Toxic plants

Is Bread and Butter Plant Toxic to Cats?

by Clair Chesterman
Is Bread and Butter Plant Toxic to Cats?

The bread and butter plant, also known as Indian Borage, Spanish Thyme, Coleus, Maratha, Militini, and East Indian Thyme, has an essential oil that the digestive tract of a cat cannot metabolize. Carvacrol, thymol, and caryophyllene oxide are some of the chemical components identified in the essential oils of the bread and butter plant.

Cats do not require many of the enzymes required for digesting plants because they are primarily carnivores. As a result, the toxins in the bread and butter plant build up faster than the cat’s body can break them down, causing an unfavorable gastrointestinal reaction.

What Is Bread and Butter Plant?

Spanish Thyme and a cat hissing at it

Coleus amboinicus, commonly known as the bread and butter plant, is a semi-succulent perennial plant in the Labiaceae family with an intense oregano-like smell and odor. This species can be found in parts of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and India. It’s a fast-growing plant that thrives in gardens and indoor pots.

Bread and butter leaves are two inches long, thick oval-shaped leaves with a tapered tip. On a short pale violet stem, the blooms are grouped in a long thin spike-like raceme. Bread and butter leaves are also used in cooking as a herb alternative for oregano.

Clinical Signs of Bread and Butter Plant Poisoning in Cats

Spanish Thyme and a cat nearby

A cat who ingested any part of the bread and butter plant may get mild to severe stomach problems thus, must be brought to the vet right away. The following are common symptoms of bread and butter plant: 

First Aid and Treatment of Bread and Butter Plant  Poisoning in Cats

Spanish Thyme and cats

The veterinarian will either give the cat a medication like a hydrogen peroxide or ipecac to make it vomit, or the cat’s stomach will be pumped via gastric lavage. Remove any residual plant matter from the mouth cavity as well. After a prolonged period of vomiting or diarrhea, intravenous fluid therapy may be used to assist cleanse the toxins out of the cat’s system and hydrating the body. If necessary, oxygen supplementation may be administered to help stabilize the cat. Orally administered activated charcoal can bind the leftover poisons together, allowing them to travel through the intestines without being digested.

Recovery from Bread and Butter Plant  Poisoning in Cats

How much of the plant was consumed and how long it was before therapy was offered will impact how well your cat recovers. Poisoning can be deadly in extreme cases. If your cat recovers from the early onset of symptoms, the incident is unlikely to cause any subsequent health problems.

Prevention of Bread and Butter Plant Poisoning in Cats

It is advisable not to grow bread and butter plants if you have cats at home to prevent them from exposure. If you need to grow a bread and butter plant for medicinal purposes, keep your cat inside to minimize inadvertent exposure. Keep your cats cognitively busy and occupied inside your home to reduce the likelihood of them wandering away.

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

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