Are Lilacs Poisonous to Cats? A Guide to Lilac Plant Toxicity and 2 Types of Lilac to Avoid!

are lilacs poisonous to cats?

Are lilacs poisonous to cats? If you’re thinking about planting a lilac bush in your garden you may be wondering whether the plant can harm cats. Let’s find out!

There has been some discussion on whether or not lilacs are poisonous to cats. The verdict? It depends. Lilacs are common spring-blooming flowers that come in different shades of purple and pink. The plants are grown for ornamental purposes, and common lilacs aren’t harmful to cats or people if ingested. Persian Lilacs and French Lilacs are highly toxic, and you should avoid growing these if you have cats.

Are Lilacs Poisonous to Cats?

Are lilacs poisonous to cats? Some varieties can be!

The ASPCA doesn’t list common lilacs on their toxic plant list, meaning that they are just as safe for cats to be around as other household and garden plants. However, ingestion of any plant should be avoided, so your cat shouldn’t eat lilacs or anything else in your garden.

Lilacs are members of the Oleaceae family, which contains approximately 25 varieties of flowering plants. People generally grow common lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) in their gardens, and these account for about 60% of all lilac plants grown. Common lilacs have lilac-colored flowers that smell lovely and can grow to between 15 and 20 feet tall at maturity. There are other rarer types of lilacs, such as French lilacs, which pose more of a threat to cats and other animals.

Lilac oil is obtained from the blossoms is used in perfumes, soaps, and lotions. Essential oil with a rich fragrance resembling violets is extracted from several species of lilacs. 

  • It’s safe for cats to be around common lilac plants
  • Persian Lilac’s, also known as Chinaberry tree, are toxic to cats
  • Although rare, the French Lilac is also highly toxic

What will happen if a cat eats a piece of lilac plant?

Common lilacs can cause cats stomach upset if eaten in large quantities. If your cat happens to eat a few petals or leaves from a common lilac bush, he will likely be ok. It’s best to seek medical advice from a vet if you are worried, as plant matter is seen as a foreign object to cats’ gastro internal systems because cats’ digestive tracks are designed to deal primarily with meat. If your cat consumes a significant amount of the plant, he may experience vomiting or diarrhea.

Some cats have experienced more severe side effects after eating lilacs in rare cases, such as seizures or liver damage. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you think your cat has eaten too much of a lilac bush.

Which Type of Lilacs are Toxic to Cats?

Persian Lilacs and French Lilacs are two plants to be wary of if you have cats, as they both contain toxic compounds that can affect your pet. Let’s look at each in a bit more detail:

Persian Lilacs

Persian lilacs are listed as toxic plants on the ASPCA website. Their botanical name is Melia azedarach, and they are part of the Meliaceae family. This plant goes by many different names and is most commonly called a Chinaberry tree. You may also know the plant as a Paradise Tree, White Cedar, Japanese Bead Tree, Pride-of-India, or Texas Umbrella Tree.

The plant is much smaller than a common lilac plant, growing to around 8 feet tall at maturity. The flowers are also smaller and are a paler shade of lilac. The plant’s flowers, bark, stem, and foliage contain the toxic compound Tetranortriterpenes (meliatoxins), poisonous to cats, dogs, and horses. The most toxic part of the plant is the berries.

Symptoms of Persian Lilac Toxicity

Symptoms of Persian lilac toxicity vary depending on the amount that has been ingested. Mild poisoning includes diarrhea, vomiting, and salivation. More severe and long-term issues may develop if larger amounts of the plant have been consumed, such as depression, weakness, and seizures.

French Lilacs

French lilacs are a rare species that only flower for a few weeks in the spring season. The flowers can be white, pink, purple, or blue. This plant is highly toxic to cats and other small animals due to a compound called galegin, which is a neurotoxin.

Symptoms of French Lilac Toxicity

French Lilacs are highly poisonous to cats and can kill animals, including cats, dogs, and livestock. The plant will cause vomiting and more severe symptoms such as the build-up of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) and hydrothorax, causing breathing difficulties, which your cat may not survive unless he’s taken to a vet in time. 

Why Are Cats Attracted to Lilac Trees?

Are lilacs poisonous to cats? Common lilac shrubs are safe for cats to climb, explore and scratch.

Cats are especially attracted to lilacs as these shrubs grow into tall trees, which are great for climbing. Cats also like to scratch as tree bark to keep their claws in good condition. These are the main reasons you may find that your cat is interested in a lilac bush growing in your garden or neighborhood.

Cats are naturally curious, and some cats will nibble on plants. As cats are mainly carnivores, they are unlikely to eat large amounts of plants. However, you should be aware that toxicity due to ingesting plants can kill cats. As long as the lilac tree in question is a common lilac rather than a Persian or French lilac, there is no need to worry that your cat will get poisoned.


Lilacs are highly attractive trees that provide shade, add beauty to your landscape, and attract pollinators. They also offer a fantastic show of fragrant flowers each spring when in full bloom. 

So, are lilacs poisonous to cats? It depends on how much of the plant they eat and what type of lilac you are growing. In most cases, a small amount of common lilac plant won’t cause any problems, but larger quantities may lead to stomach upset or other issues. If you’re concerned, be sure to contact your veterinarian.

Persian Lilacs and French Lilacs are highly toxic to cats and other animals, and you should seek immediate veterinary advice if your cat has eaten even a tiny piece of either of these plants. 

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

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