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Is Coleus Toxic to Cats? Vet Approved Advice

Written by: Chelsea Mortensen

Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Colorful coleus leaves

Is Coleus Toxic to Cats? Vet Approved Advice

VET APPROVED

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

BVMS, MRCVS (Veterinarian)

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

Learn more »

Even if you don’t know it, you probably have seen beautiful coleus plants in people’s homes and gardens. These colorful plants are common staples because of their beauty, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely safe for cats. The oils in coleus leaves can actually be dangerous to cats, and it’s important to watch your cats to prevent poisoning.

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What is Coleus?

Coleus amboinicus is a common indoor and outdoor plant known by many names. It’s recognizable for its serrated, teardrop-shaped, or almond-shaped leaves that are bright and showy. Many varieties of coleus have patterns of purple, yellow, and green on their leaves that make them stand out in a garden.

The plants can be indoor or outdoor and annual or perennial, depending on your climate and home. It’s also common to “overwinter” coleus plants, planting them outdoors for most of the year and transferring them to indoor pots during the coldest months.

<strong>Common names for Coleus plants:</strong>
  • Bread and butter plant
  • Country borage
  • East Indian thyme
  • Indian borage
  • Spanish thyme
  • Stringing thyme
potted coleus blumei velvet plant
Image Credit: Firn, Shutterstock

Causes of Coleus Poisoning

Coleus is known for its beautiful leaves, but it also produces an irritating essential oil that can cause poisoning in people, cats, and dogs. Contact poisoning happens when the skin comes into contact with coleus. It’s less common in cats because of their protective fur coats, but it can still occasionally occur.

Signs of contact poisoning include a rash, redness, irritation, and itchy or painful skin. You might also see the signs on your cat’s tongue, gums, and lips, along with excessive drooling if your cat nibbles on the coleus or grooms after getting the oils on their fur.

Gastrointestinal irritation occurs when your cat eats coleus as well. This happens when the oils in the plant irritate the digestive system. It can include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and occasionally bloody stool or vomit. According to the ASPCA, depression and anorexia are also possible signs of coleus poisoning.

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Coleus and Essential Oil Poisoning

Essential oils are dangerous to cats, whether they are an irritant or not, since cats can’t process them. Some sources suggest that liver damage, difficulty breathing, or seizures are possible signs. Although cats are in danger from all types of essential oil exposure, we couldn’t find reliable sources linking the oils in coleus to these more extreme reactions.

a cat that feels sick and seems to vomit
Image by: chie hidaka, Shutterstock

Treatment and Prevention

If you own indoor coleus plants, keep them out of reach of cats. Because most cats aren’t particularly interested in coleus when given the choice, outdoor plants are usually safe unless your cat shows a special interest in them.

Most of the signs of coleus poisoning are mild, and most gastrointestinal reactions and skin irritation can be monitored at home. However, if your cat eats several leaves of the plant or shows severe poisoning signs, contact a vet immediately. They include bloody stools or vomit, seizures, difficulty breathing, or difficulty moving.

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Last Thoughts

Coleus is a beautiful plant, but it’s best to be cautious around it because of the dangerous oils. Skin and intestinal irritation are painful and potentially dangerous side effects of contact with coleus, and it’s vital to protect your cat from these dangers.

See Also: 


Featured Image Credit: Alexei, Pixabay

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