cv sprengeri. They can cause skin irritation and allergies, as well as vomiting if ingested. These plants are toxic to cats, dogs and humans. 

Other common names for the Asparagus fern:

  • Emerald Feather
  • Emerald Fern
  • Sprengeri Fern
  • Plumosa Fern
  • Lace Fern
  • Racemose Asparagus
  • Shatavari

Like many other plants, Ferns are often treated with chemicals that make them incredibly toxic to cats. For this reason, you should never purchase ferns or place them in your cat’s living area unless they were grown organically and free from pesticides.

The general consensus is that fern toxicity can present itself in a few ways. The most severe signs to look for in your cat are neurological problems such as seizure-like episodes and tremors.

You may also see some gastrointestinal symptoms, including drooling, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. If it goes untreated, this can lead to dehydration. 


The last thing you want is for your cat to eat some parts of a fern house plant, and you should be very careful when they are around such vegetation. If you decide to add ferns or any other plants to your cat’s living or outdoor space, it is
best to keep them at least out of the cat’s reach, so they don’t accidently ingest any dangerous toxins.

What to do if your cat has ingested a piece of a fern plant?

If you believe your cat has ingested any part of a fern, you must bring them to the vet immediately. If you wait too long without treatment, it could be fatal for your cat. Common symptoms of fern toxicity include vomiting, drooling, diarrhea
or skin irritation, particularly in the throat and around the mouth.

Ferns contain many toxins, which can cause liver damage and possibly even kidney failure in some cases if cats eat them. Severe toxicities can result in death, so get your cat to the vet without delay. While it is not known if all ferns are toxic to cats; many do contain dangerous chemicals which can
cause considerable harm when ingested.

Final thoughts

Ferns may present a danger if you have curious cats who are prone to nibbling on plants. The best way to avoid any problems is to keep the plants away from your cat. This is important, particularly with outdoor garden areas where there is potential for access to plants that could harm your pets.

Check out the ASPCA website for a full list of plants that are toxic to cats. 


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