Are Bonsai Trees Harmful To Cats?

For the majority of enthusiasts, owning a bonsai tree or two is a perfectly safe hobby – I can’t really think of one much safer. However, if you own cats it could be a different story. Is it a myth or are bonsai trees harmful to cats?
Some bonsai trees are poisonous to cats and could be fatal if consumed in large amounts. The most common bonsai trees that could cause harm to a cat are the Sago Palm, Fig and Azalea. 

What Bonsai Trees Are Harmful To Cats? 

There are a lot of bonsai tree species that could be poisonous to cats and dogs as well. These range in severity, some will cause mild side effects if consumed and some could be a lot more severe. The most poisonous bonsai tree to cats is the Sago Palm species, commonly grown as indoor bonsai due to the fact they are tropical and cannot be grown outdoors in many countries.
The Sago Palm is a subtropical tree often used for bonsais due to their aesthetic. As nice as they are for a bonsai tree hobbyist, they are extremely toxic to both cats and dogs.
It’s said that every single part of this bonsai is poisonous to cats and dogs, with the most toxic being the seeds and buds.
Cycasin is the toxic agent that is deadly to any cat or dog that ingests a part of the bonsai tree. It can cause a number of severe problems including catastrophic liver failure within 15 minutes of ingestion.
Common Symptoms To Look Out For
  • Diarrhoea
  • Black tarry stool
  • Vomiting
  • Fluid accumulation in the abdomen
  • Lethargy
  • Inappetence
Weakness, seizures and tremors can also be seen up to 2 days after ingestion. If you have a pet with any of the symptoms of you suspect that your cat or dog has eaten some of this bonsai, please contact your vet or a helpline immediately – it’s extremely serious.

Other Poisonous Bonsai Trees

Cats reactions to the Sago Palm bonsai will most likely be the most severe with a 50% survival rate, however there are still other poisonous bonsai trees to look out for, some of which are much more common..
To name a few:
  • Fig
  • Norfolk Island Pine
  • Cherry
  • Plum
  • Baby Jade
  • Azaleas
  • Ambrosia Mexicana
  • Australian Ivy Palm
  • Cardboard Palm
  • Coontie Palm
  • Fern Palm
  • Giant Dracaena
  • Australian Pine
  • Buddhist Pine
  • Apricot
Photo Credit –

The Fig bonsai, an extremely common species of tree that is harmless to humans but can be poisonous to cats if consumed. This tree is from Asian origins is often grown indoors, meaning it could come in contact easily with cats.

I would highly recommend checking with a vet or forums for other cat owners to see if you are able to find a bonsai tree that is definitely not going to be harmful to your cat – it’s not worth the risk.
It’s worth noting that as well as causing symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, just contact with certain bonsai trees can be enough to cause skin irritation for your cat.
If you own a bonsai tree and a cat, keep an eye on the bonsai constantly for any missing foliage or even branches. If you notice anything missing, immediately find your cat and assess the situation just in case. Of course if you have any doubts or see any symptoms, ring your vet straight away.
Bonsai trees, as beautiful as they are, aren’t worth the life of a family pet so please take every precaution possible to ensure you are not having a cat and a poisonous bonsai in the same house! If you are also a dog owner, it may be worth checking out my recent article explaining which bonsai trees are poisonous to dogs and what to do if your dog ingests bonsai tree foliage.

What To Do If You Think Your Cat Has Been Poisoned By A Bonsai Tree?

If you see missing foliage in your bonsai or your cat is showing some of the symptoms of poisoning such as vomiting and diarrhea, it’s extremely important to contact your vet straight away. The ASPCA has a poisoning helpline at 1-888-426-4435. I would contact them straight away once the symptoms are clear and explain exactly what species of bonsai has been eaten. They should be in direct contact with your vet practice and provide all the advise needed.

For less serious cases, treatments such as antibiotics and potentially changing diet for a few weeks as the cat starts recovering might be enough. Still, if your cat has consumed any of a bonsai tree, poisonous or not, if the symptoms are there you MUST contact a vet. Cats are so precious and there is no need taking risks by not acting on this straight away.

Keeping Your Cat Away From Your Bonsai Tree

Cats are pretty notorious for going wherever they want to get to so it can be really hard to keep them away from your potentially poisonous bonsai tree. With that said, there are a lot of people that manage to own both a cat and a bonsai tree so there must be a way.

I have a friend with both a small bonsai collection and a cat. Although he doesn’t believe any of his trees would do any harm to his cat, nor that his cat has even seemed very interested in his bonsai collection, they are separated. His bonsai collection is grown in this outdoor structure that can only be described as a make-shift greenhouse, I must take a picture of it and update this next time I’m over.

His cat obviously cannot get to the bonsai trees and therefore cannot consume them. From deep diving into old forum entries, the general consensus is that cats tended to not care for bonsai trees and showed absolutely no interest in eating them. Obviously I would advise still airing caution when they’re both living together but most people were reporting that their cat never went near their bonsai collection, poisonous or not.

Personally I kept a Ficus, that comes under the poisonous to cats list, at my partners house for a few weeks when I was out of town a few years back. Her cat showed no interest in even going near it, let alone actually digesting the thing.

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