Are ZZ Plants Toxic To Cats?

Zamioculcas zamiifolia, affectionately known as the ZZ plant or Zanzibar Gem, is a tropical perennial known for its thick, waxy green leaves and reputation for being hard to kill. It is also known to reduce indoor air pollution, making it a good, low-maintenance choice for various homes. But is it safe to have around cats? You should be highly cautious about having this plant in the same space as your furry friend.

Tara Maurer holding cat smiling

Last Updated: May 16, 2024 | 4 min read

Cat attempting to bite at zz plant.

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The ZZ is a popular houseplant known for its ability to withstand low light conditions and deep but infrequent watering. It’s the perfect choice for people who want an attractive plant without the work of continuous care. But are ZZ plants toxic to cats?

According to experts, yes, ZZ plants are toxic to cats. Not only that, but they’re also poisonous to humans and dogs. So, what’s the deal? Should we be keeping this plant around the home?

Thankfully, with a little education, you can familiarize yourself with which plants to avoid and how to assess the risk to your pets and still have a vibrant, green-filled space.

Are ZZ Plants Poisonous To Cats?

ZZ plant in pot.
Photo by Michelle Schenker for LoveYourCat, © Cover Story Media, Inc. 2024.

The ZZ plant is poisonous to humans and pets. All parts of the plant are toxic, and experts even recommend wearing gloves when handling it.

If your feline tends to nibble on your houseplants, you should remove the ZZ plant from your home or keep it out of reach. The plant’s sap can irritate your feline’s mouth, causing burning and pain. Ingesting the plant can also cause stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Why does the ZZ plant cause these adverse effects? It contains a compound called calcium oxalate that can cause damage to cells and organs in the body. While it’s unlikely that your cat will eat enough to cause life-threatening problems, you should still be extremely cautious about having this plant around your home.

Symptoms Of ZZ Plant Poisoning In Cats

If your cat nibbles any part of your ZZ plant, they will likely feel a burning sensation in their mouth. You may notice that your cat starts pawing at their mouth or drooling due to the unpleasant sensation. 

Your kitty may also experience digestive problems, including diarrhea and vomiting, depending on how much they ate.

Symptoms of ZZ plant toxicity in cats include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

What To Do If Your Cat Eats A ZZ Plant

Check your feline’s mouth for any pieces of the plant you can remove. Then, wipe their mouth and provide plenty of water to help dilute the toxins.

Contact your veterinarian for additional support. Be prepared to answer questions about how much ZZ plant your cat ate and what symptoms they are showing. You’ll likely need to bring in a piece of the plant to help with diagnosis.

If your feline shows severe symptoms, including tremors or seizures, visit your veterinarian or an emergency clinic immediately.

You can also 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 offer 24/7 emergency support for a service fee. The Pet Poison Helpline bills $85 per incident, with follow-up consultations included. APCC charges $95 per consultation; however, a portion of the fee is covered if your pet is enrolled in ASCPA health insurance.

Treatment And Recovery From ZZ Plant Poisoning In Cats

Depending on the severity of toxicity, your vet may induce vomiting or administer activated charcoal to prevent additional absorption of toxins. Typical treatment also includes IV fluids to flush out toxins and to avoid dehydration.

During recovery, ensure your kitty’s environment is quiet and calm. A stress-free environment will help your pet relax until they are feeling better.

Stick to basic meals when recovering. Avoid feeding snacks or other foods that may upset your pet’s stomach.

How To Stop Your Cat From Eating Your ZZ Plant

Cat laying next to zz plant in window sill.
Image credit: Sozina Kseniia, Shutterstock

In the case of toxic houseplants, the best way to keep your feline safe is to avoid them entirely; however, if you can’t part with your plant, you can take a couple of steps to keep your plants and kitty safe.

1. Move The Plant

Try putting the plant in a place your kitty can’t reach, like a high shelf or hanging pot. If your cat is extra nimble, you may want to keep your ZZ plant in a designated feline-free room.

2. Use Deterrents

Citrus scents, vinegar, and coffee grounds all deter cats well since they dislike the aroma. My favorite deterrent to protect my plants is PetSafe’s SSSCAT, a motion-activated spray that releases an audible burst of harmless spray to keep cats away.

Safe Alternatives To The ZZ Plant

The ASPCA provides an extensive list of plants that are non-toxic to cats. Some low-maintenance alternatives to the ZZ plant include:

  • Bamboo palm
  • Bird nest fern
  • Boston fern
  • Parlor palm
  • Peperomia
  • Ponytail palm
  • Prayer plant
  • Rattlesnake plant
  • Spider plant
  • Staghorn fern

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a couple of common questions about ZZ plants and cats. Don’t see yours? Ask us in the comments.

Why Are Cats Attracted To ZZ Plants?

Plant-eating is an instinctual behavior for cats. Some experts suggest it’s also a means of expelling hairballs or inducing vomiting when feeling unwell. Of course, your cat may also ramp up the plant-munching when they’re feeling bored or stressed.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Plant Poisoning?

Most pet insurance policies with accident coverage cover poisoning and toxicity. Pet insurance also covers many other cat health issues, helping you focus on your cat’s health during an emergency instead of your wallet. You can learn more about the best cat insurance companies we recommend.

What Plants Are Safe For Cats?

We know that ZZ plants are toxic to cats, but what about cat-safe plants? We cover a couple of cat-safe options, including orchids and money trees. If you’re curious about other cat-friendly plants, consider cat grass, wheatgrass, and catnip—all of which your kitty can eat to their heart’s content.

Why Trust Love Your Cat?

Tara’s goal at Love Your Cat is to give our readers the information they need to raise well-adjusted, happy pets. Tara has 20+ years of experience with felines and spends countless hours researching to provide in-depth detail on every topic. She currently lives with two nine-year-old domestic cats, Luna and Lucy, and countless houseplants. Tara is a big fan of providing her kitties with cat-friendly plants, especially catnip.

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