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


Tulips are one of the first flowers to pop up 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. And if we allow them outside, 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’ll explain why that is the case as well as what to look for and what to do if your cat has taken a bite out of your tulips.


Why Are Tulips Toxic to Cats?

 Tulips are part of the lily family. Any plant from that family, including lilies and hyacinths in addition to tulips, is toxic to cats. They contain a chemical known as Tulipilan A that can cause allergic reactions in humans just from touching a tulip. But because humans are larger than cats and don’t typically eat tulips, the toxin doesn’t pose as much risk for us.

cat smelling tulips at the garden
Image Credit: Georg Schober, Pixabay

What Part of a Tulip Is Poisonous to Cats?

Tulipilan 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 he were to consume some of the tulip bulbs.

However, even if your cats aren’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 his curiosity doesn’t lead him to stumble across one that he wants 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 he ate, and how big he or she is. But, even with eating a small amount of tulip, your cat is likely to exhibit symptoms. Even if you didn’t see your cat eat the tulip, noticing any of the following signs are good indications that he 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, he or she may exhibit minor symptoms 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 symptoms are considered minor compared to what your cat will experience when eating a large amount of tulip, it doesn’t mean that he will recover on his own. You should still seek treatment for your cat to prevent the symptoms 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 tulip or even a small amount of the more toxic bulb, he may experience more serious symptoms. Some of these symptoms include tachycardia, which is an increased heart rate, and an increased respiratory rate, which means that he is breathing quicker and heavier than normal.

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

It’s important to note that a lot of the more serious symptoms can’t always be seen. But they can be present along with minor symptoms. That’s why if you notice any of the above symptoms, 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.

black cat smelling tulips
Image Credit: Vladkosss, 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 his symptoms. 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. He may also administer something that can absorb the toxin, or 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 that he can intervene if a serious problem arises.


How Can You Prevent Your Cat From Eating Tulips?

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

If your cat stays outside for long periods of time and you can’t watch him constantly, or just loves 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 he eats them.

Examples of indoor and outdoor plants that are safe for cats include:
  • Asters
  • Bamboo
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Freesia
  • Gerber Daisies
  • Lemon Balm
  • Orchid
  • Rosemary
  • Roses
  • Sage
  • Snapdragons
  • Spider Plant
  • Sunflowers
cat with tulips
Image Credit: alicepaipai, Pixabay

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


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 symptoms 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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