Is the 'ZZ' plant poisonous to cats???

pealow(z7NY)April 3, 2007

Does anyone know if the ZZ plant is posionous. I have 3 cats who don't touth the peace lily that I have... and snack regularly on the Majesty palm. I'm getting a ZZ and want to know if it might be harmful to them if they chew a leaf. Any input would be appreciated.


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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

ZZ is a member of the Aracaeae family, most of which contain varying amounts of calcium oxalate, a toxin. If you do a five second search on the toxicity of this plant, you'd change your mind about bringing one into your home with a plant nibbling cat. Be specific in your search, as Zamioculus is not yet on the typical house plant lists of toxic plants, which tend to cite only the most common.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 10:54AM
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Personally, I have never hesitated growing any plant for fear of overly curious cats. Don't get me wrong, I love my cats. But I have never had a cat get sick on any supposedly toxic plant. I have Zamioculus, and many more toxic plants (e.g., orleader). I really think the fear is overly exagerated. Zamioculus is a great houseplant, and as long as you feed your cat, don't see why a feline would touch it. I have lots of plants around though, and mine are content with a occasional nibble on some palms.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 7:31PM
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It probably is toxic, because of the Araceae / calcium oxalate thing rhizo_1 mentioned, though chewing plants in that family is supposed to be pretty painful, so I'd be surprised if a cat could manage to get enough oxalate to do any serious damage. Especially since the leaves are pretty stiff and thick.

Peace lilies are in the Araceae too, for what it's worth.

My bet is that it would be fine, but if it were me, I would also hedge my bets and try to put the plant somewhere relatively inaccessible to the cats. Since ZZs are tolerant of just about any growing conditions, basically any spot big enough for it to fit should work for the plant.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 9:09PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

njoasis, that's some pretty bad advice you've given. I'm hoping that all those who are wondering about their pets and the possible dangers of houseplants will recognize it for that (terrible advice), and ignore it completely.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 12:43PM
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Look, there is no such thing as living in a RISK FREE world. All I am saying is that I have never had a problem with my cats overdosing on calcium oxalate (which is a compound found in quite a few common houseplants). My animals (of which I have had many over the years), tend to die of old age. I don't recall giving any advise--just my personal experience (there is a difference). Sorry, but I am not about to start to jump at the sight of the nearest Philodendron or Zamiocalus (and neither are the cats).

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 2:23PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Yes, upon re-reading your comments, I see that you did not intend to suggest that anyone follow your footsteps. I hope that you never end up with one of the millions of cats out there that delight in munching on houseplants, much to the frustration of their owners. ;-)

A cat's attraction to house plants has absolutely nothing to do with hunger, by the way. Felines are simply predisposed to eating course vegetable matter of some sort. Wild cats or indoor/outdoor cats will always have plenty of 'roughage' in their bellies.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 2:38PM
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To tell you the truth, I don't get annoyed at the cats when they do slight damage to the occasional plant. Usually, they pick the palms, bamboo, water cyperus, or spider plants, because they love the rustling sounds that the leaves make. I guess I have enough of a variety around here that they get their fix without going near anything too toxic. Here IS a piece of advice to people who love both their animals and their plants. Include some plants in your interior decor for your pet. I've seen pet shops sell both alfalfa and wheat grass and cat nip. Hopefully, that will satiate Fluffy enough and keep him/her away potential botanical irritants and prized houseplants. Have a great weekend!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 3:23PM
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The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is an aroid. All aroids contain calcium oxalate crystals but so does Parsley, Chives, Cassava, Spinach, Beet leaves, Carrot, Radish, Collards, Bean, Brussels sprouts, Garlic, Lettuce, Watercress, Sweet potato, Turnip, Broccoli, Celery, Eggplant, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Cabbage, Tomato, Pea, Turnip greens, Potato, Onion, Okra, Pepper, Squash, Cucumbers, Corn and quite a few other vegetables. You eat it almost daily and sometimes you don't like the taste. Guess why? People, especially kids, often don't like the taste. Do you think that might explain why kids don't like spinach?

Aroids have been eaten by humans for over 10,000 years. The Chinese began to develop aroids as a commercial food crop long ago and many are now served in Asia, Polynesia, Hawaii, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Have you ever eaten Poi in Hawaii or Callaloo in Jamaica? That is an aroid known to science as Colocasia esculenta.

Now I would never recommend anyone deliberately take a bite of an aroid since calcium oxalate crystals can burn your mouth and throat. There have been only two cases anyone can verify where the person had severe reactions but in almost all cases a doctor will only observe the patient to make sure some other problem is not observed and then send them home to recover. There is a big difference between a "poison" and a plant that tastes bad but people on the internet cannot seem to make that distinction.

So how does all this "junk science" end up on the internet, especially on pet websites and those that warn new mothers? Someone reads something they don't fully understand and assumes they mean "poisonous". They then tell a friend all aroids are poisonous. The friend believes them and repeats it but likely with some embellishment. The next friend does the same and on and on it goes. Finally the last friend to hear it posts it on the internet and thousands of people read it and immediately accept it as the truth without opening a single scientific text.

The problem is now so widespread I have been receiving mail asking "if I touch a ceramic pot that contains a ZZ plant, will I die". My first response is "hogwash" and my first question is "where did you read this?

I serve on the board of governors of the International Aroid Society and am encouraging our board to post an article on the IAS website in which one of our scientists will finally post the scientific facts about aroids and calcium oxalate crystals.

Most of you don't believe everything you receive in your mailbox claiming "Canola oil is a poison", "Saran Wrap in the microwave can kill you", or "there are needles in gas pumps all over the world containing the HIV virus". We question such crazy claims but we just accept an equally crazy notion if it is found on a website!

If a cat or other animal takes a nibble of an aroid they will likely never touch it again since it tastes bad. The plants contain tiny needle-like raphides that can irrigate your mouth and throat. But if they come back there must be some attractant so the best you can do is keep it out of reach.

Are you aware the so called "deadly" Dieffenbachia is regularly eaten by a specific tribe of Indians in Ecuador? I have a friend that has eaten it and she says it is delicious! I have eaten aroids for many years and love them. You can buy aroid cookbooks on

If you have accepted such stories as fact please take just a few minutes and read this link. Once you check the scientific sources quoted you may just change your mind.

Steve Lucas

Secretary, The International Aroid Society

Here is a link that might be useful: Facts about Calcium Oxalate Crystals

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 9:47AM
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Sorry, I was typing fast and "irrigate" should have been irritate.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 9:51AM
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