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Can Cats Eat Carnations? Health & Toxicity Explained

beautiful pink carnation flower
Image Credit: Wien_stad, Pixabay
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Chantelle Fowler

Is there anything as lovely as having a fresh-cut flower display in your home? The bright colors and beautiful blooms of flowers like carnations can increase the positive vibes in your home and ease stress.1 Is it safe to have a bouquet of carnations in your home if you have curious cats running around, though? Will these stunning flowers hurt your cat if they eat them? The answer is no, cats should not eat carnations, as they are toxic, though not as severely as other plants and flowers.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know before you bring home a stunning carnation arrangement.

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Are Carnations Toxic to Cats?

The sweet-smelling and ruffled blooms of carnations are beautiful to look at but toxic to both pets and humans. The good news is that they are considered minimally hazardous, especially when we compare them to plants like lilies that can cause potentially fatal kidney failure.

Every part of the carnation—stem, leaves, and petals—could cause harm if ingested.

Like other plants in the Dianthus species, Carnations have triterpenoid saponins in their sap. The sap can cause dermatitis (skin inflammation) if it comes into contact with the skin. If your cat consumes the saponins, it may experience discomfort in its esophagus, stomach, and lower digestive tracts.

It’s important to note that there are no reported carnation poisoning deaths in cats at the time of writing. That said, care still needs to be taken by all pet owners when bringing a bouquet into the home. No one wants to put their pet into a situation where they could experience painful side effects.

pink carnations in a vase
Image Credit: Pezibear, Pixabay

Symptoms of Carnation Poisoning

If you notice your cat gnawing on your carnation or find pieces of the flower missing, you may find your pet starts showing some of the following side effects:

  • GI distress (vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Excessive drooling
  • Dermatitis (if the sap comes into contact with their skin)
  • Mouth irritation

If your cat starts to vomit or have diarrhea, you may notice secondary symptoms of dehydration. They may become weak, dehydrated, or less hungry.

Treatment Options for Carnation Poisoning

Since carnation poisoning is not as severe as other kinds of plant-based poisoning, there isn’t a specific treatment plan you should follow. Your cat’s body will get to work immediately at eliminating the toxins from its body through vomiting and diarrhea.

If your cat has eaten a lot, you might consider a trip to the vet to be on the safe side. There is no antidote for carnation poisoning, and the treatment methods your vet will suggest will focus on supporting your cat as their body does the hard work of eliminating the toxins. Some vets may administer an emetic medication to induce vomiting but you should never try to do so at home.

The symptoms of carnation poisoning are short-lived and don’t often last beyond a few hours. If you begin seeing signs of dehydration, however, keep a closer eye on them. You might offer them wet food or add a bit of tuna juice or chicken broth to their water. They may be hesitant to eat until their stomach starts to feel better, but it is essential to take action to prevent severe dehydration.

cat is being checked by a vet
Image Credit: Maria Sbytova, Shutterstock

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How to Deter Cats from Eating Flowers

We all know how curious and mischievous these little critters can be so deterring them from nibbling at things they shouldn’t be nibbling at can be difficult. The easiest way to ensure your pet doesn’t get into any potentially harmful flowers or plants is to not grow or bring them home in the first place. This isn’t always the best option, as greenery in and around the home can do a lot for one’s health.

If you must have flowers in your home, opt for non-toxic varieties (see below). If you prefer the appearance and scent of flowers that can be toxic, keep them out of your cat’s reach. Hanging pots are a great way to not only display your beautiful flowers but keep curious kitty noses out of them too. The key to harmoniously living with cats and hanging flowers is to ensure no plant matter falls to the floor where your pet can find and eat it. You can also display flowers in rooms or areas your cat can’t access.

Another tried-and-true method to deter cats from flowers and plants is to make them unappealing. Cats sometimes flock to plants because they like the taste, so try making your flowers less tasty. One way to do this is by spritzing a mixture of water with citrus juice like lemon onto your plants. Many times, the citrus scent will be enough to keep your cat far away. If your cat is of the excessively curious variety and does chance a nibble on the citrus-covered plant, they’ll be turned off by the taste.

pink carnations
Image Credit: Wien_stad, Pixabay

White vinegar is another solution you can try in your flower pots. Vinegar can potentially harm your plants, so instead of spritzing it on their stems and leaves, soak a cotton ball or two in a water and vinegar mixture and place it on top of the soil. The scent of the vinegar is enough to keep most pets away.

Sometimes cats aren’t attracted to the flowers and plants themselves but the soil that they’re planted in. If the soil you use resembles kitty litter in any way, you may find yourself having to shoo your cat away from your planters often. Try changing your soil to something that doesn’t look like litter or place decorative rocks or crystals on top to prevent them from digging in the soil and tasting the plant while they’re there.

You might consider offering your kitty cat grass as an alternative to eating your plants. Eating plants is instinctual and may have had an evolutionary benefit. The working theory suggests that eating grass helped animals expel internal parasites back when they were a common occurrence. Most domesticated cats don’t have to worry about these parasites anymore, but the habit of grass eating first began in their distant ancestors who did need the extra help to get rid of parasites.

Non-Toxic Flower Options

If you want to display beautiful blooms in your home without the added stress of worrying about their safety with your pets, here are some great options to consider:

  • Roses
  • Alstroemeria (Peruvian Lily)
  • Gerbera daisies
  • Orchids
  • Grape hyacinths
  • Sunflowers
  • Liatris
  • Asters
  • Zinnias
  • African violets
  • Camellias
  • Marigolds
  • Snapdragons

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Final Word

While carnations won’t cause severe symptoms in most cats, it’s still a good idea to keep them out of your pet’s reach. You don’t want to inadvertently cause your kitty any pain or discomfort, so it’s best to keep carnations out of their sight.

You don’t need to resign yourself to cleverly hiding bouquets or to a home void of any plant life at all, either. There are plenty of non-toxic flower options that are just as beautiful as carnations. If you want to bring a cat-safe bouquet into your home, we recommend choosing from the list above.

Featured Image Credit: Wien_stad, Pixabay

About the Author

Chantelle Fowler
Chantelle Fowler
Chantelle is passionate about two things in her life – writing and animals. She grew up on the prairies in Canada surrounded by animals. As an adult, she chooses to share her home with five cats, two guinea pigs, and a bearded dragon. Chantelle, her husband, and their child take great pride in being THOSE kind of animal parents - the ones who spend a thousand dollars on wall-mounted cat shelves so that their cats can have an indoor jungle gym all year round. When Chantelle isn’t snuggling her cats on the couch or taking pictures of them being hilarious, she’s outside exploring in the Rocky Mountains, binging the same shows on Netflix over and over, and reading about whatever random topic pops into her brain. 

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