Daffodils are one of the loveliest spring blossoms. The sight of a flowerbed full of golden daffodils and creamy narcissus can’t fail to lift your heart — they’re a sure sign that winter has passed and spring is well and truly there. The beauty of these spring flowers is matched only by their popularity. During the spring and early summer, daffodils are absolutely everywhere. This is good news for plant lovers — but not such great news for cats. Our feline friends are given to chewing on many things they shouldn’t, which unfortunately includes daffodils.
Are daffodils poisonous to cats? Yes, they are. Daffodils contain lycorine, an emetic (a substance that induces vomiting). All parts of the plant are toxic with the bulbs being the most dangerous. Daffodil bulbs have crystals on the outer layers that are particularly hazardous to cats if ingested. Daffodil poisoning requires medical intervention.
Perhaps you’re concerned about the possibility that your cat may have eaten part of a daffodil. Maybe you’re planning to plant daffodils or want to bring daffodils into the house. In either case, you’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about daffodil toxicity in cats.
- Could eating daffodils make your cat sick?
- How toxic are daffodils?
- What parts of the plant are the most dangerous?
- How can you prevent your cat from nibbling the daffodils?
- What are the symptoms of daffodil poisoning?
Keep reading to find out the answers to these and other questions. We have the information that you;re searching for.
Are daffodils poisonous to cats?
Like many of our favourite house and garden plants, daffodils are surprisingly toxic both to humans and pets. There are many cases every year where dogs and cats chew up the spring flowers and become ill. Humans are also apt to be affected — usually this involves small children who’ve eaten parts of the daffodil while unsupervised but sometimes adults can be affected too. Daffodil bulbs resemble onions and are sometimes eaten by mistake; daffodil stems may also be mistaken for Chinese chives and are sometimes consumed by members of the Chinese community.
Consuming even small amounts of daffodils or the related narcissus can have a serious effect on a cat’s health. Exploratory nibbles of the leaves, stems or flowers can leave your pet in extreme discomfort, drooling excessively as the irritant substances contained in the plant cause the tissues of her mouth to become inflamed. This isn’t too dangerous in and of itself but it can be highly distressing for the animal, who doesn’t know what’s going on. If the plant is swallowed rather than just nibbled or chewed, the effects can be even more dramatic. Daffodil poisoning takes hold very rapidly and the symptoms can be extremely severe. The cat may begin to vomit and to suffer from diarrhoea, thanks to the emetic effect of the lycorine in the daffodil.
If your cat shows any of these symptoms, you must immediately get her to the vet. Don’t wait to see if she “gets better” as daffodil poisoning can be very dangerous. Most pets who eat daffodils will go on to make a full recovery but they do need prompt intervention to ensure the best outcome. Take along the remains of the plant or any other specimens — this can help the vet identify the exact culprit and makes diagnosis easier. Keep in mind that there are several different plants with similar bulbs to the daffodil, and some of them may need rather different treatment.
If left untreated, daffodil poisoning is likely to get worse rather than better. There may be undigested pieces of the plant in your cat’s stomach which will continue to release toxins into the bloodstream as they’re digested, prolonging the situation. Lycorine’s emetic effect causes cats to lose fluid very rapidly, leaving their bodies dehydrated. Dehydration itself can be very dangerous. In more severe cases, your cat could develop respiratory depression and cardiac arrhythmia, which could prove fatal. It’s vital, therefore, that you get her to a vet so she can be properly cared for. the sooner she gets the care she needs, the less recovery time will be required and the more likely it is that she’ll survive.
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How is daffodil poisoning treated?
When you get your cat to the vet, the first thing that the staff there will want to do is take her vital signs to see how she’s doing. They’ll also want to know what she ate and how much, if possible. The vet will probably take a history, including not just the events leading up to the visit but your cat’s overall state of health and lifestyle. If your cat is in good health generally, things will probably go fairly easily; if there’s another health problem, though, your vet should be informed so that this can be taken into account during your cat’s treatment.
