Cats are curious creatures who have been known to consume houseplants such as asparagus ferns. They do it for a variety of reasons, including enjoyment of the taste, boredom, or to supplement their diet with nutrients they may be lacking.
It’s a good idea to check if new house plants are safe for your cat before introducing them into your home.
So, are asparagus ferns toxic to cats?
Yes, asparagus ferns are toxic to cats. The ASPCA warns that if your cat eats the asparagus fern’s berries or leaves, it may endure vomiting, diarrhoea, and gastrointestinal problems.
This article will tell you about how toxic are asparagus ferns to cats and how can you keep them away from it.
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What Are Asparagus Ferns?
Asparagus setaceus, commonly known as common asparagus fern, asparagus grass, or ferny asparagus, is a climbing plant in the genus Asparagus. Despite its common name, the plant is not a true fern, but has leaves that resemble one.
Asparagus fern is a scrambling perennial herb with strong green stems and leaves that can reach a length of several metres.
The leaves are actually leaf-like cladodes with a diameter of 0.1 mm that grow in bunches of up to 15 from the stem, forming a delicate, soft green fern-like foliage.
On the stem, there are sharp barbed thorns. The small greenish-white bell-shaped flowers are 0.4 cm long and are followed by small green berries that blacken with maturity. They bloom from spring to October.
It is native to Southern Africa, reaching as far south as Calitzdorp in the Karoo in the west. It is grown as an ornamental plant in other parts of the world.
In numerous places where it has been introduced, it has become an invasive species.
Asparagus fern is grown as a decorative plant for use in gardens and pots, as well as for use as a houseplant.
The lovely leaves can also be found in floral arrangements. It is a hardy plant that adapts well to cultivation.
Because of its resilience, it has become a weed in Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. The North Coast of New South Wales, as well as Queensland, Australia, see it as an invasive species and harmful weed.
The Royal Horticultural Society has given this plant the Award of Garden Merit.
This plant’s fruit (berries) are poisonous and should not be consumed.
Can Cats Eat Asparagus?
No, cats cannot eat asparagus as they are toxic to cats according to ASPCA.
When we talk about asparagus fern types, we usually mean the common asparagus fern (Asparagus setaceus) and the Sprenger’s asparagus fern (Asparagus sp). (Asparagus densiflorus.)
Both types are recognised for their feathery, fernlike branches, brilliant red or purple berries, and little white blooms and are hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 and above.
Unfortunately, asparagus ferns are deadly to cats, so keep them away from your feline friends whether you grow them as landscape plants or houseplants. Contact with the plant, as well as ingestion, can be harmful to your cat.
If consumed, steroidal saponins found in asparagus ferns can cause gastrointestinal upset in cats. If these plants come into contact with a cat’s skin, they can cause an allergic reaction.
The asparagus fern, also known as the emerald feather or emerald fern, plumosa fern, or lace fern, is a Liliaceae family member native to South Africa.
It isn’t technically a fern, but its lacelike long leaves give it the appearance of one, making it perfect for use in hanging pots or as ground cover.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, asparagus ferns can be grown as houseplants in bright, sunny settings.
Both the leaves and the berries of asparagus ferns contain compounds that are harmful to cats, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
The plant’s principal poisons, particularly in the berries, are steroidal saponins. According to the Cornell University Department of Animal Science, these saponins include the aglycone sapogenin, which is poisonous to animals and has a bitter taste.
Is Asparagus Fern Cat- Friendly?
No, asparagus fern is not cat-friendly.
Asparagus fern is a decorative plant with dense fern-like foliage that can be used as an interior ornamental plant or grown in gardens outdoors in warm areas.
It is more closely linked to the asparagus family than to the fern family.
The shrub produces small white blooms in the spring, followed by small red berries. If your cat eats these berries, he or she may have gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhoea. Canines and people alike can get a rash from repeated skin contact with the sap.
When consumed, the Asparagus fern’s berries can cause gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhoea, and the sap can create a contact rash in cats.
To keep your curious kitty away from any asparagus fern plants in your garden, use netting and fence or place baskets out of reach.
If your cat comes into contact with the asparagus fern’s leaves, the toxic saponin-based sap can cause skin swelling and blisters.
The ASPCA warns that if your cat eats the asparagus fern’s berries or leaves, it may endure vomiting, diarrhoea, and gastrointestinal problems.
Contact your veterinarian straight away if your cat has come into contact with an asparagus fern and has munched on its leaves or even eaten asparagus fern berries.
To aid with dehydration caused by vomiting or diarrhoea, your veterinarian may need to rinse your cat’s skin or the inside of its mouth, as well as administer supportive treatment in the form of intravenous fluids. The veterinarian may also prescribe topical treatments to relieve skin irritation.
Cats are somewhat poisoned by chemicals found in raw asparagus shoots. The reactions are nearly always moderate allergy reactions that aren’t life-threatening.
Harvest shoots when they are between 6 and 10 inches (15 to 25cm) tall and the buds are still securely closed to avoid a harmful reaction.
To remove any toxins, wash the shoots under cold running water to remove any dirt, and then steam, stir-fry, or grill them for a few minutes before eating.
