Toxic plants

Is Fetterbush or Maleberry Toxic To Cats?

Is Fetterbush or Maleberry Toxic To Cats?
Written by Clair Chesterman

Fetterbush is a deciduous shrub which are found to contain garaynotoxins including asebotoxin, rhodotoxin, acetylandromedol, and andromedotoxin. Fetterbush’s leaf is particularly deadly, but all parts of the plant contain glycosides, such as Andromedotoxin, which behaves similarly to the toxin turpentine.

Grayanotoxins work by targeting cell membranes and bind to the cell’s receptor location. The cell can no longer be inactivated and will stay in an excitable state. As a result, the electrical transmission between nerves and muscles is disturbed, making it impossible for the cells to restore to normal.

What Is Fetterbush or Maleberry?

Fetterbush, also known as staggerberry and maleberry, is a blooming evergreen shrub that produces fragrant flowers in the spring and can turn stunning colors of purple and crimson in the fall.

Fetterbush is endemic in the southeast of the United States. Wild versions of this plant can be found growing in woodlands along streams and on hillsides from Virginia through Georgia and Alabama. This plant reaches a height of 5 to 10 feet and is usually wider than it is tall. Fetterbush develops from a horizontal underground rhizome and has beautiful, drooping branches.

Clinical Signs of Fetterbush or Maleberry Poisoning in Cats

The symptoms of fetterbush poisoning in cats usually appear between minutes to hours of intake. Clinal signs of fetterbush poisoning that you should watch out for are:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Weakness 
  • Twitching 
  • Abnormal sensation in the limbs
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Sinus bradycardia 

First Aid and Treatment of Fetterbush or Maleberry Poisoning in Cats

Symptomatic and supportive care therapy are the most common treatments for fetterbush poisoning in cats. Intravenous fluids may be administered to flush the poison from the cat’s bloodstream via the urinary system. If the veterinarian feels it necessary, the cat may be given oxygen therapy to help with respiratory problems. Because the toxins in the fetterbush plant target essential involuntary muscles like the heart, the veterinarian may also use atropine or a sodium channel blocker to prevent the toxin from disrupting the electric current between the cells.

Recovery from Fetterbush or Maleberry Poisoning in Cats

If the feline was treated by a veterinarian, he or she should start to feel better within a few hours and recover completely within nine to 24 hours. The prognosis for cats poisoned by fetterbush is highly dependent on the amount of plant matter ingested.

Prevention of Fetterbush or Maleberry Poisoning in Cats

Whether you have a fetterbush at home or not, poisoning is still possible whenever your cat goes outside. It is better to keep your cat in a cat house or playpen especially when you are leaving the house.

If you love plants but have cats at home, check out these lists:

About the author

Clair Chesterman

Clair Chesterman is a professional cat breeder having her own cageless CFA and CCA Registered cattery & fostering company FluffyMeowPaws in Eugene, Oregon. Clair is a plant enthusiast too and she made in-depth research on toxic and non-toxic plants for cats.

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