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Are Ferns Toxic to Cats? What You Need To Know

kitten walking near a fern

With their cascading fronds and stunning green hues, ferns are a beautiful addition to any garden or living space. But are ferns safe to have around cats?

Generally speaking, most ferns are safe for cats. The challenge, however, is determining what plants are “true ferns” and what plants just look like ferns. Some of these plants can be poisonous to cats. Let’s learn more about fern toxicity for cats and what to watch out for.


Are Ferns Hazardous to Cats?

Black cat among fern plants
Image Credit: Katzenfee50, Pixabay

Most true ferns are safe for cats, even if they ingest them. The ASPCA has a list of true ferns:

  • Boston fern
  • Button fern
  • Sword fern
  • Mother fern
  • Carrot fern
  • Staghorn fern
  • Maidenhair fern
  • Bird’s nest fern
  • Rabbit’s foot fern

These ferns are harmless to cats, but it’s best to avoid your cat eating large amounts. If your cat eats too much of these ferns, it can get digestive upset. This will be unpleasant, but unlikely to cause any long-term issues or death in healthy felines.

Now, plants that aren’t true ferns and merely look similar or have “fern” in their names can be a different story. A good example is the asparagus fern, also known as sprengeri fern, lace fern, or emerald fern, is a popular houseplant that isn’t really a fern at all.

The leaves of the asparagus fern are toxic on their own, and the berries can cause digestive upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. Prolonged exposure can cause severe skin inflammation.

Some other toxic fern-like plants include bracken ferns, hemlock, and foxtail ferns.


Signs of Fern Toxicity in Cats

Black cat sitting near ferns
Image Credit: Leuchtturm81, Pixabay

If your cat ingested the oils or parts of the leaves of toxic ferns, the symptoms can be mild or severe. Most cats will experience:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Digestive upset

If your cat touches the fern’s leaves, it may have swelling, blisters, or inflammation.

Treating Fern Poisoning

Cats can ingest or touch true ferns without any problems. You don’t need to rush your cat to the veterinarian – just keep an eye on any symptoms that may pop up.

With toxic ferns, it’s best to seek medical attention immediately. Whether your cat ate the fern or rubbed against it, a toxic fern can lead to some significant medical problems. Take your cat to the veterinarian for an evaluation.

If possible, bring a sample of the fern to the clinic to confirm its species and toxicity level. If that isn’t an option, try to identify it using photos.

Your veterinarian will likely rinse the oils off your cat’s skin and mouth. If vomiting and diarrhea are expected, your veterinarian may want to administer intravenous fluids. A topical or oral antihistamine may also be provided to control skin irritation.


Is It Safe to Keep Ferns in My Home?

ferns growing on brick wall
Image Credit: romavor, Pixabay

Our pets can come in contact with many poisonous plants outdoors, but we can do our best to keep them safe. True ferns may be harmless, but we shouldn’t encourage our cats to nibble or rub against houseplants, no matter what they are.

You shouldn’t need to remove all ferns from your house or yard. Instead, just use caution in choosing where to put your ferns. Hanging baskets are a great option to make sure your cat can’t access your ferns, and they look beautiful in your home. You could also place ferns on high shelves.

If you have known toxic ferns in your yard, you can use fencing or netting to keep your cat away. You can also have a landscaper remove the ferns for you.

In either case, it’s best to remove any known toxic plants from your home and garden and stick to plants that are safe for your pets, such as:



Being a pet owner comes with a lot of responsibility. It’s up to us to keep our home and garden safe and free of toxic plants that can hurt our furry companions. If you’re not sure if something is safe for your cat, it’s best to avoid bringing it into your home.

Featured Image Credit: ilyessuti, Pixabay

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