Are Snake Plants Toxic to Cats?

Snake plants, also known by their botanical name Sansevieria or the common name mother-in-law’s tongue, are one of the most popular houseplants. With their upright, sword-shaped leaves and nearly indestructible nature, it’s easy to see why. But is this resilient plant safe to have around cats?

Unfortunately, snake plants are toxic to cats and can cause adverse reactions if ingested. While they offer great benefits for human health, these tropical plants contain compounds that can irritate cats’ mouths and digestive tracts.

So if you’re a cat owner, it’s crucial to understand snake plant toxicity and how to keep your curious felines safe. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know, including:

  • Which parts of the snake plant are poisonous
  • The symptoms and risks of snake plant poisoning in cats
  • Tips to cat-proof your home and prevent hazardous nibbling
  • What to do if your cat eats a toxic houseplant
  • Safer houseplant alternatives for cat owners

Arm yourself with information so you can avoid catastrophe and safely enjoy houseplants, even with cats in the home. Let’s dive in and explore how to have snakes and cats under the same roof!

All Parts of the Snake Plant are Toxic to Cats

The entire snake plant, from its spiky leaves to its tuberous roots, contains toxic compounds called saponins. When ingested by cats, saponins cause Significant oral and gastrointestinal irritation.


The stiff, pointed leaves of the snake plant contain the highest concentration of saponins. Chewing or biting into these fibrous leaves releases the toxic compounds.


The thick, woody stems of the snake plant also contain saponins. While cats are less likely to chew on the stems, any ingestion can cause problems.


Even the roots of the snake plant are packed with toxins. Cats who dig in potted plants and access the roots are at risk of poisoning.


In rare cases, mature snake plants may produce tall clusters of fragrant, white flowers. These flowers are also toxic to cats.

So from leaf tip to root, no part of the snake plant should be considered cat-safe. Even small nibbles can introduce toxins. The tiny, emerging leaves of new shoots and sprouts can be especially tempting to playful kittens, but are just as dangerous.

Tip: When it comes to plants and cats, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Assume the entire plant is toxic before allowing access.

Snake Plant Toxicity Causes Oral Irritation, Nausea, and Other Symptoms

The specific compounds that make snake plants toxic to cats are saponins and glycosides. When ingested, these chemical compounds irritate and inflame the tissues of the mouth, esophagus, and digestive tract.

Oral Irritation

Drooling, pawing at the mouth, and head shaking are early signs of mouth discomfort after eating snake plants. Cats may eat the plants due to their grass-like texture, only to regret it once the toxins kick in.

Nausea and Vomiting

The irritation rapidly extends to the gastrointestinal tract, causing upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting. Vomiting is the body’s way of ejecting the toxic plant matter.


As the digestive system remains inflamed, cats may experience painful cramping and watery diarrhea. Diarrhea can lead to rapid dehydration, especially in smaller cats.

Lethargy and Tremors

In severe snake plant poisoning cases, cats may become extremely lethargic and unsteady, with muscle tremors and difficulty walking. This indicates the toxins may be reaching the central nervous system.

Heart Problems

At toxic doses, saponins may impact heart rate and rhythm. Signs can include a slowed, irregular pulse and heart palpitations.

Without swift treatment, the symptoms of snake plant poisoning can become life-threatening. Cats should always receive veterinary care following exposure. Call your vet or emergency clinic without delay if your cat eats any part of a snake plant.

Snake Plant Toxicity Depends on the Amount Ingested

When assessing toxicity, vets consider the size of the cat and the amount of plant matter consumed. A large cat is less likely to suffer severe effects than a 2 lb kitten after eating the same amount of leaves.

Small nibbles or bites may cause irritation and upset stomach. Ingesting substantial portions of the plant is more hazardous, as the higher dose of toxins can advance to dangerous symptoms.

Even if your cat seems fine at first, continue monitoring closely for at least 24 hours after exposure. Toxins require time to move through the body before causing a reaction.

Tip: Take photos of the plants in your home. If you suspect poisoning, the images can help identify which plant was eaten.

Kittens and Curious Cats Are Most at Risk

While all cats are vulnerable to snake plant poisoning, certain cats are more likely to sample and chew houseplants than others.


Kittens are infamously curious and love to bite, paw, climb, and explore anything within reach. Their new teeth feel good when they sink them into snake plant leaves! But this innocent plant play can easily end in toxicity.

Bored Cats

Cats who spend long hours home alone with nothing to do sometimes seek mischief. Houseplants often become victims of bored cats with pent-up energy and instincts to hunt, pounce, and forage.

Hungry Cats

Very hungry cats in search of food may resort to tasting houseplants. While this is rare, a ravenous cat with an empty stomach and no other options may nibble a few leaves.

