Cats are innately curious creatures. They love to play with almost anything that they find interesting, and it’s not surprising if they end up eating it, as well.
So, if you are fond of decorating your house with aromatic and beautiful indoor plants, such as the common lilacs, you can expect to see your feline friend smelling or even nibbling them.
But, are lilacs poisonous to cats? And what happens if they feast on a lilac bush?
Are Lilacs Poisonous to Cats?
Lilacs are generally considered non toxic to cats. There are around 20-25 different types of flowering lilac. The majority including the common lilac plant (Syringa vulgaris) are completely safe for cats and other animals. Lilac plants are free from poisonous chemicals or toxins from the tips of their branches down to the ends of their roots. In fact, these sweet smelling flowers are edible.
If you’ve heard from your fellow concerned cat parents that lilacs are toxic plants, they’re probably referring to the Persian Lilac, which is also known as the Chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach). And the thing is, Persian Lilacs are not even related to the true lilacs.
All parts of the Persian Lilacs carry some risks to cats. And that's why it's important to stay vigilant so that these toxic plants won't kill them. Persian lilacs can cause gastrointestinal distress in cats when ingested in small doses. Unfortunately, cats can have seizures and they can even die if they eat large amounts of these poisonous plants.
Some toxic substances may take three to four days for cats to show signs of illness. Hence, it's essential to observe your cat carefully after ingesting something toxic. Consulting with your veterinarian can also help to identify whether your cat has eaten something that could be a health threat.
Do Cats Love Lilacs?
While cats have a penchant for checking almost anything in your house or yard, we can say that their eyes and nose are more inclined towards beautiful and aromatic things, such as the common lilac plant syringa. But, why is that so? Why are cats attracted to lilac flowers? Well, below are some of the obvious reasons:
1. The Beauty and Brightness of the Flowers
Compared with us, humans, cats can’t perceive colors very well. However, they can pretty much differentiate between bright and dull hues. And lilacs are undeniably beautiful with their vibrant flowers when they are in full bloom.
So, this can be the reason why cats are attracted to them. While we can’t be certain that cats have an eye for beauty, we can be sure that they do have an eye for bright colors.
2. The Lovely Scent of Lilacs
A cat’s sense of smell is the primary way he identifies people and objects. Cats have 200 million odor sensors in their noses, while we, humans, have 5 million. So, their sense of smell is way better than ours.
You can just imagine the amount and strength of scents that they can sense. Hence, it’s not surprising that they could easily pick up and be hooked by the lovely scent of lilacs and their sweet-smelling flowers.
3. Inherent Curiosity
It’s worth noting that while cats have a strong sense of smell, we are not yet sure whether they distinguish odors the way that we do. Nonetheless, in the feline world, anything that emits scent is worth looking for.
What Happens If Your Cat Ingests Lilac?
While lilac can be safe for cats, the plants may still present toxicity if ingested but without causing significant health issues. Some side effects to consider from the ingestion of lilacs are digestion issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
Remember that cats are obligate carnivores. Their body relies primarily on meat since plants can't provide enough nutrients for them and they can't also digest plants effectively compared with us, humans, and other animals. Hence, their body identifies lilac plants as foreign objects.
That's why even a small amount of lilac can be irritating to a cat's stomach. Small ingestion of the common lilac plant can cause vomiting and stomach cramps but the bite will not lead to any serious harm.
Nonetheless, if your feline friend ingests lilac, you should watch out for gastrointestinal symptoms, which can also lead to a spectrum of GI complications. It's also worth noting that your cat's symptoms may also vary on the amount and the parts of the plant that he consumed, particularly if he ingested any of the poisonous lilac varieties.
Popular Lilac Species
The common lilac, which is also known for its scientific name Syringa vulgaris is more widespread than all other types of lilacs together. This type of lilac plant usually occurs with lilac-colored flowers with an inviting fragrance. These lilacs tend to grow up to 20 feet tall. And when it comes to toxicity, the common lilacs are the least toxic for cats, which is a good thing considering that this variety is also the most prevalent.
Persian Lilacs, also known as Chinaberry, Texas Umbrella, or White Cedar, are smaller than the common lilacs, and they are also smaller with the tallest growing up to just about 8 feet. These lilac plants produce pale lilac flowers which are also significantly smaller than the blooms of the common lilacs.
The seeds of Persian Lilacs contain Melia Toxins A and B accounting for the plant's toxic effects on cats. Signs of lilac toxicity or poisoning that you should watch out for include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, drooling, and muscular spasms.
French lilacs are considered to be the rarest of all the lilac varieties, appearing usually for just a few weeks during spring and summer in conservatory gardens. French lilacs go by other names including goat's rue and professor weed.
When in bloom, French Lilacs produce flowers in different hues including pink, white, purple, or blue. Just like Persian Lilacs, these plants are also highly toxic to cats. They contain a neurotoxic and hypotensive chemical named galegin, which is extremely poisonous to cats.
The ingestion of this substance can cause multiple complications ranging from pulmonary edema to hydrothorax which in some instances can lead to fatal injury or even death.
