Critter Culture
Can Eating an Amaryllis Make My Cat Sick?

Can Eating an Amaryllis Make My Cat Sick?

Critter Culture Staff



A proud and attention-getting plant, the amaryllis is a holiday favorite in many homes. Brightening the winter months, it adds a sense of beauty to those long, cold nights. But not everything about this stunning flower is pretty.

Even a nibble or two can cause unpleasant side effects if your cat eats your amaryllis. It's important to learn what to do if this happens and how to prevent it in the first place.


Learning about amaryllis

Blooming red amaryllis Wanchanta / Getty Images

The amaryllis is part of a diverse family of flowers. Known for its bold trumpet-like petals, it comes in a variety of colors, tones, patterns, and striations.

The amaryllis is certainly a stunning eye-catcher. One of the most popular flowers for both interior and exterior enhancement, it also goes by a few other names, such as Saint Joseph lily, naked lady, and cape belladonna.


Can amaryllis be fatal?

Cat and amaryllis on kitchen table in christmas time knape / Getty Images

Amaryllis can be fatal if a cat or any mammal, including humans, eats enough of the plant. However, this is an infrequent circumstance. Usually, a pet will stop munching after a few bites due to the uninviting taste.

Because of its beauty and allure, the toxins in amaryllis help the plant defend itself from curious potential predators. Often, an animal won't get very far into the snacking process before learning its lesson. This usually keeps toxicity down to a mild or moderate degree.


The dangers of calcium oxalate

cat licking its paws krblokhin / Getty Images

Calcium oxalate is a sharp, tiny crystal that will physically harm your cat. Skin contact with it results in dermal irritation. It causes inflammation, soreness, tenderness, and pain to the lips, mouth, tongue, gums, and throat when ingested. A large amount may make breathing difficult. Look for your cat to paw at its mouth repeatedly and drool if you suspect it has eaten amaryllis.


Toxic alkaloids

Amaryllis ballycroy / Getty Images

Like other members of its family, the amaryllis contains a number of natural compounds. The most common type is lycorine, which is a toxin.

The entire amaryllis plant contains lycorine; however, it's mainly concentrated in the bulb. If your cat eats the same amount of flower petal versus bulb, it'll still be sick, but the symptoms likely won't be as bad.


Symptoms of amaryllis poisoning

cat lying under blanket Prystai / Getty Images

Lycorine causes stomach issues. Vomiting, diarrhea, and appetite loss are common symptoms. Weakness and depression may result, too. If a larger amount of toxicity occurs, your cat may have tremors and suffer from low blood pressure. Fortunately, unless it's a bad case, amaryllis poisoning usually only lasts a day or two.


Be proactive if you suspect poisoning

man on the phone in front of laptop and petting cat Thomas Northcut / Getty Images

If you suspect amaryllis poisoning, it's not the end of the world. There's no need to excite yourself or alarm your cat. Make a call to your vet for a plan of action. A vet doesn't need to see a kitty with mild symptoms most of the time. The office may give you instructions to aid your kitty's recovery, and it's essential to follow these guidelines. Keep your pal comfortable as you monitor its symptoms, and if they worsen, give your vet another call.


A visit to the vet

cat getting a checkup at the veterinary clinic bymuratdeniz / Getty Images

If your vet feels the need to see your cat, it's usually a precautionary measure. Get to the office as soon as possible, and try to bring the plant with you. This will give a general indication of how many toxins were consumed so the vet can formulate a treatment plan.

If your cat just ate amaryllis, the vet could induce vomiting or use activated charcoal to move the poison through the system. IV fluids may also be administered depending upon the severity of the symptoms. Your cat might need extra fluids to feel better.


What if you already have amaryllis?

cat behind a safety net JimmyR / Getty Images

If you live in a warmer climate or have amaryllis growing in your garden for a splash of summer brilliance, it's best to get rid of it to keep your cat or any strays safe. But if you don't want to dig it up, you can always implement deterrents. Planting catnip is a nice distraction. Adding netting or trustworthy fencing will also help. Even using a sprinkler system that detects motion will chase any feline away.

When it comes to an indoor amaryllis plant, give it to someone who doesn't have pets. If you don't want to part with it, place it in an area your kitty can't access. Inside and out, always supervise your cat when it's near this flower.


Other family members

Tabby cat on a window sill looking through a window with daffodil Linda Raymond / Getty Images

The amaryllis family contains many relatives with similar toxic elements, so it's best to avoid this clan. Even human-friendly edible plants such as garlic, leeks, onions, shallots, and chives will be toxic to your cat, and they're even more life-threatening than your holiday amaryllis.

In regard to flowers, snowdrops and daffodils are also common family members. They will produce similar symptoms to amaryllis poisoning. Daffodils contain the same main toxins and composition. Snowdrops have some natural poisonous compounds throughout, but mainly in the bulbs.


Amaryllis alternatives

cat sitting in a basket with yellow roses Mariia Zotova / Getty Images

Though this family isn't very kind to your cat, there are many other plants out there that are safe. Whether you want something indoors during the chilly weather or intend on brightening your spring garden, there are a number of pet-friendly alternatives.

Bromeliads, African violets, roses, orchids, sunflowers, zinnias, snapdragons, and freesia are all viable options. They'll add color and life to your home or garden without harming your furry pal. Just remember that too much of anything can cause a bit of a bellyache, so don't let your kitty overindulge.


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