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Are Sunflowers Toxic To Cats? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

cat smelling a sunflower
Image Credit: scarlett1991, Pixabay
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Elizabeth Gray

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	Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

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

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Bright, colorful, and towering far above most of our heads in their natural growth state, sunflowers are the kind of bloom that makes a statement. If you’re a cat owner, however, you’re probably wondering if you can make a statement with sunflowers without endangering your cat. Luckily, sunflowers are not considered toxic to cats, so you can enjoy their beauty with (almost) no cause for worry.

In this article, we’ll talk about why you still shouldn’t let your cat regularly snack on sunflowers even though they’re non-toxic. We’ll also let you know some popular flowers that are dangerous for your cat and how to keep your kitty safe.

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Sunflowers: Non-Toxic But Not A Good Snack

According to the ASPCA, sunflowers are non-toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. While you don’t have to worry about deadly consequences if your cat ingests parts of the sunflower, they could still suffer some digestive upset.

Cats have a hard time digesting raw plant materials. Eating a large number of sunflowers could result in vomiting or diarrhea. If you suspect your cat has been chewing on a sunflower, keep a close eye on them. Most of the time, their tummy trouble should resolve quickly once they stop eating the flowers.

Contact your veterinarian if your cat stops eating or their symptoms don’t get better in a day or two. Make sure to let them know about the sunflower eating as well.

sunflower close up
Image Credit: pixel2013, Pixabay

What About Sunflower Seeds?

All parts of the sunflower are non-toxic, including the seeds. So, in theory, your cat could safely eat sunflower seeds. Again, there’s the possibility that eating too many seeds could lead to stomach upset. In addition, because cats don’t chew their food well, the small sunflower seeds could be a choking hazard. Plus, if you have bought a package of sunflower seeds from the supermarket, they are likely covered in salt, so keep an eye out for excess sodium intake.

Never let your cat eat sunflower seed shells, however. The rough shells could irritate their digestive tract while eating too many could lead to a blockage.

If your cat goes outside, they could encounter sunflower shells in spilled birdseed or even from sunflowers themselves planted outdoors. Again, if you notice signs such as your cat not eating, losing weight, or routinely vomiting and having diarrhea, contact your veterinarian.

sunflower seeds
Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

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Flowers To Avoid If You Have Cats

Sunflowers may be safe but some other common and popular flowers are not. Here are some flowers and plants to avoid if you have cats:

  • Lilies
  • Azaleas
  • Daffodils
  • Tulips
  • Oleander
  • Hyacinth
  • Mums
  • Sago Palm

If you’re ever uncertain if a plant is safe for cats, consult your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants.

In the event your cat ingests a toxic plant, your veterinarian will need to identify it for proper treatment. Try to bring a sample of the plant with you when you take your cat to the vet. Depending on the type of toxin ingested, you might notice signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, tremors, or trouble breathing.

cat beside a sunflower in a vase
Image Credit: Froeschle, Pixabay

Keeping Your Cat Safe

Even if you avoid keeping any toxic plants in the house, your cat could still be at risk.

As curious as they are, cats could easily knock over a vase or potted plant, creating a danger of injury from shattered glass or ceramic. Keep plants on a shelf or room out of reach of cats or use a hanging basket to display them.

Many fertilizers and pesticides are toxic to cats, even if the plants they’re feeding or protecting are not. Avoid using these products or look for organic, all-natural versions that may be safer (read labels to make sure).

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Sunflowers are sure to brighten any room they are in and can be especially cheery during gloomy winter months. While every cat owner has to be cautious about what kind of plants they have around the house, sunflowers are one option that can safely co-exist with kitties with minimal precautions. If you want to enjoy the many health benefits of having plants in your living space, sunflowers are a safe and colorful option for you and your cat.

Featured Image Credit: scarlett1991, Pixabay

About the Author

Elizabeth Gray
Elizabeth Gray
Elizabeth Gray is a lifelong lover of all creatures great and small. She got her first cat at 5 years old and at 14, she started working for her local veterinarian. Elizabeth spent more than 20 years working as a veterinary nurse before stepping away to become a stay-at-home parent to her daughter. Now, she is excited to share her hard-earned knowledge (literally--she has scars) with our readers. Elizabeth lives in Iowa with her family, including her two fur kids, Linnard, a husky mix and Algernon, the worldʻs most patient cat. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching all sports but especially soccer, and spending time outdoors with her family.

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