Are Dragon Trees Toxic to Cats? Should You Grow a Madagascan Dragon Tree if You Have Pets?

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are dragon trees toxic to cats?

Dragon trees are known for their ability to filter out toxins and impurities from the air, making them a natural air purifier. They also produce oxygen, which can help to improve your indoor air quality. But are dragon trees toxic to cats? Let’s find out!

When I was 18, I bought a tiny dragon tree, not realizing how big it would grow. Seventeen years later, it’s almost touching the ceiling. It’s like when you buy a cute little puppy with giant paws, and it ends up taking over the house. As I was watering my dragon tree this morning, I wondered whether the plant was poisonous to cats and decided to investigate.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Madagascan dragon trees are toxic to cats. The leaves of the tree can cause stomach problems in cats if ingested. So, if you have pets, it’s best to avoid growing this type of tree in your home.

However, other types of house plants are non-toxic to cats. So, if you’re thinking about adding a plant to your home and you have pets, be sure to choose a non-toxic variety.

In this article, we’ll answer the question, ‘are dragon trees toxic to cats?’ we’ll look at what toxic compounds they contain and what to do if your pet eats a piece of plant. We’ll also list some non-toxic house plant varieties that you may consider instead of a dragon tree. Read on if you’re a cat lover and plant enthusiast!

Are dragon trees toxic to cats?

Madagascar Dragon trees (Dracaena marginata) make beautiful indoor plants, and they can improve the air quality in your home. They are part of the Asparagaceae family and have many common names such as dracaena plant, corn plant, cornstalk plant, or ribbon plant.

If you have cats, you’ll need to choose a different type of plant. Dragon trees are toxic to cats and dogs, and ingestion can cause stomach problems. Symptoms can be severe, especially if left untreated, so it’s essential to contact your vet immediately if you think your cat has eaten any part of a poisonous plant.

Are dragon trees toxic to cats?
Are dragon trees toxic to cats? Dracaena poisoning can cause some nasty symptoms.

Clinical signs of Dracaena poisoning

  • Vomiting (may contain blood)
  • Hypersalivation
  • Dilated pupils (particularly common in cats)
  • Long term symptoms include weight loss and anorexia
  • Depression is another long-term symptom

What are the symptoms of depression in cats?

Just like humans’ cats can suffer from depression. Symptoms of depression in cats include a loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, and hiding away. Sometimes eating a toxic plant can have a long-term effect on a cat which can cause depression.
It’s important to get your cat to a vet if you think they have eaten a poisonous plant. The sooner, the better, as many plants can cause serious health problems or even death.

Cats are sensitive creatures, and some suffer from anxiety. If you think your cat is anxious or her behavior has changed recently, speak to your vet about possible solutions. There are several products available that can help cats with anxiety, including pheromone sprays, diffusers, and calming supplements.

What toxic compounds do dragon trees contain?

Why are dragon trees toxic to cats? They contain a toxic compund called saponins.

The leaves of the dragon tree contain the toxic principle saponins. These are glycosides that can cause vomiting and diarrhea in cats if ingested. Saponins can also be harmful to the liver and kidneys in severe cases. 

Saponins are contained in the plant’s leaves and stem to protect it from diseases such as fungal infections. The compound also helps make the plant more pest resistant and less likely to be affected by insect infestation. Unfortunately, this makes the plant toxic to animals, including cats, dogs, and horses.

Saponins are commonly found in many plants; while saponins are a potentially toxic substance, in some plants they aren’t very harmful. For example, the compound is found in spinach and helps to assist with digestion.

Interestingly enough, saponins extracted from yucca plants are being used in supplement form to ease joint pain in pets and humans. The supplements have an anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effect as well as providing pain relief.  

What should I do if my pet eats a piece of the dragon tree?

If your pet eats a piece of the dragon tree, you should call your vet immediately. Symptoms of toxicity can develop quickly, so it’s crucial to get help as soon as possible. Your veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting or administering activated charcoal to help reduce the absorption of toxins.

Your cat may also need an IV drip to replace lost fluids but will likely recover within 24 hours. The vet may keep your pet in hospital for observation, but this will depend on your pet’s general health and how fast she can ‘bounce back.’ Cats that are young and healthy will get over plant toxicity quicker than older cats, kittens, or those with health problems.

Most cats will recover relatively quickly as long as they receive treatment soon enough. Eating a piece of a dragon tree is rarely fatal for cats.

Types of dragon trees

There are several different types of dragon trees, all of which are attractive plants which are toxic to cats. The most common type is the Madagascan dragon tree, but tricolor and Colorama varieties are also available. These plants are kept in households worldwide.

Madagascan dragon trees

These plants are tropical evergreen trees that can grow to a height of up to 20 feet. They have glossy green leaves with red edges.

Dracaena marginata 'Colorama'

This type of dragon tree looks like it has pink foliage from a distance. On closer inspection, you’ll find that the leaves are variegated and have green and white stripes.

When growing a colorama, you’ll need to ensure the lighting is correct, or the colors will fade. Although most dracaena plants are easy to care for, the colorama is considered more challenging.

Dracaena marginata ‘tricolor’

This variety of dragon tree has dark green leaves with thin red edges and a white or cream-colored strip in the middle of each leaf.

Are there any non-toxic house plants that I can grow?

pet friendly house plants

There are many non-toxic house plants that cat owners can grow. Some popular varieties include Boston ferns, African violets, prayer plants, and orchids.

It’s best to choose a non-toxic plant variety rather than assume that you can keep a toxic plant out of the reach of your cat. Cats are curious creatures that like to climb. 

This is particularly true of young kittens who are likely to be into everything. Even if you place a plant on a high shelf, they are likely to climb up and may be affected by the plant.

That being said, many cats will completely ignore plants and aren’t tempted to chew them. If you have rooms in your home (such as the bathroom) that your cat doesn’t have access to, you may be able to keep toxic plants out of your pet’s reach.

Should I get rid of my dragon tree if I have cats and dogs?

If you’ve owned a dragon tree for a while and your cat hasn’t chewed it and doesn’t seem interested in the tree, it may not be necessary to get rid of your plant. You know your cat’s personality; some cats live for years with toxic plants without ever chewing on them and getting sick.

Pet friendly plants

Are dragon trees toxic to cats? Yes, it's best to choose a non toxic house plant to keep your pet safe

If you’re looking for a beautiful indoor plant that will purify the air in your home and is safe for your pets, consider one of the varieties listed below: 

  • Parlour palm
  • Echeveria
  • African violets
  • Most species of orchids
  • Boston fern
  • Haworthia
  • Prayer plants

 Related Article: Are Orchids Poisonous to Cats? 

Toxic plants to avoid to keep your cat safe:

  • Lilies
  • Aloe Vera
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips
  • Ivy
  • Philodendrons

 Related Article: Are Peace Lilies Toxic to Cats? 

Are dragon trees toxic to cats? Final thoughts

Dragon trees are a beautiful indoor plant, but they can be toxic to cats as they contain the chemical compound saponins. It’s recommended that cat owners, choose a different type of plant. Many non-toxic varieties make excellent house plants and will purify the air in your home.

I hope this article has helped you understand more about the safety of the dracaena plant and which plants you can grow in your home if you have pets.

Interested in finding out which plants are toxic to cats and which are safe? Check out our plant section!

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