Dracaena is a genus name of over 120 different tree and succulent shrub species that belong to the family Asparagaceae. Most of this plant’s species are native to Africa with only a few species found in Northern Australia through to South Asia. Two species have been identified to be native to Central America.
As Britaninica.com notes, some species of Dracaena “are cultivated as houseplants for their ornamental foliage and are noted as effective air cleaners that remove chemicals, such as formaldehyde, from the air indoors.” They are also popular outdoor ornamental plants in yards and gardens.
Dracaena spp. are known by many common names with some names referring to certain specific species including dragon tree, dragon plant, Madagascar dragon tree, cornstalk dracaena, corn plant, lucky bamboo, money tree, and so on.
Since it has many species, we will look at some of its common species and state whether they are poisonous to cats or not.
1. Dracaena marginata – variegated
This species is quite “an attractive, stiff-leaved plant with green sword-like leaves edged with red. It has narrow, slender gray stems that are topped with shiny, arching leaves.” notes The Spruce.
It is also sometimes referred to as the red margined or red-edged dracaena and makes a good indoor and outdoor ornamental plant. Its common names include Dragon plant, dragon tree or Madagascar dragon tree.
The Madagascar dragon tree is native to Mauritius and Madagascar, it thrives well in the brightly lit indirect indoor environment while if it is grown outdoors, it requires warm climates.
Is Dracaena marginata safe for cats?
No. Dracaena marginata not safe for cats i.e., it is toxic to cats since it has saponins which are poisonous to cats and dogs. Saponins are amphipathic glycosides that help protect it against fungi, microbes and also works as an antifeedant.
Symptoms of toxicity in felines including vomiting, reduced appetite, dilated pupils, excessive drooling, and sometimes, the vomit may be having blood.
Since this Madagascar dragon tree is toxic or poisonous to kitties, unless you can limit access, go for other cat-safe gardens, landscaping, and houseplants.
2. Dracena fragrans or corn plant
Also known as cornstalk dracaena, happy plant, false palm, this popular houseplant has a base where several buds sprout and according to houseplantexperts.com, has “different types of leaves such as the massangeana, lindenii and Victoria” but closely resemble those of corn.
The lanceolate leaves can be glossy green or be variegated. For instance, the D. fragrans massangeana has leaves that are yellow in their center and green on their edges, the D. fragrans lindenni’s leaves are green at the center while their edges are yellow and green striped.
Victoria is similar to massangeana with the only distinction being the leaves which are much wider, triangular but smaller in size.
This slow-growing shrub’s cane that can grow up to 15 meters or beyond outdoors and 6 feet indoor is native to tropical Africa especially south, west and southwest of Sudan to Mozambique, Côte d’Ivoire, and Angola respectively.
Is dracaena fragrans toxic to cats?
Yes. Like dragon tree, it has saponins which are poisonous to not only cats but also dogs with symptoms we have already mentioned.
3. Dracaena deremensis
This species is known as stripped or Janet Craig dracaena and thrives in warmest conditions with low lighting. If put on direct sunlight, its leaves get burned while if the lighting is too low, expect narrower leaves.
There are two main varieties, the Warneckei or Warneckii, and Janet Craig. The Warneckii has “stiff leaves that are striped in gray, green, or white,” while dracaena lemon lime being one of its cultivars.
On the other hand, the Janet Craig variety has leaves that are flexible and entirely green while Janet Craig Compacta has leaves that are less than 8 inches (much smaller).
Is D. deremensis safe for cats?
No. It is not safe to these pets since it has steroidal saponins which are poisonous to not only cats but also to dogs.
4. Lucky bamboo
Lucky bamboo or Dracaena sanderiana is not a bamboo but one of the species of Dracaena. It is also known as curly bamboo, Belgian evergreen, ribbon plant, Goddess of Mercy’s plant, Chinese water bamboo, Sander’s or ribbon dracaena. It should not be confused with D. braunii.
This perennial herb has a fleshy stem, grows up to 1 meter, and its leaves are grey-green in color and have a twisted appearance. Since it is associated with prosperity and happiness, it is a common houseplant in many homes, especially in India.
Is lucky bamboo toxic to cats?
Yes. It is toxic to felines and canines. It has steroidal saponins whose symptoms we have already discussed
5. Other varieties
Besides the above, you will get varieties such as Anita, Dorado, Hawaiian sunshine, Florida beauty, Limelight, Lemon surprise, Rikki, Malaika, Song of India, Songs of Jamaica, White Jewel among other varieties in the market.
Diagnosis and treatment
Saponins are considered mild to moderate toxins. Therefore, they are not likely to kill your pet unless she ingests too much of them. Fortunately, this rarely happens since most of these plants are bitter tasting and your feline is unlikely to eat a lot.
Besides the symptoms we already mentioned, there might be depression, abdominal discomfort, increase heart rate, incoordination or wobbling in kittens, among other symptoms.
Talk to your vet if you have evidence that your cat has ingested dracaena since this can happen out of pica, boredom or curiosity especially in kittens.
Treatment will involve removal of any remains stuck in your cat’s teeth, supportive care such as IV fluids in case of diarrhea and vomiting to help replenish lost fluids or any other treatment your vet will recommend depending on the noted symptoms.
From the above discussion, it is clear that dracaena poisonous to cats, i.e., it is not one of the cat-safe plants and this applies to all its species, varieties and cultivars. There are not safe ones.
In case of any symptoms of poisoning, talk to your veterinary for proper diagnosis and treatment. Avoid any home treatments.