When your feline and leporid friends inexplicably take a bite out of a dangling palm frond, it is probably comforting to know that the indoor environment you have created is safe from toxins. So, are they safe from your Areca Palms paradise?
The Areca Palm is safe for rabbits, cats, and all other common household pets. In fact, most real palm trees are not considered poisonous to domestic animals. There are a few palm lookalikes and common indoor plants that you have to be cautious of leaving within paws’ reach.
Your biggest concern should be if your palm is safe from your furry friend! Let’s discuss some of the most famous indoor and outdoor palms that are toxic and non-toxic to your favorite fluffy friends.
Most palm varieties are commercially available as houseplants and are not toxic to pets.
The one exception is the Sago Palm which is not a palm but a cycad and is toxic to pets in all its parts. Even humans have to wear protective gear when working with the Sago Palm.
Other palm-like plants also contain toxic substances that can be harmful to the common household pet. But let’s first establish what exactly makes a plant toxic.
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Phytochemicals can be defined as chemical compounds produced by plants to help them resist external pests like bacteria, viral infections, fungi, and predatory insects or animals.
There are two reasons a plant can be poisonous, the first being because they naturally produce phytochemicals and the second that they are dangerous for other reasons.
Another reason plants can be dangerous is due to having been infected by these bacteria, viral and fungal parasites, usually through direct infestation or through the soil which the plant occupies.
So, what other palms are non-toxic to pets?
The most common household palms that are non-toxic include:
- The Parlor Palm
A small and squat palm variety that grows to about two meters in subtropical gardens and about one meter in household environments.
A bamboo-like palm with lush foliage that can grow up to two meters indoors.
- The Ponytail Palm
This beauty has a bulbous stem with many curly fronds emerging from the crown — hence the name.
While often marketed in stores as a “plant” in a pot, the majesty palm grows to 98 feet tall in its natural state. The palm has upward-arching leaves divided into long, thin fingers.
These palms have yellow-green broad, fan-shaped foliage that is carried on tall, slender stems and can grow up to 6-7 feet tall.
While the latter two palms are less likely options due to commercial unavailability, they still share traits with the former varieties.
If you own any of these varieties, you can rest assured that your cat and bunny will both be out of harm’s way.
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These are the aggressive varieties of palms that generally grow in the warmer zones of North America.
Some examples of these toxic palms include:
- Washingtonia Palm
These develop spikes and thorns of various lengths — even on their fruit. Their spiky leaves can inflict injury to both humans and pets and may cause infection if left untreated.
Their leaves also harbor harmful fungi and bacteria that can quickly spread infection through open wounds.
It is crucial to ensure proper disposal of the leaves and fruit (these can get quite large and heavy — up to 50 pounds).
Despite the apparent warning signs these palms give, some cats and rabbits forage through the fallen leaves, so be sure to dispose of them properly.
- The Fishtail palm
Although smaller than the palm mentioned above variety, these vixens produce fruit that can cause skin irritation when handled without proper protective gear.
When ingested, these fruits can cause abdominal distress.
While these toxic markers aren’t as grave a threat as Hemlock or Nightshade, they do still require some cause for concern. If you don’t have any palm varieties in our neighborhood, your cat and rabbit should be alright.
If you know of a palm in your close vicinity, it’s best to ask professional advice and set up protective measures to ensure that your cat doesn’t lose one of its seven lives.
The Sago Palm was mentioned before and deemed to be toxic enough to mention twice. So, let’s get into the details and threats this cycad poses.
The Sago Palm is a slow-growing plant with a large, ‘untidy’ stem. Its foliage consists of a few fronds that point upward, and while they don’t flower, they produce fruit and seeds.
These ‘palms’ are known to grow up to 15 feet in the right outdoor environment, and when not grown to this size, are popular as miniatures amongst the bonsai enthusiasts.
When grown as a bonsai, the Sago Palm should be placed where no animal can reach it — a separate room or greenhouse, for example — as cats could see the thick trunk as an ideal scratching post.
The seeds of this plant can be seen as a toy, through the eyes of a cat, and as a delicious fruit by a rabbit.
It’s best not to test their curiosity by letting your guard down around the plant.
The Sago palm, even the smallest variety, is toxic in every part of its being. The seeds, the most poisonous part, contain casein. Cyasin is a carcinogenic and neurotoxic substance that induces vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and liver failure.
If ingested, the severity of the symptoms will depend on your pet’s age, overall health, and how much it has ingested.
Ingestion can cause digestive irritation, severe dehydration, and impaired liver function.
If you know that your pet ingested the fruit, it’s best to contact your local vet as soon as possible.
Dracaenas are popular houseplants, and with the wide variety available, it’s easy to see some resemblance between them and palms.
The leaves of Dracaenas can be toxic to small animals, like rabbits, due to their saponin content. The substance is found in various plants and even some soaps (you’ll be happy to know it’s not toxic to humans).
The side effects of saponin poisoning are similar to cyasin. Again, it’s best advised to contact your vet if you suspect that your cat or rabbit has eaten any of the leaves. If addressed at an early stage, the treatment is relatively straightforward.
And finally, the Yucca plant has a similar appearance to a palm when they are mature. They are toxic to pets for the same reasons as the Dracaenas.
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Palms aren’t your only concern when it comes to indoor plants that may be toxic.
The two main indoor plant genera you want to keep away from your cat and rabbit include:
Together, these two account for over 500 plant species, several of which have been cultivated as houseplants.
Included in these two genera, you find the most popular — the Monstera Deliciosa.
The Monstera is known to produce calcium oxalates, a toxin found within their sap. The calcium oxalates from raphides — tiny spiked structures which, if ingested, can cause abrasions, irritation, and swelling of the respiratory tract. This could lead to difficulty breathing.
While not as severe, you still want to ensure proper treatment if ingested by rinsing the mouth and eating a frozen or solid liquid-like ice cream or jelly.
If the sap of the Monstera Deliciosa makes contact with the skin, it will cause burning and irritation, which can be alleviated by thoroughly washing the affected area with soap and lukewarm water.
It would be best if you also tried to keep the following plants away from your pets:
- Sago Palm
- Tulip/Narcissus Bulbs
- Castor Bean
- Autumn Crocus
- English Ivy
- Peace Lily (aka Mauna Loa Peace Lily)
All of these can cause mild symptoms like diarrhea, irritation, and abdominal pain, but liver and kidney failure, seizures, and death in most severe cases.
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So there you have it! Your pets are safe from Areca Palms, but some other plant varieties could prove fatal if ingested. It’s best to be aware of the lookalikes and the common indoor and outdoor plant varieties that can prove fatal to your cat and rabbit.
I’m Elsa, and I love gardening. I started GardeningElsa.com as a resource for other gardeners, and I offer expert advice on gardening topics such as plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetable gardening. On my website, I share my latest tips and tricks for creating beautiful gardens. When I’m not working on my website, you can find me in my own garden, tending to my plants and flowers. Read more about me.