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Are Roses Toxic to Cats? What You Need to Know!

cat sitting near vase with white roses

If you’re familiar with cats, you’ve probably experienced their tendency to nibble on the plants that you have in your house or your garden. Unfortunately, this includes plants that our cats really shouldn’t be eating, such as the prized rose bush that you’ve struggled to keep alive. Fortunately, roses alone aren’t toxic to cats, though there are several plants with “rose” in the name that are toxic.

While roses themselves aren’t toxic, they can be harmful under certain circumstances. Cats aren’t made to eat plants, and ingesting even harmless flowers can result in an upset tummy.

This reaction is mild and will only make your feline feel sorry for themselves for a while. That said, there are a few ways that roses can cause more severe consequences. We put together this guide to answer any questions that you may have about roses and cats.


What Makes Roses Harmful to Cats?

The most obvious reason that roses are harmful to cats is the thorns. To the unsuspecting feline or human, a rose’s thorns can leave nasty scratches. Our cats can only handle things with their mouth, and any thorns that they try to bite stand a good chance of biting back.

Beyond the thorns, chemicals are the second reason that roses can be toxic to cats. Roses can be difficult to grow, especially with insects eating away at the leaves, and it’s easier to rely on pesticides to rid your garden of these nasty flower-eating critters.

Unfortunately, pesticides — and other sprays that you might use on your roses — don’t distinguish between pests and your cat. As your feline munches on your flowers, they’re also ingesting the pesticides that you’ve used to help your roses grow.

Pesticide poisoning has obvious symptoms to look out for. If your cat is a known flower eater and shows any of these signs, make sure to immediately visit your veterinarian:

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Lethargy
cat vomit in grass
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

A Rose By Any Other Name

While ordinary roses are harmless to cats, the same can’t be said for other plants with “rose” in the name. You might not have any of these in your garden, but just in case, here are a few to remember:

  • Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger): Also known as Easter roses or Lenten roses, these flowers bloom between December and April — hence the names — and are evergreen perennials.
  • Desert Rose (Adenium obesum): Also known as the impala lily, the kudu lily, the desert azalea, and the Sabi star, these flowers are white or lavender, with dark throats, and the sap is poisonous.
  • Moss Rose (Portulaca oleracea): These are also known as pigweed, purslane, portulaca, pusley, and rock moss. Although they’re easy to care for and popular for both ground cover and plant pots, these succulents are toxic to cats.
  • Primrose (Primula vulgaris): As a popular garden plant, primrose oil is often used as a natural topical treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and eczema. For cats, it can cause vomiting.
  • Rosebay (Rhododendron maximum): This is also called great laurel, rhododendron, or azalea. Even the smallest bite of the leaves of this plant can kill cats, so it’s best to keep them far away.
  • Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus): Also called althea or rose of China, these flowers bloom in summer and fall as five-petal, papery flowers in a wide variety of colors.

What Flowers Are Toxic to Cats?

There are several varieties of flowers without “rose” in their name that are toxic to cats. This list doesn’t cover all the poisonous plants to watch out for, but these are a few of the more popular species:

  • Hyacinths
  • Azalea
  • Tulips
  • Oleander
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Daffodils
  • Lilies

If you have these plants at home and aren’t sure whether your cat has taken a few bites, here are a few symptoms of plant poisoning to look out for before visiting your veterinarian:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Mouth irritation
  • Diarrhea
calico cat outdoor
Image Credit: Thomas B, Pixabay

What Flowers Are Not Toxic to Cats?

If you have a cat that’s particularly fond of munching on your flowers, it’s a good idea to make sure your indoor garden is as harmless to your feline as possible. Alongside roses, many other flowers are harmless and can still brighten your home:

  • Sunflowers
  • Camellias
  • Daisies
  • Lilacs
  • Petunias
  • Snapdragons

Like roses, however, there are varieties of these flowers that are toxic to cats. It’s always better to play it safe, and if you’re not sure about a plant, ask your veterinarian.

cat in the garden
Image Credit: Piqsels

How to Stop Your Cat From Eating Your Flowers

Cats are well known for their stubbornness and tendency to do whatever they want. Yelling at them for eating your favorite flowers is only going to get you a slow, innocent blink and a cheerful tail flick. Fortunately, there are ways to gently persuade your favorite feline to not eat your plants. These options are subtle enough that your cat won’t realize that they are being trained!

1. Sprays

Many pet shops have sprays available that are designed to make plants unappealing to cats. Strong citrus smells, in particular, fend off curious felines, and you can make a homemade spray by diluting lemon, lime, or orange juice.

Spray bottle
Image Credit: Squirrel_Photos, Pixabay

2. Keep Plants Out of Reach

Keeping plants on a shelf is fine until you realize that your cat can still reach them. Said plant is probably one of the reasons that your feline loves that obscure shelf in the corner of the room so much.

Hanging baskets are a good way to keep your cats out of your plant pots. Make sure to hang them high enough and away from anything that they can climb on.

Be mindful, though; you may think that making your toxic plant inaccessible to your cat saves them from any ill effects. However, pollen can be poisonous to your feline too. Depending on how toxic the plant is, your cat licking fallen pollen off their fur can have just as many devastating effects as eating the plant itself.

3. Cat Grass

This may seem counterintuitive because you’ll be encouraging your cat to eat one plant over another. But giving them a cat-safe and edible garden may just draw their attention away from your flowers while convincing them not to figure out a way past any citrusy smells or hard-to-reach places.

You should make sure to monitor how much cat grass your feline eats, though. While it’s designed to be eaten by cats, it shouldn’t be the main part of their diet.

orange cat eating catgrassfrom the vase
Image Credit: Okssi, Shutterstock

4. Training

With time and plenty of patience, it is possible to train your cat to leave your plants alone. Through consistency and positive reinforcement like food or friendly scratches, you can direct your feline’s attention to more interesting and acceptable things.

The key here is to find what your cat loves the most and use it to your advantage.

Related Read: Can Cats Eat Dandelion Greens? What You Need To Know!



There are varieties of roses that are toxic to our feline best friends. The Christmas rose and Rose of Sharon are two examples. Potentially toxic plants don’t only include flowers with “rose” in the name, however, and there are several other plant species that you should keep away from your cat just in case, such as daffodils and oleander.

On their own, roses aren’t toxic to cats, provided that you don’t use pesticides. This means you can keep your favorite rose bush and not have to worry about your cat poisoning themselves. If you’d prefer that they didn’t eat your plants at all, you’ll have to train them to stay away.

Featured Image Credit: Nadinelle, Shutterstock

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