Should I allow my cat into the backyard if there are daffodils there?

Daffodils are toxic to cats
Daffodils are toxic to cats. Image: Mike B at PoC.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

It is spring and synonymous with spring are daffodils. It’s great to see them and the smell of cut grass. It lifts the spirits and makes us feel better. But daffodils don’t make cats feel better especially if they chew them and you know what domestic cats are like. They like to put things in their mouth like babies and chew on it. And they like to eat grass and apparently the whole of the daffodil is toxic to cats including the green bits which look like grass.

So, in answer to the question in the title, it must be No. This is a great shame because daffodils look great in a garden.

Fortunately, daffodils are not fatal if eaten by your cat but the list of potential symptoms is copious:

  • Shivering
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhoea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Cat vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Tissue irritation
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Stomach pain
  • Laboured breathing
  • Heart arrhythmia.

This danger is not theoretical because there is a story on a veterinary website (vets-now) about a female cat called Asha. She chewed on a daffodil, came back inside and went into her cat carrier to ask her owner to take her to the veterinarian. She was clearly ill and there were strange noises coming from her stomach.

She climbed into the carrier and I realised straight away that she was telling me I needed to take her to the vets. – Anna, Asha’s owner.

This vet website tells us that daffodils contain a poisonous alkaloid causing vomiting. The bulb is particularly toxic but I would doubt that a domestic cat would eat the bulb unless they are lying around. The toxicity of this part of the plant can cause abnormal heart rhythms or breathing problems in both cats and dogs.

Tulips

It isn’t just daffodils, the sign of spring and happy days ahead! Another spring plant, tulips, contain substances which are toxic to cats: Tulipalin A and Tulipalin B. They cause vomiting, drooling and diarrhoea. There may be tremors.

Tulipalin A, also known as α-methylene-γ-butyrolactone, is a naturally occurring compound found in certain flowers such as tulips and alstroemerias. – Wikipedia

Rhodos

And azaleas and rhododendrons also toxic as they, too, contain poisonous substances called grayanotoxins. A very small amount of this substance can poison a cat. Once again, the typical signs of poisoning will be present if a cat decides to eat a rhododendron namely vomiting, drooling, diarrhoea, weakness and possible tremors and seizures.

Grayanotoxins are highly toxic diterpenoids found in the leaves of several species of the genera Rhododendron, Kalmia, and Leucothoe in the large Ericaceae (heather) family. – American Chemical Society

Risk factor

I’ve mentioned three different spring plants which can bring us joy and a lot of pain and discomfort to a domestic cat. I don’t think you should have them in the garden or backyard if you have an indoor/outdoor cat. I don’t see any other really sensible solution.

On the upside, I don’t think a domestic cat would want to eat a daffodil so the risk is probably quite small but it is certainly present and the first duty of a cat caregiver is to keep them safe.

Why do cats eat plants and should I be worried?

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Top 10 most poisonous plants to cats

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