Are Bonsai Trees Safe for Cats?

Bonsai Trees are not safe for cats. Some species of Bonsai trees can be specifically fatal to cats if they are ingested in large amounts.

Bonsai trees can be excellent plants to add to your collection if you have a green thumb, but some Bonsai trees may pose some risks to your cat’s safety and health.

Read on to discover why Bonsai trees are unsafe and what types of trees to avoid if you have cats. We will discuss some Bonsai trees that may be safe for cats and what symptoms to look for in cases of Bonsai tree ingestion. 

What Makes Most Bonsai Trees Unsafe for Cats?

Cycasin is a toxic agent found in several species of Bonsai tree that can be harmful to cats, and in some cases, fatal. Cycasin is found in all parts of the Bonsai tree, but seeds and buds of these trees are the main perpetrators of the plant that cause fatal reactions.

What Happens If My Cat Ingests Part of a Bonsai Tree?

Depending on the species of Bonsai tree you have, if ingested, your cat could experience anything including:

  • Minor irritation on the skin
  • Upset stomach
  • Liver failure. 

It is essential to do your research and keep any potentially fatal Bonsai trees away from your cats. 

Toxins in Bonsai Trees

Cycasin, the toxic agent found in some Bonsai trees, will damage the tissues in cells of the liver and release toxins into the bloodstream. Within 15 minutes, your cat could experience liver damage or failure if it ingests part of a Bonsai tree that contains Cycasin. 

The seeds and buds of a plant can contain higher amounts of the toxin, Cycasin and can be naturally more harmful to cats. The leaves and stems of several Bonsai variations contain just traces of Cycasin but can still bring about mild symptoms of Cycasin poisoning. 

Dangerous Alkaloids Found in Bonsai Trees

50-year-old Bonsai

Alkaloids are organic plant compounds that have a physiological reaction on humans and animals. Alkaloids can produce mild to fatal responses and are commonly found in Bonsai trees and plants. 

  • Buxine is an alkaloid found in some Bonsai variations that can cause vomiting, nausea, and respiratory failure in cats, humans, and livestock. 
  • Boxwoods contain two additional toxic alkaloids:
    • Cyclobuxine
    • Clycloprotobuxine

These alkaloids found in many species of Bonsai tree are the fatal components that will harm your cat if they ingest any part of a Bonsai plant, but specifically the seeds and buds. Consuming these alkaloids will cause vomiting and diarrhea, among other, more severe symptoms. 

Bonsai Trees to Avoid If You Have Cats

bonsai bench

Most Bonsai trees contain properties toxic to cats and will create a fatal reaction when they are ingested. These species of Bonsai Trees contain Cycasin- a carcinogenic and neurotoxic which is one of the most poisonous substances for cats.

Be sure to avoid having these species of Bonsai Tree in your home, but if it is a must, keep them separated from your cat at all times

Here is a list of specific Bonsai Tree species to avoid when you have cats:

  • Sago Palm Tree– All of the Sago Palm Tree is poisonous to cats
  • Jade Plant– All parts of the rubbery jade plant are toxic to cats.
  • Azalea– Azaleas are toxic to both humans and cats if ingested. Ingestion of 0.2% of an animal’s body weight can result in poisoning. 
  • Boxwood– Boxwood Bonsai trees contain three poisonous alkaloids that will harm cats if ingested.

The Sago Palm Tree is the most toxic of Bonsai trees, but any on this list can be near-fatal if your cat ingests the leaves or seeds in large amounts. Information on all plants found to be toxic for cats has been listed on the ASPCA website. 

Are There Any Bonsai Trees Safe For Cats?

There are some Bonsai Tree variations that pose no risk to your cat’s health, even if ingested. If you are partial to having a Bonsai tree in your home, opt for one of these cat-friendly variations:

  • Juniper
  • Japanese Maple
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Hibiscus

These and a few other species are listed as non-toxic for cats, and none contain Cycasin. Refer to the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants before purchasing a Bonsai Tree for your home. 

How to Tell If a Bonsai Tree Has Poisoned Your Cat

bonsai training

If your cat ingests any part of a Bonsai tree, you should begin seeing symptoms within minutes. Let’s look at some of the related symptoms your cat can develop if ingesting the Bonsai trees or plants.

Plant poisoning will begin with some mild symptoms but can progress into more severe symptoms. If your cat has ingested a large amount of a Bonsai Tree, or a small amount of a Sago Palm, you could notice severe symptoms right away. 

Symptoms of Mild Bonsai Poisoning

There are some symptoms associated with mild poisoning from a Bonsai tree. These symptoms can present themselves within minutes of your cat nibbling on a leaf or injecting a small portion of a Bonsai plant leaf.

Some mild Bonsai poisoning symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of Grooming
  • Skin Irritation
  • Reddened Gums

These symptoms can present themselves immediately or any time after the ingestion of a toxic bonsai plant. If your cat experiences any of these symptoms, seek help immediately. 

Symptoms of Severe Bonsai Poisoning

If your cat has ingested a toxic Bonsai plant seed or bud, they may begin experiencing some severe poisoning symptoms. Be on the lookout for these specific symptoms.

Some severe Bonsai poisoning symptoms include:

  • Excessive Drooling (Specific to Sago Palm Poisoning)
  • Abdominal Pain and Fluid Accumulation
  • Jaundice
  • Black Stool
  • Slowed Heart Rate
  • Shock or Seizure 
  • Death

These symptoms will become evident minutes after ingestion. Seek help immediately and act quickly.

What to Do If Your Cat Has Been Poisoned by a Bonsai Tree

Cat Has Been Poisoned

If you suspect your cat has chewed on or eaten part of a toxic Bonsai tree, or they are showing any of the above symptoms, here’s what to do. 

For cases of mild Bonsai poisoning, most cats will recover within 1-2 days with proper treatment. It is always best to contact your vet immediately to be sure. If your cat is only showing one or two mild symptoms of Bonsai poisoning, chances are you will need to monitor your cat’s symptoms over the next 24 hours, but they will recover with proper diagnosis and treatment from your vet.

If your cat has ingested part of a Sago Palm Bonsai, you should not waste any time. Contact your vet immediately and take your cat in.

Take note of the plant your cat has ingested and get them immediately to the vet. If your vet is not open, there is a Pet Poison Helpline available 24/7 that offers services to help you administer first aid and locate an emergency vet.  Call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661. 


Many Bonsai tree species are toxic to cats when chewed on or ingested. These Bonsai trees or plants are toxic because of the carcinogens and alkaloids they contain. Cycasin is the major toxin located in Bonsai trees that can prove fatal to cats.

The ASPCA offers a list of toxic and non-toxic plants, including a list of Bonsai species on their website. If your cat begins to show symptoms of plant poisoning, immediately call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline for assistance and advice. 

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