Toxic plants

Is Pieris Toxic To Cats?

Is Pieris Toxic To Cats? 
Written by Clair Chesterman

Pieris contains a high concentration of grayanotoxins, which are cancer-causing substances. This chemical’s main purpose is to keep potential predators away from the plant by causing extremely unpleasant sensations. Grayanotoxin is a neurotoxin found in plants such as Rhododendron. Grayanotoxin causes harm to the target organism by passing through cell membranes in damaged tissues and ‘depolarizing’ the cell, preventing it from transmitting electrical impulses that carry information throughout the nervous system. This effectively means that the brain no longer has control over the activities of grayanotoxin-poisoned organs.

What Is Pieris?

Pieris is a genus of seven shrubs in the flowering plant family Ericaceae that are native to eastern and southern Asia, eastern North America, and Cuba. They are broad-leaved, evergreen shrubs with spirally arranged leaves that appear in whorls at the end of each shoot. Pieris flowers are bell-shaped, five to fifteen millimeters long, white or pink in color, and arranged in racemes. In addition, the plant produces a woody capsule fruit that splits into five sections to release the numerous small seeds.

Pieris are popular as attractive plants because of their vivid red new growth in the early spring, chains of little white flowers in the middle of the spring, and buds that last all winter. Several cultivars were chosen for the color of their spring foliage. They want a sheltered spot away from the drying winter winds.

Clinical Signs of Pieris Poisoning in Cats

Symptoms of Pieris poisoning may vary depending on the quantity ingested by the cat. Toxicity caused by ingestion of Pieris plant may cause cats to experience adverse effects such as:

  • Excessive salivation
  • Perspiration (nose and footpads)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Burning or numbness sensation in the extremities and around the mouth
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Sinus bradycardia
  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Ventricular tachycardia
  • Coma

First Aid and Treatment of Pieris Poisoning in Cats

One of the most common treatments for plant poisoning in cats is fluid therapy. This method will keep your cat hydrated and prevent dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting for an extended period of time. The vet may perform gastric lavage to prevent more poison from entering the cat’s body.

Activated charcoal can be given to the cat to neutralize any toxins that may still be present in the intestines. Atropine is sometimes used to relieve symptoms of severe cardiac problems, but it is usually reserved as a last resort.

Recovery from Pieris Poisoning in Cats

Grayanotoxins, fortunately, are rapidly metabolized and excreted, so animals that have only consumed a small amount will begin to feel better within hours, and heart rate and blood pressure will usually return to normal within two to nine hours.

Full recovery of cats is expected in 24 hours. If a larger amount of the plant was consumed, the recovery may take longer than usual.

Prevention of Pieris Poisoning in Cats

Restrict your cats’ access outdoors. If necessary, build fences and place safety nets around your house. Utilize cat houses and playpens to keep your cat entertained and stimulated.

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.