Aloe vera is well-known for its healing properties and usefulness for skin care, but is it safe for cats? With their curious nature and tendency to nibble on houseplants, pet owners may wonder: can cats eat aloe plants?
Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding no. The fleshy leaves and gel of the aloe plant contain a compound called saponin that is highly toxic to felines. Even small ingestions can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and other unpleasant symptoms.
While aloe vera has many benefits for humans, it should be kept far away from cats. This guide covers everything cat owners need to know about aloe vera toxicity, risks, symptoms, and how to keep your furry friends safe.
Dangers of Aloe for Cats
The biggest danger of aloe plants comes from the saponin found in the leaves. Saponin gives the aloe plant its bitter, soapy taste.
For cats, ingesting saponin can cause:
- Excessive drooling and vomiting
- Diarrhea with possible blood
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy and depression
- Tremors and uncoordinated movements
Saponin triggers gastrointestinal irritation and inflammation, leading to these unpleasant digestive effects. It may also impact the nervous system.
Even small amounts of aloe—a few bites or licks of sap—can cause a reaction. The highest concentration of saponins is found along the leaf margins. But the gel and skin also contain toxins.
Cats who consume substantial portions of an aloe plant are at risk for severe, acute toxicity. Prompt veterinary treatment is vital in these cases.
Why Are Cats Attracted to Aloe?
Aloe vera plants tend to catch the interest of curious cats. But why?
There are a few reasons aloe appeals to felines:
- Scent – Cats use scent as their primary way to explore the world. The fresh, herbal smell of aloe vera may attract their attention.
- Texture – The smooth, juicy leaves and gel provide a novel texture for cats to bite and chew.
- Taste – Aloe has a slightly bitter taste from the saponins. While unpleasant to humans, some cats may be intrigued by the flavor.
- Color – Bright colors like the green of aloe plants appeal to feline eyes and can draw their gaze.
- Boredom -Idle cats may view houseplants as a toy and start nibbling out of boredom or curiosity.
Because of these sensory factors, aloe vera can tempt cats to taste and chew. Keeping it away from pets is crucial.
Is Aloe Vera Toxic to Cats?
Yes, the ASPCA classifies aloe vera, Aloe barbadensis, as toxic to cats and dogs.
The toxic principles are the saponins found in the plant’s leaves. Even aloe gel, often considered the safest part, contains traces of saponin.
All parts of the aloe vera plant—the skin, gel, sap, and leaves—are toxic for cats. Ingestion should be avoided.
For safety, aloe vera should be kept on a high shelf or windowsill beyond the reach of curious cats. Other common houseplants poisonous to cats include:
- Sago palm
Check this ASPCA list before bringing any new plants into your home.
Symptoms of Aloe Toxicity in Cats
Ingesting aloe vera causes gastrointestinal upset in cats within hours. Symptoms may include:
Excessive Salivation and Vomiting
The irritation from saponins triggers saliva production and nausea. You may see increased drooling and repeated vomiting.
Diarrhea with possible blood is common. Saponins inflame the intestinal lining, causing diarrhea that may be bloody from intestinal damage.
Loss of Appetite
Nausea and stomach irritation often cause decreased or lost appetite. Your cat may refuse favorite foods after aloe ingestion.
Lethargy and Depression
All of these symptoms combined can leave your cat lethargic and depressed. They may hide or seem reluctant to move.
Tremors and Uncoordinated Movements
In some cases, saponins may impact the central nervous system. Tremors, wobbliness, and uncoordinated movements can result.
If any symptoms emerge after exposure to aloe, call your vet right away. Timely treatment can prevent a mild case from becoming worse.
What to Do If Your Cat Eats Aloe
Accidental aloe ingestion does occasionally happen. Here’s what to do if you catch your cat nibbling or if symptoms emerge:
Remove Access to the Plant
Move any remaining aloe vera well out of reach to prevent further ingestion.
Check the Mouth
Gently inspect your cat’s mouth for traces of aloe gel, sap, or leaf material. Softly wipe away any residue.
Call Your Veterinarian
Contact your vet or pet poison control hotline for advice. Share any details about when and how much was consumed.
Induce Vomiting If Instructed
Your vet may advise you to induce vomiting. Only do so if explicitly told by your vet.
Seek Veterinary Care
Take your cat to the vet clinic for evaluation and supportive care. Symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration which requires fluid therapy.
With quick action, most cats fully recover after aloe vera poisoning. But neglecting treatment can put your cat at risk of life-threatening dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Don’t wait “to see if they’ll be fine.” Always contact your vet.
How Much Aloe Vera is Toxic to Cats?
There’s no established toxic dose of aloe vera for cats. Because of the irritation saponins cause, even small ingestions can trigger substantial symptoms.
