We're getting to the root of toxic spring flowers—and experts say tulips and cats aren't a good combination.
cat sniffing a tulip with feline fine logo
Credit: volcanogirl / Shutterstock

Ahh, springtime. The birds are chirping, the tulips are in bloom. But as the saying goes, with spring showers comes toxic flowers. Wait, what?

Yep, tulips are toxic to your cat. Every part of the tulip could make your cat sick—from the bulb to the stem and the leaves. A small nibble from a curious feline probably doesn't mean a trip to the ER but, Brian Evans, DVM at Dutch says if your cat consumes a large amount of the tulip or if she eats the bulb, she'll need medical attention.

Luckily, tulips have easy-to-identify characteristics so you can help keep them out of your cat's paws—and mouth. Plus, Evans says, "There are lots of other beautiful flowers that don't cause any issues in cats like orchids, sunflowers, roses, snapdragons, Zinnia, and spring crocus." But, if your furry flower child does eat a tulip, here's what to do.

Why Are Tulips Toxic to Cats?

Tulips contain naturally occurring compounds called glycosides. A toxic glycoside found in tulips, called Tuliplin A, causes allergic reactions in humans and animals. Because humans don't typically eat tulips, our reactions are limited to irritation of the skin.

Depending on the amount ingested, the compound causes irritation to the internal tissues ranging from minor discomfort to a medical emergency.

Signs and Symptoms of Tulip Poisoning in Cats

While tulips are in the same family as other plants toxic to cats, they're typically not as deadly Evans says. "Regardless, they should not be consumed, and any part of the plant is toxic," he explains. Here are the symptoms of tulip poisoning in cats:

The prognosis of tulip poisoning in cats is typically good. The sooner you recognize the signs that your cat has eaten something poisonous and address any problems or potential problems, the better.

What To Do If Your Cat Eats a Tulip

If you think your cat has ingested any part of a tulip or is showing any signs of illness, contact your regular vet, Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661), or ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888-426-4435) to determine if she needs to be seen by a vet or if she can be treated at home. "Most cases where a cat only chewed on part of the plant do not require any treatment or mild supportive care such as anti-nausea medications," Evans says.

Curious cats have a natural affinity for pawing at new things around the house. But eating the household greenery could be a sign that your furry BFF has something else going on. "Your cat could be trying to self soothe their GI tract, so eating the tulip is a symptom of a larger problem," Evans explains.

If your cat typically tries to eat non-food items, that's called pica and could indicate nutritional deficiencies in minerals, vitamins, or fiber. It's best to get your kitty evaluated by your veterinarian to ensure curiosity is to blame and there isn't another issue at hand.

Other Flowers and Plants To Keep Away From Your Cat

Hyacinths and lilies share a similar toxic chemical make-up to tulips, so it's best to keep these spring blooms out of paws reach, too. If you're looking to nip all toxic plants in the bud, we've put together a lengthy list of houseplants to avoid.

Infographic showing the top ten toxic plants for pets
Credit: Kailey Whitman

If your favorite feline has a habit of chewing, nibbling, or swallowing household plants, experts say she might like (and benefit from) some cat grass, which is safe for kitty to consume. However, if your cat is developing an obsession with eating greenery, it's best to take her to the vet for a check up to rule out any health conditions.