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Are Pussy Willows Poisonous to Cats? Common Houseplants Examined

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	Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo

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Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you grew up in Canada and the northern United States, you’re probably familiar with pussy willows. Children are especially drawn to these unique shrubs with their little fuzzy catkins that we see as early signs of spring. But what if your cat is also drawn to pussy willows? Are they safe for cats?

If your cat has ingested any pussy willows, they are safe for the most part. It’s only if they eat a large amount that it can pose a danger to your cat.

Here, we look at pussy willows and their effect on cats in more detail and give you a few tips on keeping your cat safe around plants.

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What Are Pussy Willows?

Pussy willows are deciduous shrubs in North America known as Salix discolor. Two other European shrubs belong to the same genus as the North American one, the Salix caprea and the Salix cinerea, and are also called pussy willows.

The genus Salix includes willow trees, so pussy willows are basically a smaller species of willow. In the late winter or early spring, they sprout catkins, which are gray fuzzy buds that resemble little cats. The fuzz is a protective coating that protects the early buds of flowers before they bloom.

a cat that feels sick and seems to vomit
Image Credit: chie hidaka, Shutterstock

Pussy Willows and Your Pussy Cat

Cats are strict carnivores, also known as obligate carnivores. This means they receive all their essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from meat and not from plant sources. So, cats tend not to be interested in plants, which also means they typically won’t show much interest in eating pussy willows. But they might enjoy batting around those fuzzy buds. There’s no harm there!

However, all plants and trees in the Salix family contain salicin, which is a source of salicylic acid. This is the active ingredient found in aspirin and other pain relievers. Aspirin is highly toxic to cats, and too much of it can lead to gastrointestinal upset, as well as ulcers, seizures, hyperthermia, and death if left untreated.

Now, aspirin is a much more concentrated form of salicylic acid than what is found in pussy willows, so your cat would have to eat quite a large amount to experience gastroenteritis, which is unlikely because cats don’t usually eat plants (unless it’s cat grass or cat nip, of course).

It’s usually safest to keep any plants away from your cat that can be toxic, whether eaten in small or large doses. It’s always best to err on the side of caution.

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Protecting Your Cat From Plants

The most obvious solution is to not have any plants in the house or yard (if you have an outdoor cat) that are known to be toxic. You can refer to the ASPCA’s toxic and non-toxic plants list to see what plants are safest for cats. The following are extra tips that you can try:

  • Avoid placing any plants found on the ASPCA’s list that are known to be toxic in your yard or home. There are plenty of beautiful non-toxic plants to choose from.
  • If you can’t bring yourself to remove your lovely pussy willows from your home, place them out of reach from your cat. Remember, if your cat is determined, they can find a way to get to your pussy willows. Ensure that there are no shelves or other surfaces that your cat can jump from to reach the plant.
  • Consider placing your plants in a room that your cat doesn’t typically access.
  • Even if your cat doesn’t show much interest in the toxic plant, you should still not leave them unattended around the plant.
  • There are various household ingredients that can act as cat deterrents. Coffee grounds, cayenne pepper, and citrus juices are all quite effective at keeping cats away, so consider using one or a few of these on your plants.
dedicated plant room to keep away from cats
Image Credit: Unsplash

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Conclusion

If your cat doesn’t seem all that interested in pussy willows or only nibbles on one, it shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

But if you suspect that your cat might have eaten something and is now vomiting and has diarrhea, you should take them to the vet. Bring part of the plant with you if you believe that your cat’s illness might be because they ingested a part of it. This way, your vet will know the best way to treat your cat.

Always supervise your cat while they are around any of your plants. Even a non-toxic one might cause an upset stomach if your cat eats too much of it. Cats are curious creatures and remarkably talented at getting into things that they shouldn’t!

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Featured Image Credit: kdoetsch, Pixabay

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