You may have heard that bamboo is poisonous to cats. (While this is true of certain types, it is not true for others.)
Alternatively, you may have heard they can safely consume bamboo leaves but not the shoots.
Read on as we dispel some prevalent myths regarding your kitty companion and the plant that sits by your desk.
Yes and no – certain bamboo types are toxic to cats, while others are not.
As a first-time cat owner, you may be anxious about how your blooming bamboo plant will get along with your new feline companion.
You may be wondering what is the best way to determine if bamboo is safe for cats?
Despite the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) declaration that bamboo is non-toxic, this is only true for a handful of the most common varieties of the plant.
Some bamboo species are harmful to cats, whereas others are non-toxic to the feline population.
To be assured, it is necessary to seek up the scientific names of your bamboo plants. According to the ASPCA, a thorough list of toxic and non-toxic plants for cats, dogs, and horses can be found on their website.
- Scientific Name: Nandina domestica
- Common Names: Heavenly Bamboo, Sacred Bamboo, Nandina
- Appearance: Orange or red leaves, lots of stems on a shrub; may have berries
- Scientific Name: Dracaena spp
- Common Names: Lucky Bamboo, Dracaena, Corn Plant, Cornstalk Plant, Ribbon Plant, Dragon Tree, Money Tree
- Appearance: Sword-shaped, yellow lines, often shiny leaves
- Scientific Name: Phyllostachys aurea
- Common Names: Bamboo, Fishpole Bamboo, Golden Bamboo
- Appearance: Identifiable shoots and leaves that look egg-shaped and come to a pointed tip
- Scientific Name: Chamaedorea elegans
- Common Names: Bamboo Palm, Miniature Fish Tail Dwarf Palm, Parlor Palm, Reed Palm, Good Luck Palm*
- Appearance: Many light green fronds
- Scientific Name: Smilax laurifolia
- Common Name: Blaspheme Vine, Bamboo Vine, Laurel-leaved Greenbrier
- Appearance: Woody, dark green vine
- Scientific Name: Smilax walteria
- Common Name: Red Berried Bamboo, Red Berried Greenbrier
- Appearance: Green foliage on a small shrub with red berries
*Please note: “Good Luck Palm” is not the same as “Lucky Bamboo”. While “Lucky Bamboo” is toxic, “Good Luck Palm” is not.
Bamboo plants belonging to the true bambusoideae family are regarded as non-toxic to cats and are thus considered acceptable for them to eat.
The bambusoideae species thrive best outside, so your cat will most likely come into contact with this harmless plant while they’re playing king of the jungle in your backyard.
Problems with species are more likely to arise when it comes to house plants. Lucky bamboo often finds its way indoors and onto easy-to-reach spots for curious kitties.
Yes, some cats like eating bamboo.
Some cats enjoy tasting leafy greens either for their taste or texture. Bamboo leaves contain 22% protein, so the non-toxic varieties are good for cats.
Perhaps surprisingly, some cats’ proclivity for eating bamboo is personality-based. According to Jackson Galaxy of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell,” some felines are naturally bush-dwellers while others are tree-dwellers.
Cats that identify as tree dwellers, even if they’re indoor cats, like to spend their time up high. They choose a tall perch, similar to their leopard counterparts, from which to scan their surroundings and keep a watch on things.
It is common to see them on the tops of cupboards, shelves, and counters, where they are a little more confident than their bush living colleagues.
If your domestic cat is more of a tree dweller, they may be more likely to munch on bamboo plant leaves. This is because they tend to be more outgoing and playful, interested in trying new things, and want to taste every plant in the house.
If you have a cat with an outgoing personality, you may discover that houseplants serve as their playmates. As tree dwellers, their confidence expresses itself during playtime, especially if it is with someone – or something – that doesn’t fight back (like your houseplants).
While this normally isn’t a life-or-death issue, it does mean that you will be cleaning up a lot of plants that have been knocked over.
When it comes to bush dwellers, those cats are a little more reserved, and they are grateful for the ability to hide when they are overwhelmed or afraid.
These fearful creatures often take refuge in nooks and crannies, and you may find them staring out from beneath the bed, under a well-placed box, or behind your sofa.
They are less likely to get into your bamboo plant, but the risk is never zero.
If you have a toxic bamboo plant, such as lucky bamboo, it is always better to keep it in an area where cats cannot get it. It’s just not worth taking the chance.
Generally speaking, bamboo will not give your cat diarrhea.
If a cat eats too much of anything, it may experience digestive distress. Non-toxic bamboo provides protein and fiber into your cat’s diet. If your pet isn’t used to as much fiber in their diet, they may experience diarrhea.
Toxic varieties, including lucky bamboo, can give cats diarrhea because their bodies are trying to rid themselves of poison.
Other side effects of poisoning include:
- Vomiting (occasionally with blood) – Licking lips and swallowing hard are indicators of nausea
- Depression – The cat may want to curl up somewhere and be left alone
- Hypersalivation – Uncontrolled drooling out of your cat’s mouth
- Dilated pupils – Dark, wide-looking eyes
- Weakness – They may show favoritism to one side when they walk or fall over
- A lack of coordination – Moving around may be difficult for them
- Heart rate – Adults usually run 120 to 140 bpm but poisoned pets will race faster
- Coma – Failure to wake
- Respiratory failure – Difficulty breathing
- And very rarely, death
How much bamboo cats can eat depends on the individual cat. Toxic bamboo should never be eaten by cats.
