Toxic plants

Is Ragwort Toxic To Cats?

by Clair Chesterman
Is Ragwort Toxic to Cats

Ragwort, also known as cress leaf groundsel and butterweed, is toxic to cats who consume the leaves and blooms. Because this plant is unpleasant to eat, your cat may decide to stop eating it, but it will still require emergency medical attention. Those that are younger are more hazardous than plants that are older.

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are the major poisons of golden ragwort. These are the chemicals that cause liver failure and, if left untreated, death in your cat. This plant’s leaves, seeds, and blooms are all poisonous to animals, including cats.

What is Ragwort?

Ragwort with a cat in the background

Ragwort is a perennial flower that belongs to the Asteraceae family. Its scientific name is Jacobaea vulgaris.  Its native range is Labrador to Minnesota, and North Carolina to Arkansas. Although the plants prefer some shade, they can also be planted in full sun. The plants grow reasonably quickly to make an attractive ground cover, with rounded, year-round, dark-green foliage 3 to 5 inches high.

Clinical Signs of Ragwort Poisoning in Cats

Ragwort and cats

Your cat may still be attracted to eat ragwort even if it doesn’t taste good. Once it has eaten even a little of it, it will develop the following symptoms: 

  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)  
  • Diarrhea  
  • Vomiting  
  • Muddy mucous membranes  
  • Poor hair coat  
  • Behavioral changes  
  • Sunburn of hairless areas of the body 
  • Body weakness 
  • Ataxia (loss of control of body movements) 
  • Liver damage 

These symptoms appear out of nowhere and last for a few days to a week. This plant is poisonous to your cat’s liver which may lead to inability to continue processing toxins.  

First Aid and Treatment of Ragwort Poisoning in Cats

Ragwort flowers with a cat in the background

Supportive and symptomatic treatment for your cat will be used. The vet will make your cat vomit so that any leftover ragwort in its stomach may be removed. Your cat will also receive activated charcoal treatment, which will allow any lingering toxins to adhere to the charcoal and be safely removed from its body. The veterinarian will treat the animal’s symptoms and perform thorough decontamination. This includes stomach pumping or gastric lavage.

You won’t know what’s causing your cat’s symptoms until the vet connects all of the dots, because symptoms appear unexpectedly. As a result, liver failure symptoms will emerge. Unfortunately, if your cat’s disease isn’t caught early enough, the damage to its liver will be permanent. Because your cat’s health will not be restored, treatment will be supportive. Its health will deteriorate over time, and care will be focused on ensuring the cat’s comfort. 

Recovery from Ragwort Poisoning in Cats

The poisoning of your cat by golden ragwort will have a long-term effect on his health. You’ll be able to take it home, but all you’ll be able to do is offer supportive care and make it comfortable.

Return to your veterinarian for treatment if you detect anything that indicates it is becoming worse. If the poisoning is severe or the animal’s condition worsens, humane euthanasia may be considered.

Prevention of Ragwort Poisoning in Cats

If you let your cat out in the yard, it might come across a patch of ragwort and start nibbling. It prefers bare ground and is difficult to eliminate. If any are present, have a professional landscaper apply weed killers to all areas between late October and early November. These treatments work best before the plant starts growing and flowering in the spring. You must keep your cat indoors and away from any areas where ragwort has been treated so that it does not consume the poisons.

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

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