It is one of the paradoxes of nature that substances we use as a cure (in smaller amounts) can often poison us in larger amounts. Aloe Vera is a famous medicinal plant, and many of us grow it at home. What many people do not know though, is that Aloe is toxic to cats, and can cause them issues ranging from lethargy and loss of appetite to serious diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. But there are also a lot of myths surrounding cats and aloes, such as cats are attracted to these plants, and you should not grow them at home when you have a cat. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Before we look at the facts & myths, let me clarify why Aloe Vera is toxic to cats. Raw Aloe–that means the plant you have at home, not some product you get in a shop–contains anthracene, glycosides, and anthraquinones, substances that can cause significant irritation to GI tract of both humans and cats. Hence if your cat eats some Aloe, it will likely experience the symptoms of food poisoning, such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. The severity of the symptoms depends on two factors: the amount of Aloe consumed, and the individual predispositions of a cat. Just like each human being has unique gut flora and stomach, so has each cat. Some cats may show no reaction whatsoever (or only a very mild one) to a contact with Aloe, others may develop serious symptoms even when they eat just a small part of the plant.
Cats aren’t attracted to Aloe plants, and won’t eat them in normal circumstances
Cats are intelligent animals, and their instincts rarely betray them. In normal circumstances, they won’t go and eat things that can harm them, such as Aloe Plant. Normal circumstances mean that your feed your cat well, it doesn’t experience stomach discomfort due to parasites (cats seek plants of any kind when having parasites in their gut), and has some points of interest in the house, such as balls of wool, toys, other animals it can play with.
Cats won’t just go and eat Aloe for no reason. They are obligate carnivores, they will not take interest in the Aloe unless there’s something wrong, or they are bored and find the plant the most interesting thing in the room/house. I just wanted to write this to make sure we bust the myth that cats are attracted to toxic plants like Aloe and you should not have the two in the same room. Because that’s just no true. Aloe Vera is an amazing succulent, and having a cat should not stop you from growing it.
Symptoms of poisoning from Aloe typically manifest quickly
Just like any other irritation of GI tract, poisoning with Aloe will show itself pretty much within hours of the incident of your cat eating the plant. As I’ve already written, the severity of the response depends on the quantity it ingested, as well as the individual GI health and overall health of the cat in question. Some cats may vomit once, some repeatedly, some may show other symptoms such as diarrhea or simply showing discomfort and acting abnormally.
It is important to know this, since some people mistakenly blame Aloe for problems of their cat. What I try to say here is that if you saw your cat taking one small bite of your Aloe on Monday, and it starts cramping and vomiting on Friday, you should look elsewhere for the reasons of the problem. Also if your cat barely touched the plant with its tail, it’s not going to experience the GI tract issues.
Just like with other GI problems, vet will only treat the symptoms–but you should still visit them if the symptoms are severe
There’s no magical cure to Aloe Vera poisoning in cats. Vet cannot give your cat some magical pill or injection that will somehow neutralize the toxins from Aloe. Once the GI tract has been irritated and the cat experiences symptoms, the treatment is focused on addressing the symptoms, and making sure your cat does not suffer some worse problem in a chain of cause and effect, such as a serious dehydration.
As a rule of a thumb, if you are not sure, you should always visit the vet. They’re the professional, know your cat (and its medical history), and can suggest the remedies you should take. Many times they will simply recommend a bland diet, that means foods that cause minimal irritation to GI tract of your cat, to not further aggravate the issue. The symptoms will eventually subside, and the cat will feel good again.
Precautions you can take to minimize the chances of your cat getting poisoned with Aloe Vera
In my experience with animals, the best thing you can do is to make sure your cat has no reason to hang around your Aloe Plant. You can do a few things here: Make sure it is well fed, and always have some points of interest, some things it can play with–balls of wood, toys for cats, or you :).
Secondly, it is good to have some grass ready, either in a bowl or in a glass with water always. Just as we humans experience GI discomfort sometimes so do cats. Their reaction is eating something green, ideally grass. But if there’s no grass and no plant they find more attractive in the house, if the only plant in their reach is Aloe Vera, you cannot wonder they take a bite from it.
Last but not least, you can try to place your Aloe in a spot that your cat cannot reach easily. Of course a healthy can with good body weight can jump almost anywhere, so it is naive thinking that placing your Aloe on a table one meter high will prevent the cat from reaching it. If you hang the pot from the roof, however, or place your Aloe in a room that’s locked when you’re not at home and a cat cannot get inside, you should be good to go.
Aloe Vera is poisonous to cats, but it should not discourage you from growing this beautiful succulent. As long as you take the precautions I just mentioned, the chances of your cat poisoning with Aloe are super slim. Even if it ingests part of the plant, the symptoms should not bother it for too long, and you can always consult the vet to help address them. Thank you for reading, and good luck with both your pets and plants!
* Disclaimer: The content on this page is for general information purposes only. We are pet and plant lovers (and have real life experience with cats and succulents), but we aren’t medical professionals. Hence we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the information contained on this website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. If you aren’t sure, contact a vet or other professional.
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