Are Roses Toxic To Cats? Which Of These Flowers Is Toxic To Your Cat

Kitten and pink roseEven though cats are primarily carnivores they may chew on plants out of curiosity. Fans of the long running comic strip “Garfield” may recall the eponymous tabby noshing on some daisies as they begged for mercy. (Incidentally, anything related to the chrysanthemum family is toxic, so keep Kitty away from them.)

On a personal note, the author has a brother who once had a cat who kept trying to eat the prickly pear in our grandmother’s garden.

Poor Tom would get nothing but spines in the nose for his trouble, but he was still sure a prickly pear might taste good. Roses can be a tempting treat. Rabbits are known to hop right past other plants to get to these fragrant beauties and cats seem to find them alluring as well.

But is it safe for Kitty to have roses? For starters, a rose by any other name isn’t always the same. Some flowers that have nothing to do with the family Rosaceae have the word “rose” in their name. Let’s have a rundown.

Roses (Genus Rosa)

image of a red rose

Generally, they’re not a problem. The leaves and petals are non-toxic. At worst, Kitty might have an upset stomach and diarrhea if she overindulges but the same could be said of too much kibble. But, as a certain 80’s hair band is fond of saying “Every rose has its thorn.” If your cat manages to somehow swallow one, this can cause intestinal problems.

Most likely, Kitty will just get pricked paws or a scratched nose from toying too much with a thorny bush or stem. If you treat your roses with chemical pesticides, this may cause your cat to be poisoned if they lick a treated surface.

Christmas Roses (Helleborus niger)

image of Christmas rose

This evergreen perennial is also known as Lenten roses or Easter roses as they bloom from December to April. These ornamental plants are popular Christmas decorations in Europe. Harry Potter fans may recall Hermione conjuring a wreath of them for the grave of James and Lily Potter.

Keep in mind, Christmas roses are pretty but poisonous. Every part of this plant is poisonous. Kitty needs to be kept away from them. If Kitty salivates heavily, has vomiting or diarrhea and your Christmas rose looks a little bedraggled, get her to a vet right away.

Desert Roses (Adenium obesum)

image of a desert rose

This four foot high shrub with white or lavender flowers is also known as the kudu lily, the Sabi star, the mock azalea, the impala lily or the desert azalea. They’re a popular houseplant in temperate regions and especially popular with bonsai enthusiasts. However, they’re not popular with cat lovers.

The sap is toxic and could mean trouble to any curious kitty who wants to take a little lick. Some tribes in the plant’s native Africa will use it to poison arrows to bring down elephants, so just imagine what it can do to a little cat! Can cause vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heart beat and death.

Moss Rose (Portulaca oleracea)

image of a moss rose

Also known as pigweed, pusley, purslane, portulaca, sun rose, Vietnam rose, Mexican rose, ten o’clock or rock moss this small but hardy succulent is popular ground cover due to practically thriving in the poorest soil conditions and able to withstand heat and drought. People can eat them as a colorful if somewhat sour touch to salads or light stir-fries.

Unfortunately, cats won’t enjoy them so much. Consuming these flowers can cause kidney failure in cats which can cause symptoms such as tremors, drooling and weight loss. The leaves are the most toxic. Fortunately, your cat might not eat too much of it as the poison is quick acting and will cause them to feel sick right away.

Primrose (Primula vulgaris)

image of primrose

In the young adult book series The Hunger Games, a young girl named Primrose just loves her cantankerous yellow cat. Prim dreams of being a healer, her namesake being a plant whose oil is an astringent and a topical treatment for many skin ailments. In real life, primrose does not love cats at all. This popular perennial may cause your four footed friend to vomit. Not fatal, but your cat will not like the effects.

Rosebay (Genus Rhododendron)

Also known as a rhododendron, azalea, great laurel or rose tree, this tall and colorful shrub is popular in home landscapes. Fittingly, in the language of flowers, the Rosebay blossom means “beware”. Though the flowers may be harmless, even a tiny nibble of the leaves can be fatal. The roots are also toxic. Keep your little fuzzy pal far away from these plants.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

image of a rose of sharon

This large, deciduous plant is also known as the rose of China or althea. Flowers that bloom in summer and fall can be pink, red, blue, lavender, white or purple. This beautiful flower is mentioned in the Song of Solomon as a comparison to The Beloved.

Unfortunately, your beloved cat will not like its effects. Cats seem drawn to the smell, but like many hibiscus plants it is moderately toxic. While not fatal, it can cause seizures and disorientation.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

This perennial herb is popular as a spice for chicken dishes and means “remembrance” in the language of flowers. The pungent, woodsy smell is definitely unforgettable. While it is completely safe for cats to ingest, cats simply don’t seem to like it very much.

As it is a harmless plant with a smell that is pleasant to humans, you may try planting it in areas you want cats to stay out of. Perhaps you could use it to discourage Kitty from getting too close to one of the more poisonous plants listed above.


  • February 27, 2018
Mary Nielsen

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.