Toxic plants

Is Pencil Cactus Toxic To Cats? 

by Clair Chesterman
Is Pencil Cactus Toxic to Cats

The pencil cactus is poisonous to cats. The hazardous principle is irritating and carcinogenic diterpene esters found in latex sap, which cause irritation to the mouth, skin, and eyes. When bitten, the pencil cactus causes acute discomfort, which serves as a deterrent to massive ingestions of the plant. However, the cutaneous and, in particular, the ocular damage is seen in humans may easily be linked to animal species that have been exposed to the plant’s deadly sap.

What is a Pencil Cactus?

Cat sits near Pencil Cactus

The pencil cactus belongs to the genus Euphorbiaceae, which contains over 2,000 species of trees, succulents, and herbaceous plants. The scientific name for pencil cactus, a small tree shrub native to Africa and India, is Euphorbia tirucalli. Its cactus-like leaves resemble true cactus, but without the sharp needles. Because of its unique appearance and ease of care, the plant is popular as an indoor plant.

Pencil cactus stems easily break off if accidentally bumped or chewed, causing the plant to secrete a thick milky latex irritant sap.

Clinical Signs of Pencil Cactus Poisoning in Cats

Pencil Cactus and cats

When it comes to exposure, the pencil cactus, or Euphorbia tirucalli, is thought to be one of the most dangerous. Despite this, if your dog is warned off with a single bite rather than large ingestion, the effects on your pet may be mild to moderate toxicity. If your cat comes into contact with the pencil cactus, he may exhibit the following signs of distress. 

  • Intense oral pain
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Watery eyes
  • Photophobia
  • Ulceration
  • Temporary blindness
  • Dermal
  • Pain
  • Redness os skin
  • Swelling

First Aid and Treatment of Pencil Cactus Poisoning in Cats

Pencil Cactus with a cat in the background

If ocular exposure has occurred, immediately flush the affected eye with water to remove as much sap as possible before transporting the cat to a veterinary hospital.

To remove irritant sap from the coat, give the cat a spot bath in cool water with soap. Take extreme caution not to spread the sap to other parts of the body. Because of the immediate pain, a cat feels when chewing pencil cactus, oral exposure is usually self-limiting.

To help dilute the toxin, give the cat a drink of something tasty, such as tuna juice or milk.

Recovery from Pencil Cactus Poisoning in Cats

The prognosis is good unless the sap has caused damage to the eyes, which may take time to repair. There’s a chance your cat’s eyes will be permanently damaged, and if that happens, you’ll have to be patient as he or she adjusts to a new lifestyle.

Prevention of Pencil Cactus Poisoning in Cats

Avoid growing pencil cactus in your home especially if you have animals living with you. Keep your cats indoors and reduce their outdoor activities. 

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

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