Toxic plants

Is Maiden’s Breath Toxic To Cats?

by Clair Chesterman
Is Maiden’s Breath Toxic To Cats? 

Maiden’s breath is a fragrant flowering plant that is also known to be harmful to felines. Although it does not cause severe and life-threatening symptoms, maiden’s breath should still be avoided by cats.

This attractive plant contains saponins which are produced primarily to keep the plant free of small parasites, but its detergent-like chemical makeup also makes it repulsive to larger animals. The toxin binds to and ruptures the cell walls of tissues it comes into contact with. If consumed, it causes irritation to the cat’s skin and mouth, as well as harm and pain to the digestive tract.

Although there is a misconception that this genus contains gypsogenin which is a common toxic principle in the Caryophyllaceae family, where the maiden breath belongs to, research has shown that maiden’s breath has no trace of gypsogenin in its parts.

What Is Maiden’s Breath?

Maiden’s Breath with a cat in the background

Maiden’s breath, scientifically known as gypsophila elegans, is a native of Eurasia, with roughly 35 endemic species in Turkey. In Africa, Australia, and the Pacific Islands, maiden’s breath is also grown widely. It is also commonly called baby’s breath. Several species are produced commercially for a variety of purposes, including floristry, medicinal herbs, and food. The common gypsophila species, G.paniculata, is the most widely used baby’s breath in flower arrangements such as bouquets. On the other hand, the species G.  elegans can also be used as a cut flower. 

Saponins from this species are utilized in a wide range of applications, including the manufacturing of photographic film and hemolytic laboratory reagents. They can be also used in soaps and shampoos because of their detergent properties. 

Clinical Signs of Maiden’s Breath Poisoning in Cats

Maiden’s Breath and cats

GI distress and contact dermatitis are common symptoms of maiden’s breath poisoning in cats, as are the clinical indicators listed below. It is recommended to have your cat get proper medical care if you see a combination of these symptoms.

First Aid and Treatment of Maiden’s Breath Poisoning in Cats

Maiden’s Breath and a cat

Replacement of fluids lost by the cat due to vomiting and diarrhea is primary step in treatment. Fluid treatment, in which liquid is delivered intravenously to the cat, is the most usual way to do this. This will have the added benefit of producing urine, which will assist the cat to remove most of the saponin in his system. The vet may also decide to give the cat a dose of activated charcoal to absorb any toxins that may still be present in the intestines, alleviating much of the irritation. In case of mild dermatitis, the vet will usually opt to let it heal on its otherwise he may decide to prescribe a cream or salve that the owner should apply on the cat’s skin.

Recovery from Maiden’s Breath Poisoning in Cats

Since most cases of maiden’s breath poisoning are only mild, cats typically recover within 24 hours from the time of ingestion. Once the symptoms disappear, it is still best to let your cat rest as he or she may still be distressed from the poisoning incident. Continue giving plenty of water as it will aid in clearing up any remaining toxin residue in his or her stomach.

Prevention of Maiden’s Breath Poisoning in Cats

Maiden’s breath is a popular ornamental plant in most temperate regions thus, cats have high chances of encountering this plant. Be sure that you do not have this plant at home or remove it if you have one. Limit your cat’s outdoor activities and keep them indoors to prevent minimize the risk of exposure to maiden’s breath or other poisonous plants growing in your area. 

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

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