Toxic plants

Is Poinciana Toxic To Cats?

Is Poinciana Toxic To Cats? 
Written by Clair Chesterman

Poinciana is a shrub that belongs to the legume or Leguminosa family. It is commonly referred to as a bird of paradise, but it is not related to the genus Strelitzia. Other names for Poinciana are Peacock Flower, Barbados Pride, Dwarf Poinciana, and Pride of Barbados.

The poinciana’s greyish-green leaves contain a form of hydrogen cyanide that, when mixed with water components inside the body, becomes highly toxic. The seeds and flowers contain a variety of toxins that can be harmful to cats. Tannins, saponins, and three different glutamine compounds are among these toxins (sesbanamides A, B, and C). Poinciana typically causes only gastrointestinal symptoms; however, if the toxins are absorbed into the bloodstream, the saponins can cause degeneration of the kidneys, liver, and blood cells.

What Is Poinciana?

Poinciana is an eye-catching ornamental plant native to South America, primarily Argentina and Uruguay. This plant has naturalized in the United States, particularly in Texas. The Amazon Rainforest’s indigenous people use this plant to treat fever, sores, and cough.

It blooms from spring to fall and produces stunning, brightly colored clusters of flowers in reds, pinks, oranges, and yellows. Many southwestern states in the United States use dwarf poinciana in their landscaping because of these flowers. It thrives in full sun and dry heat, and cannot survive temperatures below 28°F.

Clinical Signs of Poinciana Poisoning in Cats

Consuming the seeds of poinciana may cause a several-hour delay before symptoms appear. This is more dangerous because it indicates that the plant material has already been digested by the body. Among the warning signs to look out for are:

  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea (may contain blood)
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Depression 
  • Muscular weakness 
  • Shallow and rapid breathing 

First Aid and Treatment of Poinciana Poisoning in Cats

If you saw the cat eating plant materials and there isn’t much time has passed, removing all of the stomach contents can be an effective way to get rid of the toxins. If the cat is awake, a small amount of hydrogen peroxide can be administered to induce vomiting. A gastric lavage procedure may also be used. This treatment may not be effective for cats who ingested poinciana seeds several hours before symptoms appeared.

Toxins in the cat’s stomach can also be eliminated using activated charcoal, which prevents further absorption. Intravenous fluids and electrolyte replacement can help the cat rehydrate and regain as much vigor as possible. Toxins may also be flushed out more quickly with IV fluids than if the body processed them on its own.

Recovery from Poinciana Poisoning in Cats

When it comes to poinciana poisoning, the quicker treatment is given, the more probable the cat is to survive. The overall prognosis will be determined by how much plant material was consumed and whether the plant’s seeds or leaves were consumed. Prevention is the greatest defense against poinciana poisoning, which may include keeping your cat indoors where you can monitor which plants it is exposed to.

Prevention of Poinciana Poisoning in Cats

The ideal way to prevent or minimize risk of plant poisoning in cats is to let them stay inside your house. Restrict their outdoor access and keep them occupied indoors. Mentally-stimulated cats are less likely to wander far away from home which can increase the possibility of encountering toxic plants in your surroundings. 

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.