Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"I Can Has Flowerz?" Or "Bon Appetit!"

The kittens haven't figured out how to jump on our mantels yet. I think it's just a matter of time. None of our other cats has ever tried it, but Toffee and Harris are much more adventurous. So my days of having bouquets are probably numbered, especially if the kittens turn out to be flower chompers. I figure the odds of that are about 20 to 1. When I realized how intrepid disaster-prone these kittens are, I switched to buying only non-toxic flowers. Before that, I'd occasionally buy hydrangeas, which aren't lethal, but can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Dried flowers can be toxic, too, since the toxins can be more concentrated, although some plants are less toxic when dried, so you have to do your research. I now keep my wonderful dried bouquet of blue-green hydrangeas high up on a chest that's impossible for a cat to reach (although with Toffee, I should never say "never"). Harris tried to take a bite out of the bouquet on his maiden flight to the top of the bookcases, but luckily I was there to witness his surprising leap and then rescue him from the flowers and vice versa.

Fortunately, my favorite three "florist" flowers for our mantel are safe for nibblers: roses, stock (above), and sunflowers, all of which I find at Trader Joe's from time to time. Some lovely, old-fashioned garden flowers — the kinds you find in farmers' market bouquets — are safe, too, including zinnias, snapdragons, marigolds, lilacs, and African (or Gerbera) daisies. But many of the most boring common flowers are toxic, including daisies, carnations, and chrysanthemums. These are no great loss to me, at least. (Black-eyed Susans are also toxic, unfortunately.)

As any responsible cat owner knows, bulb flowers — tulips, hyacinths, daffodils — are toxic, and the most dangerous are lilies, which can be deadly for cats, in even small doses. The cheerful voice on my vet's on-hold recording tells me this repeatedly every spring, and they've posted signs in their office, too. (I assume they've witnessed tragedies already and hope to prevent more.)

The ubiquitous Peruvian lily, or alstroemeria, is not a true lily but a member of the tulip family. It's not lethal, but it can cause allergic reactions in humans and gastrointestinal reactions in cat — and dermatitis in both species. It's the one flower that makes me sneezy and miserable so, naturally, it turns up in just about every mixed bouquet at Trader Joe's. There's inevitably some kind of lily in them, too, so I pass them by. There's a stand at our Copley Square farmer's market that sells almost nothing but lilies from spring to fall, and I can't help wondering how much trouble they've caused unsuspecting pet owners. There are buckets of day lilies, Stargazers, and other varieties sitting on the ground, easily accessible to a dog on a leash. Dogs may not go into kidney failure and die from lilies the way cats do, but lilies are still risky.

I love the little potted primroses and purple campanulas that appear in shops at this time of year. These aren't fatal but cause vomiting, so we won't be buying any. African violets are not toxic, but I had a cat long ago (Truffalo) who ate every single flower as soon as it appeared, which defeated the purpose, and I can imagine that happening again.

There are plenty of lists of toxic plants on the web but none of them are truly comprehensive. I had to Google like crazy to finally find out that stock is a safe flower. While lists of toxic plants are useful, I'm happiest when I find a flower definitively listed on a safe list, like this one, on They provide a toxic list as well. The ASPCA provides very useful, separate lists of toxic and non-toxic plants for dogs, cats, and horses. Their cat list is here.

1 comment:

  1. There is also an app called "Pet Poisons" that I downloaded. It seems very helpful.


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