Non-toxic bamboo is safe to eat, so your cat can consume as much or as little as she wants. It all comes down to how many leaves you’re prepared to give up and whether or not she becomes satisfied or bored along the process.
Cats tend to vomit, so her stomach will let her know if she’s overindulging.
Pica is a sort of eating condition that most often affects kittens, according to the American Cat Association. Medical concerns, boredom, heredity, hunger, obsessive disorders, and stress are all potential causes of compulsive eating.
If you have lucky bamboo in the house, cats and kittens with pica need to be monitored closely. Check your plant regularly to make sure it’s not being nipped while you’re away.
Yes, cats can eat bamboo leaves, provided that they are of the non-toxic variety.
The leaves of lucky bamboo are poisonous and should not be consumed.
Older leaves have more protein in them than younger leaves – up to 22% protein. The protein content is also dependent on the time of year in their growing cycle if they are outdoor plants.
Scientists suggest plant-eating is a natural habit for cats, and it has served them well throughout their evolutionary history.
By boosting the activity of the digestive tract’s muscles, they believe that grass-eating helps animals eliminate intestinal parasites.
These parasites may no longer exist in modern cats, though. But the trait is left over from their ancestors. Today, plant-eating is more likely linked to the removal of hairballs.
What Happens If a Cat Eats Bamboo Leaves?
A cat eating bamboo leaves will experience different consequences depending on whether the bamboo is toxic or not.
There should be no adverse effects on the cat if the plant is true bamboo and is included on the ASPCA’s list of non-toxic bamboo varieties. The leaves are safe for a cat to consume and may even give a fun sensory experience to your feline companions.
If the cat consumes an excessive amount, the cat may vomit.
It is quite probable that a cat would get ill if it consumes the leaves of lucky bamboo or ribbon plant. The degree to which a cat becomes sick is directly proportional to the amount of bamboo the cat has consumed.
When it is consumed, it causes symptoms such as dilation of the pupils, stomach discomfort, increased heart rate, and drooling, among others.
Cats that ingest poisonous bamboo may have symptoms such as depression, vomiting, incoordination, and weakness as a result of the toxins.
Yes, lucky bamboo (Dracaena spp) is toxic to cats.
Cats may become quite ill if they consume lucky bamboo. Many people mistakenly believe that it is a true bamboo plant. It is, however, a species of tropical water lily known as Dracaena Sanderiana.
Toxic bamboo includes chemicals that break down and release hydrogen cyanide. Fortunately, eating lucky bamboo is rarely life-threatening to them. If you have a cat who enjoys chewing on your houseplants, keep your lucky bamboo in a location where it’s tough for them to get to it.
As reported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the saponins found in lucky bamboo and other closely related Dracaena species, such as popular houseplants such as the corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) and dragon tree (either Dracaena draco or Dracaena marginata) can cause mild to moderate symptoms in cats, depending on the species of plant.
To keep cats away from lucky bamboo, you can make the plants much less attractive by using one of these options:
1. Use DIY Repellant
- Vinegar – Mix vinegar and water to make a pungent spray and spritz over the leaves of your plant. Cats don’t like the strong scent and will avoid the foliage. However, be aware that this may do some damage to your plant.
- Citrus – Cats are repelled by the scent of citrus fruits. Spray part lemon juice, part water on your plants to divert your cat’s attention.
- Garlic – Combine garlic paste with water and spread on the underside of leaves. Make sure to check the leaves for damage.
2. Offer Alternatives
If you can provide something that your feline companion can chew on, it may be more beneficial than using a deterrent.
Non-toxic alternatives include:
- Catnip (see catnip reviews)
- Cat grass
- Licorice root
3. Hanging Baskets
Instead of placing your plants on a shelf where you have to check on them regularly, place them in hanging baskets instead. Just make sure to hang the baskets away from any shelves or ledges that your cat could climb up on and launch themselves from.
4. Remove the Plants
Place plants in a location where the cat never goes. If the kitty doesn’t like the sounds in the laundry room, you may have found the perfect spot for your lucky bamboo to live.
Please consult your veterinarian as soon as possible if your cat ingests lucky bamboo or any other kind of bamboo that has been designated as potentially toxic.
If your cat is acting strangely and you suspect your cat may have ingested some of your lucky bamboo plants:
- To determine what symptoms your cat has, examine them closely. Continue to monitor your cat for any additional signs of poisoning that may occur, such as dilated pupils or hypersalivation.
- If you’ve caught kitty “in the act,” remove as much of the lucky bamboo leaves and stem as possible from the area.
- Allow your cat to vomit since the purging of leaves will aid in the removal of poisons from their system.
- Please do not force your cat to vomit.
- You should consult your veterinarian for further advice on how to proceed. Your cat may need further assessment at the veterinarian’s clinic.
- If your veterinarian recommends that you watch and wait, make sure your cat has enough fresh water to drink.
- Keep an eye on your cat for 6-12 hours to see whether the issue improves on its own.
- If your veterinarian has not expressly directed you to do so, do not feed your cat or provide any home treatments.
It’s important for cat owners to do their research before letting any plant come into contact with their pets.
This is especially true for plants like lucky bamboo, which are toxic to your furry friend. Hopefully, these helpful tips will keep your cat healthy for years to come.