Old or Ill Cats

Elderly cats with declining cognitive function or cats with illness affecting their digestion may accidentally ingest houseplants more frequently. decreased thirst can also lead to sampling succulent leaves.

Repeat Offenders

After discovering how fun it is to bat snake plants around or chew the leaves, some cats just can’t resist going back for more. If poisoning doesn’t deter them, these repeat offenders need close supervision.

Know your cat’s personality and history with plants to determine their level of risk. Free-roaming, adventurous, bored, or lonely cats present the greatest hazard.

How to Cat-Proof Your Home and Deter Plant Nibbling

The ideal solution is to remove all toxic plants from your home when you have cats. But for plant lovers who still want greenery around, take these precautions to cat-proof your houseplants:

Keep Plants Out of Reach

Place houseplants on high windowsills, shelves, or surfaces that cats can’t access. They should not be able to stick their paws into pots or reach the leaves. For climbing cats, hang plants up entirely out of bounds.

Use Barriers

Place wire mesh or clear plastic guards around plants to block access. Upside-down carpet runner or double-sided tape also deters curious paws.

Spray Deterrents

Some cats dislike the smell of citrus or mint and will avoid plants misted with lemon or mint extracts. Bitter apple spray also helps teach which plants are off limits. Reapply frequently.

Provide Alternatives

Give cats their own safe, leafy greens to chew and play with, like wheatgrass or cat grass. This distracts them from your toxic houseplants.

Keep Cats Out of Plant Rooms

Sometimes the easiest solution is to designate one room or area strictly for off-limit plants. Use baby gates or doors to keep cats from entering the dangerous zone.

Tip: When introducing new plants, show them to your cats and teach them “leave it” commands so they know not to touch.

What to Do if Your Cat Eats a Toxic Houseplant

If you catch your cat nibbling or suspect they ingested any part of a snake plant, stay calm but take immediate action:

Remove the Plant

First, move the toxic plant fully out of reach to prevent further snacking. Place it somewhere completely inaccessible to your cat until recovered.

Call Your Vet

Contact your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic right away, even if symptoms haven’t appeared yet. Describe what happened so they can advise you on next steps.

Collect Samples

Bring samples of the plant to the vet’s office. Having the source plant helps identify toxins and guide treatment. Take photos if you can’t bring plant parts.

Induce Vomiting

If advised by your vet and the exposure just occurred, you can induce vomiting at home with 3% hydrogen peroxide. Give 1 teaspoon per 5 lbs of body weight.

Provide Supportive Care

Your vet may recommend giving activated charcoal, IV fluids, antiemetics for vomiting, antacids to coat the stomach, or other medications to control snake plant poisoning symptoms and make your cat comfortable.

Monitor Closely

Check your cat’s symptoms and well-being frequently after the incident. Call the vet promptly if you notice deterioration or non-improvement over 24 hours. Quick response is key!

Never hesitate to involve your vet following potential snake plant poisoning. With proper treatment, most cats make a full recovery. But neglecting prompt care can allow toxins to advance, risking long-term health complications.

Safer Houseplant Alternatives for Cat Parents

The safest solution is to stick to cat-friendly plants only. Here are some great non-toxic houseplant options to consider instead of snake plants:


With its trailing vines and decorative variegated leaves, pothos is a cat-safe alternative that grows well in low light conditions.

Prayer Plant

The vivid green and purple foliage of prayer plants provides visual interest without endangering your cats. They are non-toxic and safe for homes with pets.

Spider Plant

Spider plants have long, dangling leaves that cats can nibble on with no adverse effects. They are very resilient to cat damage.


Wax plants in the Hoya genus have gorgeous star-shaped flowers and thick waxy leaves. They are non-irritating for cats if chewed or eaten.

Bamboo Palm

The regal bamboo palm thrives indoors and is considered non-toxic for cats. Its stiff palm fronds also discourage chewing.

Air Plants

Air plants contain no toxins and their small size limits how much cats can ingest if sampled. Offer cat-safe herbs like catnip instead to distract interest.

Remember, when bringing any new plant home, confirm it is 100% cat-safe. The Houseplant411 database lets you search plants by pet safety. Visit your local nursery to pick the best non-toxic varieties to grow with cats.

Let Your Cats Enjoy Safe Plants

There’s no reason cat owners can’t enjoy decorative and purifying houseplants – with the proper knowledge and precautions. While snake plants present a hazard, many fabulous ferns, flowers, and foliage pose no risk to cats.

Hopefully this guide gave you a thorough understanding of snake plant toxicity in cats, plus plenty of pro tips for protecting your curious felines. So go ahead and surround yourself with lush, cat-friendly greenery! Just be sure to place those snake plants far out of your cats’ reach.