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Home > Cats > Are Tulips Toxic to Cats? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Are Tulips Toxic to Cats? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

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Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Tulips are among the first flowers to grow in early spring. We all love the bright pops of color that they can bring to our gardens, even if it’s just for a short while. But be careful: If you have cats that you allow outdoors, you need to watch them closely around your tulips.

Cats are curious creatures. It doesn’t take long before they are sniffing and sometimes munching on grass and other plants. Some of these plants are safe, while others, such as tulips, are toxic. In this article, we explain why that is the case, along with what to look for and what to do if your cat has taken a bite out of a tulip.

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Why Are Tulips Toxic to Cats?

Tulips are part of the lily family. Any plants from that family, including lilies, hyacinths, and tulips, are toxic to cats. They contain a chemical known as Tulipalin. Tulipalin A can cause allergic dermatitis in humans continuously exposed to tulips. In hyper-sensitized individuals, this reaction can develop just from touching a tulip. But although tulips are dangerous to cats, this chemical doesn’t pose as much risk for us.

close up of beautiful pink tulips
Image Credit: cocoparisienne, Pixabay

What Part of a Tulip Is Poisonous to Cats?

Tulipalin A is found in all parts of the tulip, but it is found in the highest concentrations in the bulb of the plant. The flower, leaves, and stem all contain smaller amounts of the toxin, but it is still enough to cause respiratory issues for small animals such as cats. Although your cat eating a tulip flower or leaf is still cause for concern, it’s not as bad as it would be if they were to consume some of the tulip bulbs.

However, even if your cat isn’t allowed outdoors but you’re storing tulip bulbs indoors, you need to keep them in a location where your cat can’t get to them. That way, you can ensure that their curiosity doesn’t lead them to stumble across one that they want to lick or taste.

What Happens If a Cat Eats a Tulip?

Tulips may or may not pose serious problems for your cat. It just depends on how much of the plant your cat ate, what part of the plant they ate, and how big they are. But even with eating a small amount of tulip, your cat is likely to exhibit signs. Even if you didn’t see your cat eat the tulip, noticing any of the following signs are good indication that they did.

Ingesting Small Amounts of Tulips

If your cat took a small bite out of the less toxic part of a tulip, including the flower, leaf, or stem, they may exhibit minor signs, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive drooling. Your cat also may seem depressed or lethargic or express a general sense of not feeling well.

Although these signs are considered minor compared to what your cat will experience when eating large amounts of tulips, it doesn’t mean that they will recover on their own. You should still seek treatment for your cat to prevent the signs from becoming more serious. That means a trip to your trusted vet.

Ingesting Large Amounts of Tulips

If your cat eats a large amount of tulips or even a small amount of the more toxic bulbs, they may experience more serious signs. Some of these include tachycardia, which is an increased heart rate, and an increased respiratory rate, which means that they are breathing quicker and heavier than normal.

Eating large amounts of tulips can also cause cardiac arrhythmia, which is essentially an irregular heartbeat. Your cat may also have difficulty breathing, tremors, and pain in their abdomen. In the worst-case scenario, they could even go into a coma or die suddenly.

It’s important to note that a lot of the more serious signs can’t always be seen. But they can be present along with minor ones. That’s why if you notice any of these signs, you should get your cat to a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible, especially if you aren’t sure how much of the tulip your cat ate.

beautiful yellow tulips
Image Credit: kmerriman, Pixabay

How Is Tulip Toxicity in Cats Treated?

The exact treatment pathway that your vet may take depends on how much of the tulip your cat ate, as well as the seriousness of their signs. The problem is that there isn’t really a way for your vet to determine exactly how much of the tulip toxin is in your cat’s body nor is there an antidote that can immediately remove the toxin and stop its effects.

This is why it’s helpful if you know how much of a tulip your cat consumed. If a small amount of tulip was consumed and you get your cat to the vet quickly, your vet is likely to induce vomiting in order to remove the toxins from your cat’s body. They may also administer something that can absorb the toxin, place a catheter, or administer fluids through an IV in an effort to flush the toxin out or prevent it from spreading throughout your cat’s body.

In more severe cases or cases where it is unclear how much of a tulip your cat ate, hospitalization, stomach pumping, and increased monitoring may be necessary, including an extended stay at the veterinarian’s office. Your vet may wish to pay particular attention to your cat’s oxygen level and heart rate so they can intervene if a serious problem arises.

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How Can You Prevent Your Cat From Eating Tulips?

Watching your cat closely while they are outside is important to prevent them from eating tulips, as is keeping unplanted tulip bulbs away from your cat. If you notice them even getting close to a tulip, intervene to move them away.

If your cat stays outside for long periods of time and you can’t watch them constantly or they just love to eat your garden plants, it’s best that you pull up or avoid planting any tulips in your garden. Instead, choose flowers and plants that won’t harm your cat if they eat them.

Examples of indoor and outdoor plants that are safe for cats include:
  • Asters
  • Bamboo
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Freesia
  • Gerber daisies
  • Lemon balm
  • Orchids
  • Rosemary
  • Roses
  • Sage
  • Snapdragons
  • Spider plants
  • Sunflowers
a field of white tulips
Image Credit: Ralphs_Fotos, Pixabay

Related Read: How to Keep Cats Out of Indoor Plants (6 Proven Methods)

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Final Thoughts

Tulips are toxic to cats, no matter what part or how much they consume. Although eating small amounts of tulip is less harmful, your cat can still experience clinical signs, and it is important to seek treatment immediately. Keeping your cat away from tulips or planting flowers that are safe for cats instead can help prevent many serious health problems and ensure that your cat stays safe.


Featured Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

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