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The dragon tree, botanically Dracaena, is a popular houseplant. In appearance, many dragon trees are reminiscent of a palm tree, but botanically, dragon trees and palms are only very distant relatives. There are many types of dragon trees. As a typical houseplant, we cultivate the Canary Dragon Tree (Dracaena draco), which, like all other varieties, contains toxins that can lead to symptoms of poisoning in pets if they nibble on it. How dangerous a dragon tree actually is for cats is rated differently. What is certain, however, is that caution is required in any case.
The substances in all types of dragon tree that are toxic to all cats are the so-called saponins, which the plant contains in high concentrations. The saponins are produced by the dragon tree to deter predators. So they are a natural protection of the dragon tree. The poison is in the leaves and roots of the dragon tree, i.e. those parts of the plant that you think are particularly worthy of protection. The saponins develop their toxic effect on cats when the darling nibbles on the plant and the poison gets into the bloodstream.
If the cat only touches the dragon tree, this is usually not dangerous for the pet. However, if some leaves have open wounds, caused, for example, by cutting off brown parts of the leaves or by snapping them off, even touching them lightly can absorb the poison. Because it takes a few hours for the plant sap to dry up. In this way, the poison can get onto the cat's fur and is then finally absorbed through the tongue when the fur is cleaned.
symptoms of poisoning
Symptoms of poisoning in cats
In cats, the mucous membranes are already irritated by contact with the plant. Licking the plant is already a danger to the animal. The type of poisoning symptoms present in the cat depends on the amount of saponins that have entered the blood. Poisoning by the dragon tree should be considered if the following symptoms occur.
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- increased salivation
- Movement and balance disorders (staggering)
Unfortunately, these are not the only reactions that nibbling on the dragon tree can cause.Dragon tree, Dracaena marginata
As a result, the poison leads to:
- circulatory disorders (staggering)
- breakdown of red blood cells
- Damage to the central nervous system
If the cat ingests the poison unnoticed over a longer period of time, the poisoning ultimately leads to cardiac arrest and organ failure. In addition to the amount of poison ingested, the age and health of the cat also play a role.
Particularly at risk are:
- young and very old cats
- Cats with debilitating illnesses
Even very small amounts of the poison can lead to poisoning in these animals.
Tip: If a healthy, adult cat nibbles once on the dragon tree, this does not necessarily lead to poisoning immediately. However, if the cat does this every day, the saponin level in the blood increases continuously and poisoning is inevitable.
Help with poisoning
If the cat is not observed while nibbling, it is difficult to assess how much poison it has ingested. Even traces of nibbling on the plant itself are insufficient evidence. Therefore, if poisoning with the plant sap is suspected, a veterinarian must be consulted immediately or the veterinary emergency service must be called outside of opening hours.
First aid for the cat
When it comes to first aid for cats, the following applies to the cat owner: stay calm. If you are lucky and catch the cat nibbling, get the plant remains out of its mouth immediately. Do not dispose of the remains, but take them with you to the vet. Don't even try to make the cat vomit. This often does more harm than good.
If the cat has cramps, it must lie softly so that it cannot injure itself. A suitable place is, for example, a well-padded laundry basket. If the cat has vomited, the residue and mucus must be removed from the mouth.Dragon tree, Dracaena fragrans
Actually, their instinct should protect cats from poisonous plants. However, this natural protective measure has been lost in our domestic cats. So now the pet owner has to take over the protective function.
The safest protection for cats is not cultivating a dragon tree. If you are considering buying a dragon tree, it is better to forgo the houseplant for the benefit of the cat. If you already have a dragon tree, it does not have to be removed immediately. First of all, observe whether your cat likes the indoor plant. Because not all cats nibble on the dragon tree. But this can change. So the cat can ignore the dragon tree for years, and out of the blue it becomes the cat's favorite plant. Typical cat stop!
Tip: You can try to do the almost impossible: get your cat to stay away from the plant.
One way to save the dragon tree and protect the cat is to place the houseplant out of the cat's reach. Since cats can actually go anywhere they want, it is best to place the dragon tree in rooms that are taboo for the cat.
Tip: If possible, do not leave the cat alone with the dragon tree.Dragon tree, Dracaena marginata
So that the cat doesn't "notice" the dragon tree in the first place, offer your cat grass and set up a scratching post. Young cats are easily distracted with toys. Many cats only discover the houseplant out of boredom, also because the leaves are so easy to play with.
If the cat still won't let go of the houseplant, you can try the following tricks to scare the cat away.
- Sprinkle pepper on the ground
- Put the garlic on the ground
- Rub some leaves with a little vinegar
Since cats don't like these scents, they should avoid the plant this way.