Everyone loves tulips! These flowers have quite a long history, including the infamous Tulip Mania of the 1700s in the Netherlands. Tulips are remarkably easy to care for, and it’s not hard for even a novice gardener to get tulips to bloom year-after-year.
Of course, this isn’t an article about growing tulips. Instead, we’re going to explore the literal toxic relationships between cats and tulips. As you are likely well aware, cats love to explore everything around them.
Be it through curiosity or they’re just bored and want to knock something over. Houseplants they particularly adore, which I mean love to destroy. This can be a problem, as some houseplants can be dangerous to your cat, if not outright lethal.
Are Tulips Poisonous To Cats?
The short answer is yes, tulips are toxic to cats which I hinted at before. I’ll explain why in the next section, but if you just need a quick answer then it’s yes. If you want tulips, you may consider planting them where your cat won’t get them or just use fake ones instead.
Why Are Tulips Poisonous To Cats?
Tulips contain a compound called Tulipalin A and Tulipalin B. Not the most clever names in the world, but fitting enough. Tulipalin A is an allergen that can cause inflammation of the skin. Tulipalin B, meanwhile, is an antibacterial compound that tulips naturally produce for protection.
For cats, which have a much delicate membrane and immune system than us, the results of these compounds isn’t pleasant in the slightest.
Can Tulips Kill My Cat?
The first thing any pet owner thinks about when they hear of a plant or object that’s toxic is “will this kill my pet”. The good news is, normal contact with tulips won’t kill your cat; instead, it will make them sick. The bad news is that tulips can kill cats; kittens, older cats, ill cats, and pregnant cats are all at risk of dying from tulip poisoning.
What Part Of The Tulip Is Poisonous?
Unfortunately, every single part of the tulip is poisonous for your cat. The petals, the stems, the leaves, even the pollen can make your cat sick. This is due to the compounds being present in every part of the tulip with the highest concentration in the bulb. This means that the bulbs are more likely to leave your cat seriously ill or cause possible death compared to the bulbs.
Regardless of what part has the highest concentration, it’s still a good idea to not let your cat around a tulip in the first place.
What Are The Symptoms Of Tulip Poisoning?
This is rather hard to pin down, if you could believe, as all cats experience different symptoms. For a healthy adult cat, you may not even notice the symptoms until they’re long gone. For a kitten, the symptoms could be possibly fatal.
- Drooling and unusual behavior
Normally the first sign of poisoning is drooling. Because of Tulipalin A being an irritant and allergen, more saliva will be produced to flush out the compounds which have inflamed their mouth. Your cat might also try to vocalize more, attempting to alert you of its condition. Alternatively, your cat may start to hide trying to care for itself without you interfering.
- Vomiting and diarrhea
The next sign that your cat is suffering from poisoning is by vomiting or diarrhea. This is caused by the compounds irritating the stomach lining and your cat’s immune system attempting to force out the compound. This is very unpleasant for both you and your cat, and if you see any chewed tulips in your home expect to find vomit and diarrhea.
- Lethargy and dizziness
These symptoms are caused by the compounds affecting the central nervous system. Remember that this isn’t a disease that targets the central nervous system, but instead the result of your cat consuming a large amount of tulips or the amount they ingested is acting fast and hard. Your cat may have trouble walking, or may not want to move at all.
- Seizures and coma
The most severe symptoms, besides death, and caused again by the compounds affecting the central nervous system. This is the result of the poisoning taking a much more lethal toll on your cat.
Of course, other diseases or medical issues may cause similar symptoms. The best way to know if your cat is suffering from tulip poisoning is trying to find any chewed bits of tulip as previously mentioned.
What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Cat Has Been Poisoned By Tulips?
The first thing to do is remain calm. If you scream, run around, or do anything that might scare your cat it could make the situation all the worse by aggravating their symptoms. Next, make sure your cat is comfortable and has plenty of water. If you can, attempt to find any petals, leaves, or stems your cat may have bitten or eaten so you can show these to your vet.
Remember that even the pollen is toxic to a cat, so they may not have even eaten any part of the tulip and just inhaled some pollen. Regardless, you need to bring your cat to the vet as soon as possible.
There is nothing you can do on your end besides providing water and making sure your cat is comfortable. Don’t feel bad about a lack of activity, you still found unusual signs and have saved your cat’s life.
How Is Tulip Poisoning Treated?
Remember that your vet is a trained animal healthcare professional, so this section is dedicated to explaining what they do. This doesn’t mean you should try anything at home. That said, the normal procedure is to provide plenty of fluids for your cat. This will prevent dehydration brought on by vomiting, diarrhea, or drooling along with providing more fluids to flush the compounds out.
Another thing your vet is likely to do is provide activated charcoal. Charcoal is great at sucking out poison from a cat’s system, but again this is something your vet should do. Your cat may produce black vomit, but this is normal. If activated charcoal isn’t working, your vet may pump your cat’s stomach to remove all the compounds and everything else.
The sad fact of the matter is there is no cure for tulip poisoning, so the symptoms have to be treated while the toxins are removed by the body. In severe cases, this means setting your cat on medical support until they can return to normal. This isn’t common, however, and more often than not a stomach pump will suffice.
What Is The Long-Term Effects Of Tulips?
For most healthy cats, there shouldn’t be any long-term effects once the poison has subsided. Short-term effects are your cat being weaker and dehydrated and this can be remedied with administrations with fluids either orally or through a drip. Your cat will more than likely have to stay overnight while being monitored or longer is the poisoning was severe enough.
For cats with a severe cause of tulip poisoning, they risk having permanent liver damage. Kittens, mother cats, old cats, and ill cats are much more susceptible to this kind of internal damage than healthier cats.
Is There Any Way To Keep Tulips In My House With Cats?
As I said at the start of this article, tulips are wonderful flowering plants. It’s very hard for us humans to resist them, let alone our cats. So if you still want to keep tulips in your home but don’t want your cat to risk being poisoned here are some steps you can take.
1. Keep the tulips outdoors, and your cat indoors
The most obvious solution is to keep your tulips outside and away from your cat. Easy if you have an indoor cat, not so much if your cat loves exploring the great outdoors. Consider getting a wired fence around your tulip garden if that’s the case, or consider adding some plants that may repeal your cat with their smell.
2. If you want clippings, keep them in a room your cat isn’t allowed in
Tulip clippings don’t last for long, so if you have some make sure you leave them in a room your cat won’t have access to. Some rooms to consider are the bathroom, laundry room, office, or bedroom that your cat is off-limit to.
3. Invest in fake tulips
Finally, you can buy some fake tulips if you really need them in your house. Normally these are made out of plastic or other materials and while still not a safe option for your cat to ingest, there isn’t much risk of poisoning.
When it comes to having plants in your house, you need to do some research beforehand to make sure that they’re safe. Even if your cat isn’t a normal destroyer of plants, it only takes one moment of boredom for them to bite a tulip leaf or possibly inhale some pollen.
The best defense against tulip poisoning is to simply not have the flowers in your house, or attempt to prevent your cat from coming into contact with them. As stated previously, majority of cats that suffer from tulip poisoning suffer no lasting effects except a rather uncomfortable few days of vomiting and dehydration.
As lovely as they are, many cat owners agree their beauty doesn’t compare to keeping your pet safe.