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Are Geraniums Poisonous to Cats? Common Houseplants Examined

Written by: Caroline Bonin

Last Updated on June 11, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

geranium flowers in white pot

Are Geraniums Poisonous to Cats? Common Houseplants Examined


Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo


Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’re a cat lover who also loves plants, you already understand the importance of knowing which plants are toxic to your cat. Potted plants can be a lovely way to brighten up your home’s interior, but if you have pets, you need to be careful which ones you choose.

Geraniums may not be your best option, as they are mildly poisonous to cats.

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What Are Geraniums?

A geranium is a common houseplant that boasts beautiful blooms in an array of colors, and it’s most often seen in bright red. Geraniums have a pleasant, floral scent that is prized for essential oils and beauty products. Because they are safe for human consumption, they can be found in jams, jellies, and salad toppings.

As houseplants, they can make a beautiful addition to your shelf, window box, or garden. They flourish during the summer but can be brought indoors during the winter and will do well in a pot.

However, if you’re a cat owner who brings your geraniums inside, you will need to ensure they are kept in a location where your cat can’t access them. We’ll walk you through the signs that can occur when your cat eats a geranium and what you can do about it.

geranium flowers
Image by: Piqsels

What Happens When a Cat Eats a Geranium?

If your cat loves to snack on plants,  it’s in good company. Studies show that as many as 83% of cats will eat plants every once in a while. This could be an old instinct leftover from their days as wild animals, perhaps out of a need for a certain nutrient or to control intestinal parasites. Nowadays, it’s a habit that could land you both in the vet’s office.

Geraniums may be attractive to cats because of their scent. But even if your kitty isn’t much of an herbivore, you might want to pass on these flowers. Geraniums contain two toxins: geraniol and linalool. These substances are often used to repel mosquitos, but they can also have an adverse effect on your cat.

If you suspect your cat has eaten geraniums, check it for these signs:

  • Irritation on the skin and in the mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression or lethargy

These signs will probably be mild and pass quickly if your cat has only eaten a few petals. If they have managed to eat multiple plants, it could be much more serious.

Cat vomiting
Image by: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

What to Do When Your Cat Eats a Geranium

If your cat happens to munch on a geranium, don’t panic. Stay calm for your kitty and take the following steps:

  • Get your cat away from the plant immediately.
  • Use a damp towel to clean its mouth, inside and out.
  • Call your vet or the ASPCA poison control center, even if the cat isn’t showing symptoms.
  • If instructed to go to the vet, bring a sample of the plant with you, if applicable.
  • If instructed to stay home, follow your vet’s instructions and watch your kitty to make sure its symptoms don’t worsen.

In all likelihood, your cat’s symptoms will be mild, and the discomfort will pass after an hour or two. If your cat is experiencing mild skin irritation around the mouth or has vomited once but is otherwise acting as it normally would, don’t be alarmed. Keep an eye on your pet and ensure the signs don’t continue or intensify.

Always call your vet if you aren’t sure whether your cat’s behavior is normal or not. It never hurts to let them know what happened and get an expert opinion on the matter.

nebelung cat in vet clinic
Image by: Juice Flair, Shutterstock

Which Geraniums Are Toxic to Cats?

Not every geranium will have a poisonous effect on cats when ingested. However, scented geraniums, or Pelargonium spp., are poisonous to cats.

One geranium that is non-toxic is the cranesbill, or Geranium spp. Cranebills don’t look exactly like scented geraniums, but they have beautiful blooms that come in eye-popping colors. Since they’re extremely easy to grow and named for their resilience, cranesbills make for gorgeous groundcover and will bloom prolifically over a long period. Many hardy geraniums will flourish in containers indoors, as well.

Cranesbills are safe to have around cats, and they add bright colors to your home or garden.

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Non-Toxic Plants Your Cat Will Love

If you’re looking for houseplants that will spruce up your home and make your cats happy at the same time, you have plenty of options that are both safe and aesthetically pleasing. A few plants you might want to invest in are:

  • Catnip: It’s an obvious choice but also an absolute classic and all-around crowd-pleaser.
  • Lemongrass: If you like geraniums for their mosquito-repelling qualities, you’ll love lemongrass. It smells amazing, too!
  • Valerian: With beautiful blooms and a pleasant scent, a valerian plant could be a great swap for geranium.
  • Spider plant: Easy to grow, non-toxic, and fun to look at, spider plants make a zany addition to any space.

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Since scented geraniums are toxic to cats, you may wish to keep them out of your home and garden entirely. There are many alternatives that look as beautiful and smell as pleasant as scented geraniums, so you have plenty of choices. If you do choose to grow them, make sure they stay in a place your cat can’t access. Keeping them out of reach of your cat will keep it happy, healthy, and away from the vet’s office!

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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