Flowers For Felines Explained: Are Tulips Poisonous To Cats?

Akinwalere Olaleye
Oct 19, 2023 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Oct 31, 2021
Cute cat smelling yellow tulips in a vase

Tulips are beautiful flowers but eating this flower can cause you to have to take your cat to the vet.

Beautiful, vibrant tulip flowers make every space look and feel bright. But if our pets interact with this plant, their experience might not be as pleasant.

Cats are curious and inquisitive beings. They love to jump around and sniff things.

If your pet cat is allowed to roam outside the house, it will most definitely be found sniffing and nibbling plants. It might also ingest certain parts of the plant like leaves and stems.

This shouldn't concern you in the case of most plants. But if you have a patch of tulips growing in your garden or in the neighborhood, you need to be careful about keeping your felines away from them.

Ingesting any part of the tulip plant can have serious consequences on the health of cats. After reading all about if tulips are poisonous and harmful to your cat's health, do read about if peonies are poisonous to cats and if roses are poisonous to cats.

Why are tulips toxic?

The Tulipa genus species of flowers, to which tulips belong, is toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. Tulips contain toxic chemicals called glycosides which are harmful to the health of cats.

Specifically, tulipalin A and tulipalin B toxins pose the highest health risk to cats. Nibbling on any part of the tulip plant is poisonous to cats. The tulipalin compound causes irritation in the delicate membranes of their mouth and esophagus.

If the ingested amount is small, it can cause mild discomfort to our feline friends. They might start to drool excessively as additional saliva is produced by their bodies to flush out toxins.

Mild toxicity can sometimes also cause diarrhea. Your cat may also show irritability in other ways by being fussier and noisier than usual. It is your cat's way of seeking help and care from its humans.

A severe case of tulip poisoning can occur if a large number of toxins are ingested by cats. Severe poisoning irritates the gastrointestinal tracts of cats which leads to nausea and vomiting.

The cat can also have difficulty breathing normally. As the poisoning progresses, symptoms can get worse.

Severe tulip poisoning can cause central nervous system depression. Lethargy, sleepiness and lack of coordination are all signs of central nervous system depression. In extreme cases, untreated tulip poisoning can result in seizures and a coma.

If you ever find your curious feline friends playing with tulips, take them to the vet immediately to check for tulip poisoning. Timely treatment can prevent symptoms from getting worse.

Which parts of the tulip are most poisonous to cats?

Unfortunately, all parts of tulip plants are poisonous to cats. Even a small nibble of leaves of the plant can irritate their mucous membranes. It is important for owners to know that flowers like tulips are toxic to cats.

Toxic to cats means that if tulips are consumed and get inside the stomach, it can be fatal. It is advised to not keep certain plants, particularly lilies (Liliaceae), indoors, because indoors flower petals may fall on the floor and your animals may eat them.

It will poison your animals. It can cause dehydration.

It is important for the owner to keep an eye on such situations to avoid a pet ingesting poison.

If the cat's owners or the family suspect that the pet has consumed something it shouldn't have, it is important to contact the veterinary clinic for help. The clinical help from the veterinary doctor will confirm if your pet has any pollen inside its body or if there is something wrong particularly that upset the pet.

Concentration of toxins varies across different parts of the plant. It can help us to know which parts, if ingested, can lead to a severe case of poisoning. The highest concentration of toxins tulipalin A and tulipalin B is found in bulbs or roots of tulip plants.

The toxin concentration reduces as we go higher up the flower. The stem, leaves, pollen and flower portion contain toxins in lower amounts. As such, tulip bulbs are the most poisonous to cats.

What are the causes of tulip poisoning in cats?

Tulip poisoning is caused in cats due to the presence of certain toxic compounds in the plant, as we have mentioned earlier. This group of toxins called tulipalin can be further classified into two types: tulipalin A and tulipalin B.

This substance is a defense mechanism of the plant. It is an allergen that is produced by the plant to ward off herbivores that might eat it. Unfortunately, our feline friends might suffer bad consequences if they ingest parts of the plant while playing.

Tulipalin compounds are also present in hyacinths. Tulips can cause allergies to humans as well. Ingestion of smaller amounts of the tulipalin compound causes mild poisoning in cats. Symptoms of mild tulip poisoning are labored breathing, excessive drooling, and in some cases, diarrhea. 

If left untreated, however, the poisoning can be more severe. In most cases, the illness is not severe as cats are more likely to ingest fallen petals or leaves, which contain smaller amounts of toxins. Severe tulip poisoning usually occurs due to ingesting multiple bulbs of tulip plants at once, since they contain the maximum amount of toxins.

It can cause vomiting, nausea, and central nervous system depression in cats, which is usually the reason why cats show a lack of coordination skills when infected. It also makes cats lethargic and sleepy.

If left untreated, it can further lead to a coma and seizures as well. It is best to take your pet cat to the vet as soon as you spot even a mild symptom from the aforementioned list.

How do you stop your cat from eating tulips?

It is not known if cats like tulips or not per se, but knowing the toxicity of tulip plants, it becomes important to find ways of stopping our feline friends from eating them. The best way to keep our cats safe would be to avoid having tulips in our house or planting them in our gardens.

However, if that doesn’t seem possible, or you need to have the beautiful plants for a certain occasion as a décor element, you could think of ways to keep them away from your cat. One way is to create a fence around these plants.

This should be a fence that cats cannot cross and covers all parts of tulip plants.

You could think of creating a mesh-like structure around your plants in the garden. Another way would be to have potted plants or plants kept for decorative purposes at locations where your cat would not wander.

Basically, you will need to create a cat-restricted zone where you either plant tulips or keep them for any other purpose. You could also try to introduce certain odors in your garden, which you like but would be unpleasant for cats, and hence, keep them away.

Citrus odors from plants like citronella, lemon, lemongrass, or orange could do the trick.

If you are wondering about which flowers are safe for cats, you may choose from roses, orchids, sunflowers, asters, celosias and many others.

Can tulips kill my cat?

In most cases, tulips will not kill your cat. This is because cats will usually be attracted to flowers and leaves of tulip plants, as they are above ground and attractive.

Thankfully, these parts of the plant also happen to be the ones that contain only a small amount of the harmful tulipalin A and tulipalin B compounds. Since ingesting small amounts of these toxic compounds is not fatal, your cat will not die.

But you need to know that there is also a possibility of death in case of severe poisoning. In case of severe poisoning, the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system and the central nervous system are affected all at once.

This makes their immune system weak.

Symptoms worsen from mild discomfort to severe discomfort. The earliest symptoms of mild discomfort are excessive drooling and diarrhea, which you need not worry much about, as long as you take your cat to the vet as soon as you notice these symptoms.

But if these symptoms worsen so much that your cat becomes lethargic, starts vomiting or littering outside its litter box, and starts to show signs of lack of coordination while doing normal activities like walking, it means the poisoning has reached a severe state.

Severe poisoning is rare but could cause seizures, a coma, and depression in cats. It could also cause death in very severe cases.

What are the long-term effects of tulip poisoning?

Effects of tulip poisoning vary according to the overall health of the cat. In most cases, however, the major long-term impact is only gastric upset, which can be treated.

Young kittens, elderly cats, pregnant or nursing cats, or cats who were already suffering from ill health might be more susceptible to the effect of phytotoxins present in tulips. Cats who suffer from vomiting due to the poisoning become dehydrated, which causes further problems.  Most cats will recover from the poisoning within a week.

Treatment Of Tulip Poisoning In Cats

When you take your cat to the vet for treatment, the vet will generally check the cat's vitals and ask about its medical history. There may be questions about your cat’s lifestyle. It is important that you provide a detailed description of any symptoms and overall state of health.

If possible, you should also take a sample of the ingested material to the vet which will help the vet make a better diagnosis. Treatment of tulip poisoning varies according to the level of poisoning that has occurred.

Treatment for tulip poisoning usually involves treating gastric upset and providing additional fluids.

Extra fluids address dehydration and increase the heart rate that is caused due to vomiting and diarrhea as well as help in flushing out the toxins. For best results, fluids may be given to the cat by intravenous drip.

The process might be scary and uncomfortable for your cat, but it is the best way to help it. The vet may also decide to give your cat a preparation with activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal absorbs toxins present in the cat's stomach, preventing them from entering the cat’s bloodstream. Your cat may regurgitate this and the black vomiting can be alarming, but it is not a cause for concern. Black charcoal is one of the most helpful substances for tulip poisoning treatment for your cat.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for are tulips poisonous to cats then take a look at are cats noses supposed to be wet, or Somali cat facts.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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