Are ZZ Plants Toxic To Cats

Zamioculcas zamiifolia, more commonly known as ZZ plants, are popular due to their beautiful emerald green foliage. They are particularly attractive to those of us who were not born with green fingers since they are extremely hardy plants that require very little attention and can thrive in just about any light.

The substance calcium oxalate crystal is present in the ZZ plant and will cause vomiting and hypersalivation in cats. In some cases, the pharynx can become swollen and obstruct the throat. The calcium oxalate crystals become embedded in your cat’s mouth when ingested, causing pain and discomfort.

If you already have a selection of houseplants, you may want to identify which ones may be toxic, especially if you suspect your cat may be reacting to something. Let’s explore how to determine whether your cat may be suffering from the harmful effects of your ZZ plant.

Are All Variants Of The ZZ Plant Toxic To Cats?

ZZ plants are toxic to cats because of calcium oxalate crystals in the plants’ stems and leaves. These crystals are painful to touch or ingest because of their sharp edges, irritating the eyes and skin by embedding themselves into the skin.

There are three known variants of ZZ plants:

  • the more common Zanzibar Gem
  • the Raven
  • and the Variegated variety

Related: ZZ Plant Yellow Leaves

All of these ZZ plants are toxic as they contain calcium oxalate crystals.

Scientifically speaking, ZZ plants fall under the Araceae family and form a part of the genus Zamioculcas. This plant, however, has different varieties, all of which have slightly different looks and characteristics.

You will need to be aware of this to identify whether you have one in your home, as they are all equally toxic.

The traditional ZZ plant, known as the Zanzibar gem, has succulent stems, and the leaves have a leathery texture and are quite glossy. The oval-shaped leaves are beautiful emerald green and are arranged on the stem, not unlike feathers.

The Raven or Zamioculcas zamiifolia variety can be recognized by its’ striking black leaves. The Variegated version of the plant has green leaves interspersed with white and yellow leaves.

All varieties of the ZZ plant flower only rarely, but the blossoms look very similar to a white lily when they do. These will stem from the base of the plant.

ZZ plants can grow up to four feet tall, depending on whether they are planted outdoors or are potted and placed indoors.

ZZ plants can easily be mistaken for their close relatives, the Colocasia or Zamia plants. These are both leafy indoor plants and share many similar features.

Cat Eating Houseplant zz plant

Can Cats Recognize When Houseplants Are Toxic?

Cats can have the annoying habit of chewing on everything! One may assume that because cats have such a strong sense of smell and are notoriously picky eaters, they may recognize if a substance is dangerous to digest.

Unfortunately, cats are inherently curious, and they may inadvertently ingest hazardous substances.

The reason why cats may be tempted to nibble on your ZZ plant is the same reason why they sometimes eat grass. Cats rely on meat as their main source of nourishment, but they use plants to supplement vitamins they may be missing.

For example, grass has lots of folic acids, making it good for cats to eat from time to time. Plants also provide some roughage which can help with clearing out their digestive system.

So, when cats nibble on your houseplants, they may be seeking out these benefits.

Cats have been known to eat grass from time to time, and there are many different theories as to why they do this. It may help them to deal with things like an upset stomach. Grass helps them vomit up anything in their gut that makes them ill.

Your cats may also enjoy the general taste and texture of your other houseplants. Still, they will not necessarily differentiate whether the plant is poisonous or not.

How To Recognize ZZ Plant Poisoning In Cats

A toxic substance will easily make a cat quite ill because of its small size. Toxins can travel through a cats’ body quite quickly, causing serious damage. You may not realize immediately when your cat becomes ill, though, as cats may retreat and find a place to hide when they are not feeling well.

It’s important to take note when your cat is not acting normally so that you can get treatment immediately. Your cat will experience nausea, discomfort, and an achy stomach if your ZZ plant has poisoned him. The most telling sign, though, would be vomiting and diarrhea.

Sick  cat lying down

The more of the ZZ plant your cat ingested, the more severe the symptoms, but rest assured that these symptoms rarely lead to fatality. Dehydration would be a major concern, and you should see your vet should your cat show severe signs. Avoid this by giving your cat plenty of freshwater.

ZZ plants contain Calcium Oxalate Crystals, making it quite a painful experience when your cat eats the leaves of this plant. The stinging crystals which embed themselves in the mouth and tongue will ensure that your cat does not continue to eat and digest too much of the plant.

In some cases, your cat may experience swelling in its throat, which would lead to breathing problems. Should you notice that your cat is struggling to breathe, consult a vet immediately. Fortunately, this rarely occurs.

How Long Will Poison From A ZZ Plant Affect Your Cat?

Your cats’ body is designed to expel any dangerous elements from its system. It will recognize that Oxifialate Calcium has been consumed and cleanse the system by vomiting, diarrhea, or both.

Depending on the amount of calcium oxalate consumed, symptoms can range from mild to severe. The symptoms last approximately 24 hours.

All parts of the ZZ plant contain Calcium Oxalate and are therefore toxic. Whether a human or a cat touches or ingests the leaves or the stems, it can be equally harmful.

Also Check: ZZ Plant Varieties

Safety Measures You Can Take If You Have A ZZ Plant

Of course, prevention is better than cure. But what if you have just realized that your houseplant that was gifted to you or that you’ve had for years already is toxic?

Make sure that your ZZ plant is out of reach of small children, as this plant is toxic to cats as well as humans. ZZ plants are very hardy and will survive in any light, so moving them around will not harm them. Protect your hands when handling your ZZ Plant by wearing gloves. 

It may be difficult to put the plant where your cat won’t be able to reach it, but you can deter your cat by sprinkling coffee grounds or orange peelings in the plant pot. Cats do not enjoy these smells, and it will act as a natural deterrent.

 You can also try spraying your plant’s leaves with a mixture of vinegar and water, using a one-part vinegar, a three-part water solution.

Rest assured, though, if your cats have already experienced the effects of nibbling on this plant, the chances of them continuing to do so are slim. 

Ridding Your Home Of Toxic Plants

If you are looking for ways to purge your home of all toxic plants, a great idea is to get some friends and family together and do a houseplant swap. ZZ plants are very popular because they are easy to take care of and beautiful to look at.

Consider swapping your ZZ plant with a friend who does not have cats. You may receive a plant that requires extra attention, but at least it will not be toxic. Make sure you have a list of plants that you know are toxic to avoid ending up with another one.

Non-Toxic Houseplants You Can Swap For Your ZZ Plant

Asparagus Fern

To help you out, here is a list of houseplants that are not toxic that you could swap for your ZZ plant:

•          The African Violet

•          Bloodleaf

•          Cast Iron Plant

•          Fig leaf Palm

•          Christmas Cactus

•          Asparagus Fern

•          Hoya

•          Parlor Palm


ZZ plants are toxic to cats when digested or touched, but they are not deadly. If you already have these poisonous plants in your house, you need to keep them out of reach of your cats or find ways to deter your cats from chewing on the plant.