Cats who are frequently exposed to the plant or its shoots, as well as those that have a known asparagus allergy, are more likely to develop a toxic reaction to asparagus.
To keep cats, other pets, and small children from eating asparagus berries, keep the plants cut at the bottom of the stalks and keep cats and pets away from the plants as much as possible.
Symptoms Of Asparagus Poisoning In Cats
Symptoms of asparagus poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea in cats.
Ingestion of the Asparagus fern causes modest symptoms that are usually only seen when the berries are consumed.
Transient allergic dermatitis can be caused by repeated exposure to the plant’s sap.
Symptoms Of Ingestion
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms Of Dermal Reaction
The Asparagus fern is poisonous because of a naturally occurring steroid called sapogenin, which is concentrated in vivid red berries.
This steroid is the source of the cat’s stomach upset as well as the sap’s cutaneous reaction. The sap’s skin reactions are usually short-lived, but they tend to get worse with repeated encounters.
How To Diagnose Asparagus Fern Poisoning In Cats?
To diagnose asparagus fern poisoning in cats, try to look for remaining plant material around your cat’s face and take her to the vet.
If you notice your cat eating the Asparagus fern, identifying the plant is typically all that’s needed to figure out what’s causing the problem.
If you were not present when the plant was consumed, your veterinarian may recommend a visit to the office based on the symptoms you are experiencing.
Any opportunistic eating your cat may have done, as well as any concurrent prescriptions or supplements your cat is currently receiving will be noted by your veterinarian. This data is utilised to rule out the possibility of drug interactions or other poisons.
To rule out any infections, poisons, or imbalances, a biochemistry profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis will almost certainly be performed.
At this point, any dermatitis areas caused by sap contact will be investigated. If your cat has swallowed enough plant material to cause vomiting, the vomitus will be inspected and tested for poisons as well. The presence of plant debris in the vomit could assist confirm the diagnosis.
How To Treat Asparagus Fern Poisoning In Cats?
To treat asparagus fern poisoning in cats, first, rinse her mouth with water thoroughly and then take her to the vet for further treatment.
To eliminate as much of the toxin from exposed tissue as possible, treatment usually begins with a thorough rinse of the mouth with clean water.
Exposure dermatitis can be avoided by rinsing any skin that has come into touch with the sap. Your cat may also benefit from an ice cube to alleviate slight pain and swelling in the mouth.
Most canines will avoid consuming much of the actual substance due to the discomfort and foul taste of the plant, thus washing the mouth area thoroughly may be all that is required.
If your cat’s reaction is more severe, your veterinarian will prescribe an anti-inflammatory or pain treatment to help minimise swelling and discomfort.
If your cat is having a lot of vomiting or diarrhoea, your veterinarian may recommend that you visit their office for some supportive care.
To prevent dehydration, an IV fluid therapy will be given at the veterinarian’s office, and if an antihistamine has not been given before, it will be given as an intramuscular injection at this time.
For their gastroprotective characteristics, medications like Imodium or Pepcid AC may be prescribed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of asparagus ferns are toxic to cats?
There are two types of Asparagus fern, both of which have moderately poisonous characteristics and look very similar. Both Asparagus densiflorus and Asparagus aethiopicus are native to southern Africa and were formerly mistaken for one another. The Asparagus aethiopicus is the more common variety and is slightly more hardy in cold conditions. They thrive in tropical and subtropical areas, where they can be planted in gardens or grown as an indoor ornamental plant. The rich feathery plumes are very popular as a flower arrangement accent. Various names have been given to these plants, including Emerald feather, Emerald fern, Foxtail fern, Lace fern, Plume asparagus, Plumosa Fern, Sprengeri fern and Sprenger’s Asparagus.
How long does cats take to recover from asparagus fern poisoning?
The effects will usually fade away within a few hours. Excessive nausea and vomiting can be caused by higher-than-normal doses or a sensitivity to the chemical in the berries. Withholding food until vomiting has stopped for at least 12 hours is common early therapy for cats with stomach distress, and this may be what your veterinarian suggests. This method is frequently successful in allowing the cat’s stomach muscles to recuperate from the vomiting. During this period, modest amounts of water and crushed ice should be provided often. Only soft, bland foods should be administered for the next 24 hours after the initial withholding period. One readily digestible carbohydrate and a modest protein source would make up the optimum recovery diet. Cooked rice, pasta, or potatoes are examples of suitable carbs. Unseasoned boiled ground beef, non-fat cottage cheese, or skinless white chicken meat would be good choices for the protein.
What to do if cat had ingested asparagus fern?
If you discover or believe that your cat has eaten berries from an Asparagus fern, call the Pet Poison Hotline at (855) 764-7661. Alternatively, you should immediately contact your local veterinarian and inform them that your cat has consumed the plant. They will then direct you as to what you should do.
You must have realised from reading the article that Asparagus ferns are extremely poisonous and deadly to cats. Because some cats enjoy gnawing and eating these plants, you should be cautious about where you put them, especially indoors. If you want to ensure that your cat is absolutely safe, you should remove the plant entirely and consider a safer substitute.
If you have any questions, ask us in the comments section.