The vet will almost certainly want to give your cat intravenous fluids. This is to replace the fluids lost when your cat was being sick or suffering from diarrhoea. The additional fluids will also help to wash all the toxins out of your cat’s body. Activated charcoal preparations may also be given to keep your cat from absorbing more toxins if there are still pieces of the daffodil in her stomach.
The vet may also need to give your cat medicine to counteract the effects of the daffodil toxins. These medicines will help your cat’s heart to beat more regularly and keep her central nervous system stimulated. Your cat may also become dangerously hypothermic due to her lowered blood pressure and your vet will counter this by keeping her warm.
All this can be scary and uncomfortable for your cat but it’s very important. These treatments will keep her alive until the poison is out of her system and help her recover more quickly afterwards. In severe cases of poisoning you may need to drop your cat off at the vet for a few days. the good news is that most cats are fine following their treatments.
What are some other poisonous spring plants? How do I recognise them?
Not everyone’s a gardening expert and that’s fine. It’s useful to know what poisonous plants look like, however, so you can avoid letting your cat near them and also identify them for the vet if the worst happens.
Daffodils are easy to recognise. They’re tall flowers with smooth stems and long, slender leaves. The flowers have six petals around a trumpet-shaped centre. Daffodils are usually bright yellow. There’s a related flower called a narcissus which belongs to the same family as the daffodil and looks very similar, although it has an orange centre and white petals. The narcissus contains the same toxins as the daffodil.
Another spring flower that’s dangerous to cats is the tulip. These have a cup-shaped flower on a long stem. The tulip is highly toxic to cats, causing similar symptoms.
Spring crocuses are small, cup-shaped flowers that grow near the ground. They are usually purple, yellow or white. They’re not as dangerous to your cat as daffodils or tulips but can still make them sick.
Snowdrops are also toxic to cats. These are one of the first flowers to emerge in the spring; they have small white drop-shaped blossoms. As long as your cat doesn’t eat much of the plant the effects are generally mild; even so, it’s important to have a vet look at her if you think she’s eaten snowdrops.
In general, it’s best to assume that all house and garden plants are unsafe for cats unless you know for a fact that they’re non-toxic. Some of the bigger animal charities and pet health websites maintain reliable lists of safe and unsafe plants.
How can I stop my cat from eating the daffodils?
The good news is that daffodils are seldom grown indoors. They’re more usually an outdoor plant, which makes it easy enough to keep your cat away from them. (The great abundance of toxic plants in our gardens is just one more reason to keep your cats in the house if you possibly can). Sometimes daffodils are brought into the house as cut flowers, which are then sampled by a curious feline. There’s not really much you can do to prevent cats from chewing things they’ve decided look tasty, except to place them in another room where the cat isn’t allowed to go.
Some cat owners swear by hanging poisonous plants from the ceiling or putting them on a table surrounded by a surface the cat doesn’t like to walk on. One of my friends displays her cut flowers in a large glass-fronted cabinet; if you have a glass-fronted cabinet that’s survived contact with a feline housemate, this is a reasonable solution. In general I feel it’s best to simply keep poisonous plants far away from the cat. Even if you somehow put the pot or vase out of reach, pieces of the plant can drop off and be eaten by the cat.
Another common scenario is for daffodil or tulip bulbs to be left where the cat can reach them. If you place the bulbs in a cupboard near her food, they may end up smelling very enticing once you take them out. Bulbs should therefore be secured well away from cat food, kitty treats and other things she might want to eat. If you can’t keep spring bulbs in a shed, they should also be placed in a sealable container or a cupboard your cat can’t open until they’re ready to be used. Keeping daffodil bulbs separate from foodstuffs also helps prevent human poisonings — don’t leave plant bulbs where they can get mixed up with the onions.
Article by Barbara Read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind CatBeep.com. From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.