Dealing With The Parts of Poisonous Lilac Species
In case a cat ingests certain lilac species that are highly toxic, such as the Persian and French Lilacs, his symptoms will also vary depending on the amount and part of the poisonous lilac variety he consumed.
Leaves and Seeds
The poisonous chemicals of toxic plants generally exist most abundantly in their leaves. The severity of a plant's toxicity will generally decrease as it continues to blossom in a flower.
In case you are still wondering whether the flowers of lilacs are toxic to cats, you should remember that it really depends again on the poisonous nature of the particular plant variety. But primarily, the toxicity of lilac plants diminishes in their flowers more than in leaves and seeds.
While the leaves of toxic lilac types contain the most elevated concentrations of hazardous chemicals, the stems normally show the most potential risk of gagging or choking. So please, don't let your cat eat lilac stems, too. The point is there's no doubt that there would be problems if your cat ingests the toxic lilac plant species.
Can Lilacs Kill Cats?
As mentioned earlier, cats are obligate carnivores. Thus, eating even just a small amount of lilac may give them stomach and digestion concerns. The severity of their symptoms will also vary depending on the amount and part of the plant material they consumed.
If the lilac plant that is involved is from any of the varieties that are non-toxic to cats, then, they won't suffer from serious side effects other than vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
However, if a cat ingests the leaves and seeds of a toxic lilac variety, he can experience more severe symptoms since these parts of the poisonous lilacs are more toxic than their flowers and stems.
Having said all these, we can therefore say that certain lilac species can indeed kill cats when they eat large amounts of these poisonous varieties.
What Are The Symptoms of Lilac Poisoning?
Cats and other animals are generally safe around the common lilac plant Syringaa vulgaris. If they do ingest this variety, they will most likely experience nothing more serious than vomiting and diarrhea.
However, you should immediately seek veterinary guidance if you suspect that your cat was able to lay his paws on the toxic varieties, and you believe that he consumed too much roughage of these toxic species.
Once your cat has ingested a toxic lilac species, symptoms may not appear until the 3rd or 4th day. The first indication that something might be wrong is behavioral change.
Watch out for the following symptoms of lilac poisoning, which can happen if your cat ingests any of the toxic varieties, such as the Persian Lilac or French Lilac:
- Drooling, vomiting, diarrhea difficulty walking, loss of appetite
- Nervousness or hyperactivity
- Seizure or difficulty of breathing
- Staggering walk lethargy
- Sluggishness pale yellowish gums excessive thirst or urination
If symptoms are more serious, contact your veterinarian immediately or call Animal Poison Control (888)426-4435.
What Should You Do If Your Cat Is Sick After Eating Lilac?
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above after your cat ingested lilac, you should report it to your vet immediately. If your cat consumed the common lilac, you can expect to see the common side effects such as vomiting and diarrhea.
However, if your cat ingested the toxic lilac variant, it’s best to take your cat to his clinic for proper assessment and management. Cats who receive prompt treatments for lilac toxicity have the highest survival rate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is The Smell of Lilacs Harmful to Cats?
Lilacs have a distinctive lovely scent, so, it’s not surprising if your cat is attracted to them. The good thing is, if your cat only sniffs any part of the lilac plant, you don’t have anything to worry about. Cats can’t be poisoned by simply smelling lilacs. However, you should watch out that your feline friend won’t end up eating the plant out of curiosity.
Are Lilacs Safe for Cats?
The common plants are generally safe for cats. If your cat consumed plant material from the common lilac, you can’t expect any adverse reactions other than moderate gastrointestinal symptoms. However, as mentioned earlier, there are certain plants considered toxic to cats, such as the Persian lilac of the Melia genus and the French Lilac.
If ingested, Persian lilacs can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, tremors, and muscle contractions. French lilacs, on the other hand, contain galegin, an exceptionally poisonous compound. So, when ingested, cats can experience pulmonary edema and hydrothorax, and they can die if not treated on time.
Are Lilac Bushes Poisonous to Cats?
There are various types of lilac bushes that vary somewhat in appearance. If your cat consumed any of the plant material from the common lilac Syringa vulgaris, he can experience mild to moderate gastrointestinal symptoms. However, there are lilac plants that are toxic to cats. And if your cat ate any part of these lilac variants, you can expect to see more serious symptoms.
Cats will always be cats – they will always have that enjoyment in exploring things around them. So, as part of responsible pet care, pet owners should cat-proof their house, especially the areas where their cat usually rests.
And while the common lilac plants are generally safe for cats and other animals, it’s still best to keep lilacs and other plants away from your feline companion. As mentioned earlier, cats are obligate carnivores, so, if they eat plant material, their body can react negatively. Also, cats don’t receive enough nutrients from ingesting lilac or other plants.
However, in case you have indoor lilac plants at home, make sure to stick with the non-poisonous variety. And you should always watch out for your cat’s behavior.
If you notice your cat acting strangely, and you are not sure whether he consumed any part of your lilac plant, take her to the vet immediately together with some samples from your indoor plant.
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