When you are caring for cats, it is incredibly important to make sure that you don’t have any toxic plants around.
Cats, being the curious toddler-equivalents that they are, are very likely to take at least one bite out of any plant they come across. Some cats do it out of curiosity, while other cats may be doing it because the plants taste good.
No matter the reason, because cats are prone to eating whatever plant they can get into their mouths, you as the pet owner need to make sure that any of the plants within your cat’s reach (preferably in the whole house) are not toxic.
Can Cats Eat Bamboo Safely?
There are a lot of questions regarding this when it comes to bamboo, as the answer is not nearly as clear cut as it might seem.
While there are some sites that will give you a blanket answer of whether or not cats can eat bamboo, the truth is that it is only certain kinds of bamboo that cats can safely eat.
Some variants of bamboo are completely safe for your cat if it tries to take a bite out of it, while other variants are not that good for your cat and can result in a number of symptoms.
To make matters worse, there are a lot of plants that are referred to as “bamboo” that may be a completely separate type of plant that you need to keep track of.
To put the answer simply, you need to do more research on the specific plant in your house before you can determine if it is safe for cats. There are too many differences between bamboo species and how toxic they are for cats, and there is the whole matter of bamboo look-alikes that aren’t actually bamboo, despite the misleading name.
Staying on top of this may seem complicated at first, but it will be worth it in the long run when you can sleep comfortably knowing that if your cat takes a bite of bamboo, you won’t wake up to a suffering cat.
The Types of Bamboo Your Cat Can Eat
One of the biggest reasons why some websites will state that cats can eat bamboo is because the most notable type of bamboo, “bamboo proper” is safe for cats, although this completely disregards the tens of other plants with “bamboo” in the name.
The best way to go about checking the plants in your house and whether or not they line up with what cats can and cannot eat is going by the scientific names. For example, “bamboo proper” is scientifically known as “Phyllostachys aurea” and it is completely safe for your cat to have a nibble on. It may also be sold under the names “golden bamboo,” “fishpole bamboo,” and simply just “bamboo.”
Another type of bamboo that is safe for your cat is scientifically known as “Chamaedorea elegans” and it is actually a part of the palm family rather than the more common bamboo families. It can be found under the names of “miniature fishtail dwarf palm,” “parlor palm,” and “good luck palm.”
Be mindful that the last name is not actually “lucky bamboo,” which is a toxic form of bamboo for cats.
Finally, there are two other forms of bamboo that are safe for cats. These bamboos are found within the lily family and are somewhat closely related to each other.
Smilax Laurifolia & Smilax Walteri
Their scientific names are “smilax laurifolia” and “smilax walteri.” The first one can be found under the names of “bamboo vine,” “blaspheme vine,” and “laurel-leaved greenbrier.” The second one can be found under the names of “red-berried bamboo” and “red-berried greenbrier.”
These are the nontoxic forms of bamboo and bamboo-adjacent plants that your cat can eat.
If the bamboo plant in your house does not fall under any of these names, then you need to exercise caution about how well your cat can access it, as it may fall into the toxic forms of bamboo.
With all of these plants within the safe category, your cat can easily munch on them without having to worry about any ill effects.
The Types of Bamboo Your Cat Can’t Eat
There are really two types of bamboo that your cat cannot eat, as they are toxic to your cat.
The first one falls under the scientific name of “nandina domestica” and is a part of a group of plants known as the barberry family. This specific plant can be sold under the names of “heavenly bamboo,” “sacred bamboo,” and simply just “nandina.”
The toxic property of this plant is specifically cyanogenic glycosides, which means that it is capable of producing cyanide. The symptoms of ingestion are commonly weakness, uncoordinated movements, seizures, coma, respiratory failure, and rarely outright death.
The second type of bamboo that your cat cannot eat falls under the scientific names of “dracaena sanderiana” and it falls within the plant family responsible for asparagus. This plant can be sold under the names of “dracaena,” “corn plant,” “cornstalk plant,” “dragon tree,” “money tree,” “ribbon plant,” and “lucky bamboo.”
The toxic property of this plant are saponins, which are also known as triterpene glycosides. The symptoms of ingestion include vomiting (sometimes bloody), depression/lethargy, a lack of appetite, hypersalivation, and dilated pupils in cats.
What to Do
Both of these plants can be dangerous for your cat if you are not quick to notice the symptoms or notice that some of the leaves have been eaten.
If you own either one of these plants, you need to make sure that you either get rid of them or store them in a part of the house where you know that your cat cannot get to them, such as a room the cat is barred from or outside if your cat is exclusively an indoor cat.
It is important to pay close attention to the scientific names, as both “lucky bamboo” and “good luck palm” have similar names, but one contains chemicals relating to cyanide and the other is completely safe for your cat to nibble on.
What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Cat Ate Bamboo?
The first thing you should do is make sure that you do not panic, as this may stress your cat out.
The good news is that cats often do not eat that much of these bamboo plants, as both the toxins in them are bitter and most cats don’t appreciate bitter tastes. This means that more often than not, your cat will have unpleasant symptoms, but likely not the worst. Y
ou should still call up your vet as soon as you notice that your cat has eaten the plant and talk to your vet. Some vets will have a wait-and-see approach and others may want to see and watch your cat immediately.
You should contact your vet even if you don’t notice any symptoms appearing, as some people who have had cats who have eaten the toxic forms of bamboo have no side effects, while others may have severe ones off the bat.
It is most likely that your cat might be relatively uncomfortable until they manage to pass the plant that they ate, and then both you and your cat will have learned a lesson about having toxic plants within your cat’s mouth-reach.