Are Peonies Toxic For Cats? How Peony Lovers Can Maintain Pets Protected

People often wonder if peonies are poisonous for cats because many cats seem to be attracted to the sweet nectar and fragrance of the plants. Peonies are gorgeous spring and early summer blooms that put on a big show in the garden. We love the large, elegant blooms in garden beds and cut flower arrangements, but we also love our pets. Are peonies toxic to cats? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

If you have cats and want to grow peonies or display them indoors, consider how you can keep your felines safe. Cats are often attracted to aromatic plants and flowers, and may be curious enough to nibble on the leaves, blossoms or stems of your peonies. Although peonies are poisonous to cats, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grow them. With the right precautions it’s still possible to enjoy peonies while your pets are around. But, be mindful of the signs of peony poisoning and what to do if your cats do eat any part of the plant.

What Parts of Peonies Are Poisonous to Cats?

Peonies have been used over the centuries by herbalists in Europe and Asia to treat human ailments, and they’re still being studied for the healing properties of the alkaloids and glucosides in their roots. However, they simply don’t agree with domesticated pets. Peonies are toxic to cats because they contain a substance called paeonol. Cats’ systems cannot break down ingested paeonol, and ingesting it results in gastrointestinal distress for them. Every part of the peony contains paeonol, but it is most concentrated in the stems.

What if My Cat Eats a Peony?

Ingesting paeonol causes gastrointestinal symptoms in cats because they can’t digest it. Possible signs of peony ingestion include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression and lethargy

If your cat ingested only a very small amount of a peony plant, he may have very mild or no symptoms, but the more the cat eats, the more severe the symptoms will be. Fortunately, peony ingestion is not usually fatal. If your cat ate only a small amount, observe them for symptoms. Do not attempt to induce vomiting.

Call your vet or a pet poison hotline if your cat ate a significant amount of a peony, especially if you are unsure how much, or if you are concerned about ongoing symptoms. A vet can provide supportive care, such as fluids, and observe your cat to keep her safe as the toxin passes through her system.

How to Keep Cats Away from Peonies

It’s possible to enjoy peonies even if you have cats. If your pets spend time outdoors they may find other plants like catnip more attractive, but it’s good to protect them from peonies with fencing or tomato cages, just in case. Perhaps luring them to other parts of the garden is the best tactic. The sweet sticky nectar on the peony flower may interest them, so be sure to provide other more fascinating or appetizing pursuits for them.

It’s a little trickier to protect your cats if you’re keeping cut peonies in arrangements indoors. Cut peonies should be out of their reach, which may mean placing them in a high spot where the cats cannot access them. Of course, cats are generally good at getting up to high places. If you aren’t able to keep an eye on your fur babies, consider keeping cut peonies in a room in which you can close the door to keep your kitties out or, again, find something more interesting and appealing to distract them from the peonies.

Are Some Peony Varieties Safe for Cats?

All types of peonies contain paeonol and no variety is safer than another. However, there are plenty of other garden plants and cut flowers that are safe for cats. If you’re looking for showy flowers with a sweet fragrance, try growing plants like roses. Other beautiful flowers safe for cats include Gerbera daisies, sunflowers, orchids, snapdragons, and freesia.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Most Toxic Flower to Cats?

True lilies are the most toxic flowers for cats. Even a small amount of pollen licked off the cat’s fur can potentially cause fatal kidney failure. Some examples of true lilies include Easter lilies, tiger lilies, and stargazer lilies.

Are Peonies Poisonous for Other Animals?

According to the ASPCA, peonies are toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. They are generally toxic to all animals, but wild animals are unlikely to ingest poisonous plants.

Are Peonies Bad for Cats and Dogs?

Yes, peonies are toxic to both cats and dogs, although they are not often fatally toxic.

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