Are Peonies Poisonous To Cats?

As a flower loved by gardeners, designers, decorators, healers, and even Instagrammers, you’re likely familiar with the peony. The flower’s delicate scent and voluminous petals make it a springtime favorite. But is it safe around cats? Unfortunately, no. The peony is toxic to our feline friends.

Tara Maurer holding cat smiling

Last Updated: December 19, 2023 | 4 min read

A gray tabby cat lies and sleeps on a windowsill surrounded by pink peonies.

This article should not substitute contact with a veterinarian. Contact your local vet immediately if your cat is reacting poorly after consumption.

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Peonies are a popular flower known for their eye-catching form, vibrant hues, and lovely scent. The American Peony Society registers more than 7,000 cultivars of the plant, and its spring bloom is highly anticipated each year. People use peonies as wedding flowers, in a romantic bouquet, or as an eye-catching centerpiece on the kitchen table.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) utilizes the peony for various purposes, including anti-inflammatory support, blood tonification, detoxification of the liver, and anti-aging benefits. With all these uses and applications, you may already have some form of peony in your home or garden.

Felines are curious creatures. They love to explore and excel at getting into places they shouldn’t. As pet parents, it’s our responsibility to familiarize ourselves with plants, products, foods, and anything else that may pose a risk to our cat’s health.

If you have peonies in your home or garden, it’s essential to know that these flowers are poisonous to cats. If your feline is prone to munching on your houseplants or fresh blooms, keep peony bouquets out of your cat’s reach. Never use products on your pet that feature peony or peony extract.

Are Peonies Toxic To Cats?

Yes, peonies are toxic to cats. The Pet Poison Helpline and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) warn that ingesting the peony plant could cause gastrointestinal distress (e.g., cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.) and depression in felines. If you suspect your pet has eaten a peony and is showing signs of toxicity, seek immediate veterinary treatment. 

Peonies are poisonous to cats because they contain paeonol, a phenolic compound mainly concentrated in the bark but also present in the petals and stems of the plant. Cats are highly susceptible to phenols and phenolic compounds because they lack the major phenol UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) enzymes needed to metabolize these compounds properly. Felines cannot effectively eliminate these compounds, causing a build up in a cat’s liver and eventual toxicity. 

If you suspect your feline has been munching on your peony’s petals, monitor them for signs of poisoning. Vomiting or diarrhea should pass within 24 hours. If you notice symptoms worsening or accompanied by severe reactions (difficulty breathing, unsteady gait, or seizures), contact your vet immediately.

Symptoms Of Peony Poisoning In Cats

Sick cat under a blanket

Symptoms of peony toxicity in cats include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

The level of toxicity will be determined by the quantity consumed, your cat’s weight, and other variables. While eating a peony isn’t typically fatal, it can cause dehydration, which is dangerous for our furry friends. 

In cases where high quantities or concentrations are consumed, felines may experience the following:

  • Drooling
  • Incoordination
  • Increased heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Respiratory distress
  • Seizures

What To Do If Your Cat Eats Peonies

If you know your cat has eaten peonies, seek medical help immediately. Visit your nearest emergency vet or call a poison control helpline for guidance. You can reach the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 or the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at (888) 426-4435. Both services are available 24/7 for emergency support but expect a fee for each service.

The Pet Poison Helpline bills $85 per incident, with follow-up consultations included. APCC charges $95 per consultation. (ASPCA covers a portion of the fee if your pet is enrolled in its pet health insurance.)

Regardless of whether you visit the clinic or call a poison hotline, prepare yourself to answer questions about how many peonies your cat consumed and if they are displaying any adverse effects. If you visit a vet, you can bring a part of the plant for better identification. You can also bring anything your feline has vomited in a plastic bag; this is especially helpful if you’re unsure what caused your feline’s illness.

Treatment Of Peony Poisoning In Cats

Symptoms of peony poisoning should clear up within 24 hours. Your vet may prescribe a medication to settle your cat’s stomach. If the vet determines your pet is dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea, intravenous (IV) fluids may be used to help your feline recover. In extreme cases, your vet may need to pump your feline’s stomach or induce vomiting for recovery.

Recovering From Peony Poisoning

Cat at the vet

During recovery, ensure your pet’s environment is quiet and calm. A stress-free environment will help your cat relax until they are feeling better. Stick to just basic meals when recovering. Avoid feeding human food or excess treats that may upset your cat’s stomach.

Why Are Cats Attracted To Peonies?

Despite their classification as obligate carnivores, studies indicate that plant eating is an instinctual, typical cat behavior. Some suggest that cats eat plants to induce vomiting when feeling unwell. Others theorize that eating plants is a means of expelling hairballs.

In the case of peonies, cats may enjoy the smell or taste of the peony. Your bouquet may also tempt your furry friend because they’re bored or stressed.

How To Stop Your Cat From Eating Your Peonies

If your cat tends to eat plants, the best step you can take is only to have cat-safe flora around your home. If your peonies are in your garden, keep your cat inside or add a barrier around your plants to limit access.

Use these additional tips to keep your cat out of your flowers:

  • Use a deterrent: PetSafe’s SSSCat is a motion-activated spray deterrent that releases a harmless, odorless spray to keep curious pets away. When the motion-activated sensor detects movement, it releases a burst of spray that startles your kitty and discourages them from approaching any closer. Other deterrents include citrus oils and aluminum foil. Use a citrus spray (unappealing to cats) around your peonies to keep your feline away, or place aluminum foil around the vase (many cats don’t like the feeling of foil on their paws).
  • Give them an alternative plant to munch: Provide your feline with cat grass or catnip to attract your cat away from your flowers. You can grow both easily at home and they are 100 percent safe for felines.
  • Increase enrichment activities: Sometimes, destructive behavior is due to boredom. Interactive cat toys, puzzle feeders, and clicker training can provide enrichment for bored or stressed cats to stop unwanted behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are frequently asked questions regarding cats and peonies. Don’t see yours? Ask us in the comments.

Are Cats Allergic To Peonies?

Like with humans, individual allergies are always possible. A feline allergic to peonies would show signs of an allergic reaction, including itching, swelling, hives, and labored breathing.

Can Peonies Kill Cats?

Peonies are mildly toxic to cats and can cause gastrointestinal problems and depression. This flowering plant is poisonous to felines because it contains paeonol, a phenolic compound; however, because paeonol is primarily in the bark of the peony, it is unlikely that your pet will consume enough to be fatal.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Accidental Poisoning?

Yes, most pet insurance covers treatment and medical care for accidental poisoning. Insuring your cat is a great way to ensure most health emergencies your cat could experience are financially covered.

What Flowers Are Safe For Cats?

African violets, asters, freesias, gerbera daisies, orchids, roses, and sunflowers are all safe for cats. Other cat-safe plants include bamboo, basil, Boston fern, cilantro, parlor palm, ponytail palm, prayer plant, and spider plant.

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