Are Roses and Rose Petals Safe to Cats?

Roses are flowering plants that belong to the genus Rosa, which has over 300 different Rosa species and over ten thousand cultivars. These woody perennial plants vary in sizes from miniature to compact,  climbers to those that grow erect.

Roses have sharp prickles on their stems and showy bright colored flowers that come in various sizes and colors with typical colors being red, white, orange, purple, pink, yellow, violet, among others.

Native to mainly Asia with a few species originating from North America, Northwestern Africa, and Europe, roses serve as ornamental plants as either landscaping and as cut flowers. Additionally, they have cultural significance, folk medical value, and are used in perfumery industries.  

Finally, you can use their petals to brew tea or make rosewater, and people use rose hips (fruits) to make jelly, soup, or jam, brew herbal tea or extract rosehip seed oil.

Can cats eat Roses
Can cats eat Roses

Why do kitties plants?

While they are strict or obligate carnivores, it is not uncommon for these pets to nibble grass and other plants. They do this for various reasons, including using them as laxatives, help pass worms, help settle their stomachs, pica, boredom, and dietary deficiencies, among other reasons.

Therefore, roses, being one of the most popular flowers and ornamental plants, knowing their safety to feline pals, is of great importance. There are many ornamental plants such as daisy, mums, daffodils, narcissus, azaleas, amaryllis, tulips, sago palm, lily, English ivy, among others that are toxic to felines.

Are they safe?

Fortunately, roses are safe for cats, i.e., they are not among ornamental plants toxic to cats. Their leaves, flower buds, or petals are not toxic to cats as well as other pets like cats, dogs, and horses. However, their prickles (thorns) may present some risks to your kitties.

However, if your cat eats a lot, expect some stomach distress characterized by the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Stomach pains and discomfort
  • Bowel obstruction if your feline overeats.
  • Lethargy

Therefore, if your cats ate roses and don’t have any symptoms, you don’t need to worry much about them.

Risks of rose plants

If you buy, cultivate them in your garden, or you have some in potted roses, note that they do present some risks to cats that include the following:

1. Injuries from prickles

They can easily pierce your cat’s paws or scratch their eyes and skin if they rub themselves against them. Also, while trying to eat them, they may injure their mouth.

Check on their skin or paws for any injuries. In the case of minor ones, use antiseptic wipes like Pet MD Chlorhexidine Wipes with Ketoconazole and Aloe for Cats and Dogs to clean the affected area. If it is severe, stop the bleeding and talk to your vet.

Finally, oral injuries will result in drooling, mouth pawing, and anorexia. Let your vet examine your furry friend under sedation. He or she may recommend various medications that may include antibiotics and pain killers.

2. Remnant farm chemicals

If you just bought your rose followers, including the potted ones, they may contain some harmful farm chemicals. Ensure your feline doesn’t have access to them.

Not all plants with the name ‘rose’ are safe

Many plants bear this name and are toxic to cats. Ensure you know how to identify and differentiate them from the various Rosa ssp. and cultivars. If you are uncertain, ask your vendor or vet.

All Rosa spp. are safe to cats, including wild ones. Typical modern and old garden rose cultivars and species include English (David Austin), Grandiflora, Miniature, Hybrid tea, Climbing, Groundcover, Floribunda, Shrub, Polyantha, and Alba. Others are Centifolia, Moss, Tea, Provence, Noisette, China, Damask, Gallica, as well as Hybrid Musk, Perpetual, and Rugosa.

However, the following plants are toxic, harmful, or poisonous to your feline pal:

1. Christmas, Easter or Lenten roses (Helleborus niger)

Also known as hellebore, Helleborus niger is toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. Its toxicity is due to the presence of veratrin, prtoanemonin, glycosides, and Bufadienolides. Some indications of toxicity include drooling, colic, depression, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Christmas Easter or Lenten roses Helleborus niger
Helleborus niger

2. Desert Rose (Adenium obesum)

As colorful as they may look, this flowering plant, also known as Desert azalea, Sabi Star, Impala Lily, Mock Azalea, or Kudu Lily, is poisonous too due to the cardiac glycosides in its sap.

Vomiting and diarrhea, depression, anorexia, arrhythmia (too fast or slow heartbeats), and death may occur if your cat eats it.

Desert roses
Desert roses

3. Rosebay (Rhododendron spp.)

Also known as Azalea or Rhododendron, rosebay is deadly to your kitties, dogs, or horses since it has grayanotoxins. A few hours after ingestion, your pet will vomit, have diarrhea, hyper-salivate, become weak, suffer from hypotension, CNS depression, coma, and die.

Their cardiovascular may also collapse, lose appetite, suffer from colic, loose coordination, suffer from leg paralysis, stupor, and weak heart rate as it attacks the nerve, skeletal, and cardiac muscle functioning.

Only a small amount of leaves can result in these symptoms. Fortunately, it is not very palatable

Rosebay (Rhododendron spp.)
Rosebay (Rhododendron spp.)

4. Moss roses (Portulaca oleracea)

Don’t confuse this plant with the moss rose cultivar as this plant belongs to genus Portulaca, whose common names are Wild Portulaca, Purslane. Rock Moss, Pigwee, and Pusley.

It causes toxicity via soluble calcium oxalates and will result in salvation and tremors. In rare instances, it may result in kidney failure.

Moss roses (Portulaca oleracea)
Moss roses (Portulaca oleracea)

Rose of Sharon (hibiscus) and rosemary are safe

However, note that rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Rose of Sharon or China (Hibiscus syriacus) or hibiscus or althea are non-toxic to cats, horses or dogs.

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