As little as a couple bites of an aloe leaf or a teaspoon of gel could cause diarrhea and vomiting. Consuming a substantial part of a leaf or large volume of gel boosts these risks.
The safest approach is to prevent any ingestion at all. Assume aloe vera is toxic at any dosage.
Long-Term Effects of Aloe Poisoning in Cats
With veterinary treatment, most cats fully recover after aloe vera poisoning without long-term effects.
However, substantial ingestion can cause lasting liver or kidney damage in rare cases. Severe vomiting and diarrhea also risk electrolyte imbalances and dehydration.
Neurological effects like tremors and lack of coordination may persist for 24-48 hours after ingestion.
Follow your vet’s recommendations for care and monitoring after aloe poisoning. Prompt treatment leads to the best outlook.
Can Aloe Vera Kill Cats?
While quite toxic, aloe vera exposure is not usually fatal for otherwise healthy cats.
With aggressive veterinary treatment, cats can recover fully after even heavy ingestion.
However, substantial aloe vera intake does pose a risk of death in very young, old, or ill cats. Dehydration, kidney failure, and electrolyte disturbances can become severe. Still, fatalities are rare with good supportive care.
Talk to your vet about your cat’s unique risks if aloe poisoning occurs. Follow their advice to protect your pet’s health.
Are Succulents Like Aloe Vera Safe for Cats?
No, most succulents are toxic for cats and should be kept out of paws’ reach. Common poisonous succulents include:
- Aloe vera – Toxic saponins
- Jade plant – Vomiting, diarrhea, depression
- Snake plant – Nausea, salivation, pain
- Euphorbia – Intense irritation, vomiting, diarrhea
- Kalanchoe – Vomiting, abnormal heart rate
Safe, non-toxic succulents for cats include:
- Burro’s tail
- Ponytail palm
- Panda plant
- Zenzi plant
Check toxicity before bringing any succulent into a home with cats. Placement on high shelves also helps keep plants away from pets.
Are Aloe Vera Juice and Gel Safe for Cats?
No, you should never intentionally give your cat aloe vera gel or juice. Both still contain trace amounts of toxic saponins.
Adding aloe products to your cat’s food or water could cause subtle symptoms like digestive upset.
While popular for human use, aloe supplements have no proven benefits for cats. They can only introduce risk for toxicity.
Stick to pet-formulated supplements and avoid aloe vera juice or gel for cats.
Cat Friendly Alternatives to Aloe Plants
If you want to add greenery into your cat-friendly home, opt for safe, pet-approved alternatives like these:
With long, wispy leaves, spider plants are a non-toxic choice. They are low maintenance and resilient to curious cats.
Catnip and Catmint
What could be better than a plant that makes your cat delightfully hyper? Catnip and catmint are safe and beloved by most felines.
With lacy fronds and minimal mess, Boston ferns make a nice shelf plant that’s non-toxic for cats.
You can grow trays of tasty, nutritious wheatgrass for your cat to nibble on. It aids digestion.
The ponytail palm’s long leaves resemble a hairy tail. It’s cat-safe and doesn’t require much care.
With its trailing vines, pothos makes a great hanging plant. It’s non-toxic and easy to grow.
Check out a full list of cat-safe, pet-friendly houseplants for inspiration. Avoid aloe vera and other toxic varieties.
5 Tips to Keep Cats Away from Houseplants
The safest approach is simply keeping all houseplants completely out of your cat’s reach. But if you want to display greenery low, try these deterrents:
1. Use opaque containers. Cats gravitate towards loose soil they can dig in. An opaque pot with no visibility blocks this appeal.
2. Add rocks or pebbles. Cover the soil with rocks or pebbles so your cat can’t dig in it.
3. Use double-sided tape. Sticky double-sided tape on planters can deter cats from sitting or scratching there.
4. Try cat repellent sprays. Citrus, mint, or eucalyptus sprays designed to repel cats may curb interest. Apply daily.
5. Place houseplants strategically. Keep them away from cat play areas or sleep spots. Cats are less likely to interact with plants in off-limit zones.
With smart placement and deterrents, you can keep curious cats away from toxic houseplants. Remove and replace any unsafe plants.
The Takeaway: Keep Aloe Vera Away from Cats
With its bitter sap and enticing leaves, aloe vera can look like tasty greens to a cat. But it contains saponins and other compounds toxic to felines. Even small ingestions can cause concerning symptoms.
While commonly grown for its benefits, aloe vera should never be available for cats to nibble or chew. Replace plants with non-toxic options, and keep all greenery up high and out of paws’ reach.
If you suspect your cat ate some aloe vera, call your veterinarian without delay. Fast medical care can help counteract poisoning and promote full recovery. With vigilance and prompt treatment, curious cats can stay healthy despite the allure of toxic houseplants.