Snake Plants: Popular Houseplants or Hidden Danger for Cats?

May 10, 2022 in animal welfare, green living

Article summary and Key takeaways: Snake plants, also known as Sansevieria or mother-in-law’s tongue, have become popular houseplants due to their unique appearance and low maintenance. However, there are concerns about their potential toxicity to cats. Snake plants contain saponins, which can cause gastrointestinal upset in cats if ingested. The toxicity is generally considered mild to moderate, with temporary symptoms. Research suggests that snake plants are relatively low in toxicity, but individual variations in cat reactions may exist. Veterinarians recommend keeping snake plants out of reach, using deterrents, and monitoring cats closely. It is important to research the toxicity levels of different plants before introducing them into homes. Safety measures for cat owners include placing snake plants in inaccessible areas, using deterrents, considering non-toxic alternatives, and monitoring cats for signs of illness. Snake plants are generally not toxic to humans, but ingestion may cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort. They are also mildly toxic to dogs. Non-toxic alternatives for cat-friendly environments include Boston ferns, Christmas cacti, and African violets.

Are Snake Plants Toxic to Cats?

Snake plants, also known as Sansevieria or mother-in-law’s tongue, have become increasingly popular as houseplants due to their unique appearance and low maintenance requirements. However, concerns have been raised about the potential toxicity of snake plants to cats. In this article, we will explore the topic in depth to help cat owners better understand the risks and precautions associated with keeping snake plants in their homes.

Understanding Snake Plants

Snake plants are native to West Africa and are characterized by their long, upright leaves that resemble the skin of a snake. They are often called mother-in-law’s tongue due to the sharpness of their leaves, which is said to resemble a sharp tongue. These plants are highly adaptable and can thrive in a variety of indoor conditions, making them a popular choice for both experienced and novice plant enthusiasts.

Aside from their aesthetic appeal, snake plants offer several benefits as houseplants. They are known for their ability to purify the air by removing toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. This makes them particularly valuable in indoor spaces where air quality may be compromised, such as offices or homes with limited ventilation.

Toxicity of Snake Plants to Cats

While snake plants have many positive attributes, there is a concern that they may be toxic to cats if ingested. The toxic components in snake plants are saponins, which are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in various plant species. These compounds can cause gastrointestinal upset in cats, leading to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

It is important to note that the toxicity of snake plants to cats is generally considered mild to moderate. In most cases, the symptoms mentioned above are temporary and resolve on their own within a few days. However, it is always best to consult a veterinarian if your cat exhibits any signs of illness after coming into contact with a snake plant.

Research on Snake Plants and Cat Toxicity

Several scientific studies have been conducted to assess the toxicity of snake plants to cats. These studies have provided valuable insights into the potential risks associated with these plants. One study published in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care found that cats who ingested snake plant leaves experienced mild gastrointestinal symptoms, but no long-term or life-threatening effects were observed.

However, it is worth noting that there is some conflicting or inconclusive research on this topic. While most studies suggest that snake plants are relatively low in toxicity for cats, there may be individual variations in how cats react to the plant. Therefore, it is important to exercise caution and take appropriate measures to prevent your cat from accessing snake plants.

Expert Opinions and Recommendations

Veterinarians and animal experts generally advise cat owners to take precautions when it comes to snake plants. Dr. Sarah Brown, a veterinarian specializing in toxicology, recommends keeping snake plants out of reach of cats or using deterrents, such as placing citrus peels or aluminum foil around the plants. She also emphasizes the importance of monitoring cats closely for any signs of illness and seeking veterinary attention if necessary.

Additionally, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) suggests that cat owners consider alternative non-toxic plants, especially if their cats are known to be curious or prone to chewing on plants. This can help minimize the risk of accidental ingestion and potential gastrointestinal issues.

Comparison with Other Plants

It is important to note that snake plants are not the only houseplants that may pose a risk to cats. Spider plants, for example, are often confused with snake plants and have a similar appearance. While spider plants are generally considered non-toxic to cats, they contain compounds that can cause mild gastrointestinal upset if ingested in large quantities.

Other common houseplants, such as lilies and certain species of ferns, are known to be highly toxic to cats and can cause severe symptoms if ingested. Therefore, it is crucial for cat owners to research the toxicity levels of different plants before introducing them into their homes.

Safety Measures for Cat Owners

If you are a cat owner and have snake plants in your home, there are several measures you can take to ensure the safety of your feline companion:

  • Place snake plants in areas that are inaccessible to cats, such as high shelves or hanging planters.
  • Use deterrents, such as citrus peels or aluminum foil, to discourage cats from approaching the plants.
  • Consider using alternative non-toxic plants in cat-friendly areas of your home.
  • Monitor your cat closely for any signs of illness, such as vomiting or diarrhea, and seek veterinary attention if needed.

By implementing these safety measures, you can minimize the risk of your cat coming into contact with snake plants and reduce the likelihood of any potential toxicity-related issues.

Addressing Related Concerns and Questions

While this article primarily focuses on the toxicity of snake plants to cats, it is worth addressing a few related concerns:

Toxicity of Snake Plants to Humans: Unlike cats, humans are generally not at risk of significant toxicity from snake plants. Ingesting small amounts of the plant is unlikely to cause severe symptoms, although some individuals may experience mild gastrointestinal discomfort.

Safety of Snake Plants for Dogs: While cats are more prone to chewing on houseplants, it is still important to exercise caution with dogs. Snake plants are considered mildly toxic to dogs as well, and ingestion can lead to similar gastrointestinal symptoms. Keeping the plants out of reach or using deterrents can help prevent any potential issues.

Non-Toxic Plants for Cats: If you are concerned about the potential toxicity of snake plants or other common houseplants, there are numerous non-toxic alternatives available. Some examples include Boston ferns, Christmas cacti, and African violets. These plants can provide a safe and cat-friendly environment without compromising on aesthetics.


In conclusion, snake plants may pose a mild to moderate risk of toxicity to cats if ingested. While scientific research suggests that the symptoms are usually temporary and not life-threatening, it is important for cat owners to take precautions and monitor their pets closely. By understanding the potential risks, consulting experts, and implementing safety measures, cat owners can create a home environment that is both aesthetically pleasing and safe for their feline companions.

Question: What happens if a cat eats a snake plant?
Answer: Eating a snake plant can cause gastrointestinal upset in cats.

Question: Can cats be in the same room as a snake plant?
Answer: Yes, cats can be in the same room as a snake plant without any issues.

Question: Are snake plants toxic for pets?
Answer: Yes, snake plants are toxic to cats and dogs if ingested.

Question: Do cats hate snake plants?
Answer: There is no general consensus on whether cats hate snake plants as it can vary from cat to cat.


About the author 

Jordan Miller

Hi there, I'm Jordan! I graduated from UC Berkeley with a major in Environmental Policy, but my real education has been in the field, turning theory into practice. My days are filled with implementing sustainable solutions and teaching communities how to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle. I believe small changes can make a big impact, and I'm here to guide you through every step of going green.