Cats: Poisonous Insecticides on House Plants

Are the pesticides on house plants poisonous to cats as well as the poisonous plants themselves? It seems distinctly possible. There are hundreds of thousands of web pages on plants that are poisonous to cats. I am yet to see something on the insecticides that are on house plants that are poisonous to cats. Or is someone going to tell me that there are no insecticides on plants bought for the home?

I am writing about the insecticides that plant nurseries – the people who “manufacture” the plants – spray on them to make them look better and live longer. Isn’t it inevitable that they remain on the plant right up to sale? Perhaps sellers of plants also spray their products with insecticides. I don’t know. I do know that in commercial enterprises they will do all they can to improve and protect their product. I would doubt whether anyone has given serious concern to the affects of pesticides on plants on the domestic cat.

Poisonous lily and cat

Poisonous lily and cat. Photo by in pastel

The types of pesticides that are used in landscape and nursery pest management are as follows¹:

  • Organophosphate Insecticides
  • Carbamate Insecticides
  • Pyrethroids
  • Neonicotinoids

I’ll briefly set out how poisonous these chemicals are to animals and the possible effect on animals. I will them compare the symptoms with those of the cats who died by ingesting lily pollen. The purpose: to try and decide if lily pollen poisoned the cats as well as the any insecticide that there might have been on the pollen. The symptoms of the cats poisoned by lily pollen were:

  • Blindness
  • Paralysis
  • Kidney Damage

Of these three reported symptoms, kidney failure is the known symptoms of poisoning by lilies. I wonder if the other symptoms, which are connected to the nervous system are due to insecticides on the lilies?

Organophosphate Insecticides

The symptoms are similar to the other poisonous insecticide types called carbamates. For severe poisoning the symptoms are a lack of coordination with apprehension and seizures². Also a cat will have muscle twitching, weakness and stagger.

Carbamate Insecticides

Symptoms of cabamate insecticide poisoning in cats include: drooling, cramps in the abdomen, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulty, anemia, small pupils, muscle spasms, convulsions².

Pyrethroids

For high doses: high fever, very low body temperature, breathing problems, bad tremors, disorientation, and seizures. Question: how high would a dose be if a cat ingested lily pollen that had been sprayed with pyrethroids? Pretty high it seems to me. This is straight eating of a poison².

Neonicotinoids

Used for flea control on cats as well as a plant pesticide³. I can’t find anything useful on how they can poison cats. There is severe concern about their effect on honey bee populations4.

Conclusions

I can’t be precise and definitive because despite the vast reservoir of information on the internet there is nothing or very little on how these pesticides affect cats when sprayed on house plants. However, in general the listed pesticides affect the nervous system because one of the symptoms is seizures and another is tremors and spasms. These are all signs of damage to the nervous system as is paralysis and blindness, the symptoms suffered by the lily pollen poisoned cats.

It appears that it is quite possible that these cats were poisoned by pesticides on pollen that was on their fur that they ate when they groomed themselves.

References:

  1. Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University
  2. The Merck Manual For Pet Health
  3. NEONICOTINOID INSECTICIDE TOXICOLOGY: Mechanisms of Selective Action
  4. Wikipedia

Comments

Cats: Poisonous Insecticides on House Plants — 3 Comments

  1. Yes I’d agree that it’s possible that pesticides on plants are toxic to cats Michael.
    Years ago when chemicals weren’t sprayed everywhere and cats always lived free we never heard of them being poisoned by plants or flowers in gardens or fields. More and stronger chemicals are needed as the present ones lose effect and our Earth is being slowly poisoned by these chemicals.
    So the argument that cats are safer indoors comes into this too, there are many dangers indoors as well as outdoors.
    Who has caused this?
    The human race!

    • Thank you for seeing the possibly of cat poisoning from insecticides on plants. I don’t think anyone has mentioned this before (not sure) so it is tricky to raise the subject. However, I sense it is something that needs investigating. It would not surprise me one bit if research concluded that there was a risk.

  2. I agree with Ruth – it really puts a deifferent light on the safety of living indoors. You only need to make one mistake in some cases – with the wrong plant and causeterrible harm. I have always thought it was the chemicals on plants mostly as well as the food and steroids they feed the plants or put in the soild that make them so abundant for a short time. I believe some of the chemicals don’t come from be sprayed on them but from withing the plants in the growing stage. And then there’s the sprays and pesticides which we all know are terribly dangerous and carcinogenic even for humans. Plants are treated rather terribly too in other words – in order to be made to look pretty at the right time for the right price. It’s a multi million business. Have you ever noticed how much flowers cost. And in the spring time all the garden shops selling their annuals and perennials which only look good for not quite one season and then they just seem to become weak and useless. I think they pump them up on all kinds of nonsense in order to get short term results at the expense of a long lasting healthy plant. It’s possible that outdoor plants in garden – especially newly plantd ones could also be a danger. People also use pesticides in their garden i believe.

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