Are Bonsai Trees Poisonous to Cats or Dogs? (The Bonsai & Pets Safety Guide)

Bonsai trees evoke gentle, delicate structures that emerge from the practice of patience and discipline. But we rarely think about bonsai trees and pets (cats & dogs), and whether they can be toxic to our furry companions. So the key question here is: Are Bonsai Trees Pet Friendly?  

While not fatal, some bonsai trees may be poisonous for cats or dogs. These include Azaleas, Ficus, Jade or Palm trees. However, bonsai toxicity isn’t something most growers worry about because research shows that pets usually don’t eat them.

Although the fact that pets and bonsais can live together under the same roof might give you some peace of mind. There are other important considerations you should consider when growing a bonsai tree with pets around, like:

  • What common species of bonsai trees can be harmful to both cats and dogs.
  • Safe bonsai trees that you can keep around even the unruliest pets. 
  • How to know if your pet’s intoxicated, and what to do in case of an emergency. 
  • How to keep your cat away from your bonsai tree.   

In this guide, we’ll learn about the trees that can happily coexist with our pets and some that are toxic and should be avoided at all costs. We love bonsais, and we think they’re a fine addition to any garden or environment. But, safety for our beloved pets should always be a primary concern before we make any changes around our home. 

Bonsai Trees and Pets — Basic Safety Concerns

Let’s take a look at the basics points you should consider…

Are Bonsai Trees Toxic to Pets? 

bonsai and pets

Although most bonsais and houseplants listed in our index won’t harm fatally your cat or dog, that doesn’t mean you should throw care to the wind. Even some normal varieties of trees that are not harmful to humans can be toxic to cats and dogs when ingested. In some rare, tragic cases, a serious case of poisoning can prove fatal.

When in doubt, always consult a guide such as this one. Always look up accurate information about the precise variety of bonsai tree you’re bringing into your home. 

Can Bonsais be Harmful To Dogs? 

Dogs, even the most well-behaved breeds, sometimes have out-of-the-ordinary fits where they’ll eat anything. Or perhaps you have one of those uncontainable, anxious munchers that will just gnaw at anything in its field of view. 

Before you bring a bonsai tree into your home, you’ll need to do thorough research to ensure that the plant won’t harm your canine

There are some varieties you’ll definitely want to avoid, and some that are OK in any situation.

What Bonsai Varieties Are Safe for Dogs? 

Most bonsai gardeners haven’t really settled on specific “safe” bonsai varieties. And that’s because, in most cases, bonsai trees and dogs can share the same environment without issues. However, some super safe specific species include the Weeping Willow o Japanese Maple.

bonsais and dogs
credits: AF Fotografía

What’s central to the whole thing is keeping your bonsai tree out of your dog’s reach. As long as you do that, and don’t leave them unsupervised for long stretches of time, you should be fine. 

What Bonsai Trees are Toxic to Dogs? 

Some varieties are immediately toxic to dogs, and you should put them out of your mind outright for safety concerns. Your dog comes first. 

As a matter of course, you should avoid Sago palms and azaleas. They can be highly toxic — even fatal — to dogs. Even milder symptoms can be serious with these two.

Other trees with potentially harmful effects are: 

Remember: always look up these trees if you’re thinking about bringing them into the house. 

General Symptoms of Poisoning and Treatment 

The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, lethargy, and excessive drooling. There are also more severe symptoms in case of serious poisoning, like seizures, liver failure, dehydration, falling into a coma, or even death. Thankfully, these happen very rarely, and only with the most poisonous trees. 

In case of poisoning, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Even if your dog is experiencing milder symptoms, it’s best not to risk their condition worsening over time. 

It’s very likely that your vet will have to resort to a variety of interventions depending on the severity of the condition. Most include pumping the stomach, digestive cleanses, antibiotics, and induced vomiting. Serious cases may require IV lines, blood transfusions, and the use of an IV line to flush the kidneys. 

When in doubt, call your vet! 

Can Bonsais be Harmful To Cats? 

Cats can also be poisoned by bonsai trees. The worse part is that cats have a much wider range of actions than dogs. This means keeping cats away from your trees will be a much more pressing concern than with a dog. 

bonsai and a cat
Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

As with dogs, there are some trees you’ll feel safe having around your cat, and others that you should steer clear of.

Cat-friendly Bonsai Trees

The parlor palm, money tree, peperomia green, bamboo palm, and prayer plant should be safe for your cat.

Even more toxic varieties, in general, are OK if they’re only nibbled on. Still, read on to know which ones are the most dangerous. 

Bonsai Trees Toxic to Cats

Just as with dogs, sago palm trees can be extremely toxic to cats. You’re going to want to pass on these ones. 

There are quite a few more common varieties that can also spell trouble. While sago palm trees have a fatality rate of 50%, other poisonous trees are:

  • Apricot 
  • Fig
  • Baby Jade
  • Norfolk Island Pine
  • Ambrosia Mexicana
  • Australian Ivy Palm
  • Azaleas
  • Cardboard Palm
  • Coontie Palm
  • Fern Palm
  • Australian Pine
  • Giant Dracaena
  • Buddhist Pine

General Symptoms of Poisoning and Treatment 

Just as with your dog, the same general rules apply. If you suspect your cat’s intoxicated, don’t dilly-dally and call your vet immediately.  The APSCA has a dedicated poisoning hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

The worst symptoms will undoubtedly come from the sago palm tree. Still, stand up and take notice if your cat displays any of these symptoms:

Diarrhea, tremors, weakness, lethargy, black tarry stool, vomiting, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, abnormal swelling, inappetence

Treatment for the less serious conditions will normally include a round of antibiotics and a more restricted diet. If the poisoning is more serious, it may lead to more invasive interventions by the vet. That’s why it’s doubly important to keep your cat away from the tree in the first place, as they’re delicate creatures.

How to Keep Your Cat Away from Your Bonsai Tree

Cats like doing their own thing. That usually includes exploring by climbing, swinging, and jumping. They’re not as encumbered by the same vertical limitations as dogs, and that makes keeping an eye on them all the more difficult. 

A great way to avoid having to watch your car 24/7 is to keep your bonsai trees in a makeshift outdoor greenhouse. Making the trees impossible to reach is the only surefire solution. 

What’s worth noting is that commonly cats tend to show no interest in coming close to, or ingesting bonsai trees. Some people even keep poisonous varieties in the house with their cats and have never reported a problem. But, just one exception can be very costly. Always keep an eye on your cat.

We hoped you enjoy this short safety guide on pets when growing a bonsai tree.

Bonsai Trees and Pets — Related Questions 

Are Azaleas poisonous to Cats?

They are, and for dogs also. Be careful with these. 

Is Fukien tea poisonous? 

They’re used as herbal remedies for stomach ailments, and they seem to be safe to keep around pets. 

How can I revive a bonsai tree if my cat or dog damages it?

To revive a bonsai tree that your cat or dog has damaged, you should trim any damaged bonsai leaves or stems and repot the bonsai in fresh soil. You may also need to give the tree extra water and sunlight to help it recover. If the tree is still not looking healthy after a few weeks, you can consult with a bonsai expert for further advice.

Sebastian Moncada

I’m also a plant enthusiast and researcher. I’ve been privileged to have lived my whole life around the wilderness of Colombia and I’m happy to share everything I learn along the way. “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience” – Emerson.

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