Got big plans for your garden this year? I know I do, having just moved into a house where for the first time, I have a garden to get to grips with. I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and testing out my green finger (if it turns out that I have one)! It would be lovely if this time next year, I can proudly present my mum with a Mother’s Day bouquet filled with home-grown beauties. 

It’s great to make the most of your garden, but if you are a cat owner, you’ll need to be wary of what you’re planting. And if your mum is a cat owner, to also be wary of what’s in that bouquet! 

Are gardens in general safe for cats?

The first thing to point out here is that cats are not dogs – they won’t just eat anything. This can be a source of irritation for owners when trying to introduce a new diet or medication. But picky eating is a mechanism of self-preservation for a solitary species that, in the wild, must rely entirely on their own fitness to find food and defend themselves. It’s a good job that cats naturally don’t do a lot of scavenging and are selective about what they ingest. 

This means by and large, gardens in the UK are a safe space for cats to enjoy.

But poisoning can occur in cats, most often when they accidentally, not intentionally, eat something toxic. And due to their small size and a lack of certain liver enzymes, a little bit of something bad can have a very negative effect for cats.


The lily is one example of inadvertent poisoning. Cats may brush past the plant, which allows pollen to transfer to their coat, for it to be groomed off and accidently ingested later. 

But it’s worth noting that all parts of the lily are toxic to cats, from the pollen, leaves and stem to the water in the vase where the lilies have stood. Pollen-free lilies have been marketed as ‘cat-safe’, but this is not the case – the rest of the plant is still just as deadly if eaten. All plants in the Lilium (true lily) family are potentially lethal for cats.

Lily toxicity is listed as one of the top five most serious intoxications of cats. If your cat eats or licks a lily plant, they are likely to develop kidney damage which, left untreated, can lead to kidney failure and death.

Cats that are treated quickly can recover but may be left with lasting kidney damage. Therefore, it’s important to avoid having lilies in the house or garden if you own a cat, and to remove lilies from any bouquets of flowers before bringing them into your home.

Cats Protection has set up a petition calling on retailers to do more to protect cats from lilies. It can be found at   

What other spring plants should cat owners be wary of?

Daffodil, tulip, and allium bulbs contain toxins that would cause issues if your cat were to ingest them. It’s best to keep these out of reach before planting, and to plant them deep in the ground. There are toxins in the leaves and flowers too, and if you know your cat is a nibbler, it’s best to avoid planting these altogether.

There are other plants that can be harmful if eaten, and you can find a comprehensive list here.

So which plants are particularly cat-safe?

Catnip and cat grass are particularly cat friendly, and many cats especially enjoy the sensory stimulation offered by catnip. 

Other non-toxic plants for the garden include buddleia (and cats will love to watch the insect life this plant attracts), hollyhocks, roses, sunflowers, and nasturtiums. 

How will I know if my cat has eaten something poisonous?

Some of the most common things you might notice about your cat if they have eaten something toxic include:

  • Acting confused
  • Being wobbly, and uncoordinated
  • Salivating or drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fitting or seizures

What should I do if I think my cat has eaten something poisonous?

It’s important to seek veterinary advice straight away, and not to wait to see if symptoms go away on their own. If you’ve got a suspicion about what it is your cat may have eaten, let your vet know and keep your cat (and any other pets) away from the possible source of poisoning. If it’s on their paws or fur, try to prevent the cat from grooming itself further, and you might be able to attempt to remove it using mild shampoo and water. It’s important not to try to make your cat vomit, as this can create further problems or injury. 

A list of safe and non-safe plants for cats can also be found at:

Further reading: