Are Peonies Poisonous to Cats? Toxicity of Peonies

Cute cat with peony flowers relaxing outdoor in a garden in summer

Yes, peonies are harmful to cats. Unfortunately, cats should not get in contact with certain species of peonies because of the gorgeous flowers’ toxic properties. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or ASPCA and the Pet Toxin Helpline, peonies contain a poison called paeonol concentrated on the bark. If large levels of this toxin are ingested, it may cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. According to the vast majority of sources that were investigated, the toxicity of peonies for cats is on the low end of the spectrum and does not result in death.

Toxicity of Peonies

Even though the pretty plants don’t look dangerous, all parts of a paeonia are poisonous. The alkaloid paeonin in plants is dangerous for both people and animals. But it also depends on how much is eaten. A grown-up can eat more of the plant than a child or pet. Because of this, peonies should always be looked at with care if children, dogs, or cats are in the house. The peony mostly has the following poisonous chemicals:


The toxin paeonol is concentrated in the bark of peonies. Ingestion of high levels can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems. But toxicity to cats is low-end and does not result in death, according to most sources.


Paeonine and paeonol are glycosides. Glycosides poison by binding to proteins in the body and stopping their function.


Also known as paeonol, this pigment is found only in peonies. It can cause skin irritation and vomiting if ingested by people or animals. Cats may vomit after getting into contact with petals or leaves that have high levels of paeonol.


Peonies are sometimes grown as a symbolic gesture of travel in a popular garden plant. Ingesting paeonol-rich peony petals or leaves could cause vomiting and diarrhea.

People say that the poison is in the petals and the seeds. Even experts don’t know if the roots and leaves also have substances that are bad for your health. So, you should always be safe, and you shouldn’t eat any part of the peony just like that.

Symptoms of Peony Poisoning

A peony plant’s poison is highly concentrated in the bark. When consumed in excessive quantities, it can have a variety of consequences on the body of a cat. It can induce digestive problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Regardless of the amount ingested, your cat must be rushed to a veterinarian immediately. Poisoning with paeonol can be extremely hazardous. There are numerous symptoms and indicators to watch out for. Depending on the toxicity level, cats exhibit various symptoms after consuming a toxin. Some hazardous plants induce the following symptoms in cats:


Cats drool for a limited number of causes, and it is uncommon for cats to drool. This is the first indicator to watch for. This occurs when the poison is not digested, and plant components become lodged in the esophagus.


Vomiting may be common owing to illnesses, diabetes, or ingestion of a harmful substance. When your cat vomits, taking it to a veterinary clinic is best, as all the health conditions associated with this symptom require medical attention.


Given that paeonol is highly poisonous to cats when taken in significant quantities, it is likely to induce intestinal inflammation or irritation.


Cats who have swallowed poisons may experience depression. This is the result of inflammation within the gastrointestinal regions. This results in pain and loss of appetite. This is true not only for humans but also for cats.

Other symptoms include convulsions, coughing, breathing difficulty, abdominal pain, skin irritation, irregular heartbeat, fever, and general weakness when excessive quantities of toxins are eaten. Cats are careful and selective eaters. This is why they generally avoid consuming foods outside of their normal diet. Even if they succumb to the immediate urge, the bitter taste prevents them from consuming huge quantities.


When paeonol is ingested in large quantities, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In some cases, the toxin may irritate the gastrointestinal tract to such an extent that nausea results.


Excessive vomiting and diarrhea can cause a cat to feel lethargic. This is usually temporary, but the cat may need rest to regain its usual vigor.

Stomach Pain

Although not a direct result of paeonol ingestion, pain in the stomach may be a sign that your cat is experiencing other ill effects from ingesting the toxin.


Cats who experience vomiting or diarrhea often lose a great amount of fluids. If dehydration is severe, the cat may suffer from lethargy, lack of appetite, and even seizures.

First Aid Measures to a Potentially Poisoned Cat

If you see your cat has been poisoned by peony or any other plant or home toxin, please follow the following instructions. Human medications, antifreeze, household cleaners and chemicals, and even human delicacies like onion, garlic, and chocolate are common sources of cat poisoning.

  • Talk to the cat calmly
  • Check the mouth for leaf remains, take them out, and put them away.
  • Sooner rather than later, contact a vet.
  • You should bring a piece of the plant to a veterinarian so they can identify it.
  • Never make a cat puke. Your vet will decide if inducing vomiting is required and may use activated charcoal.
  • Clean your cat’s hair, skin, and mouth of plant matter.
  • Confine your cat so you can better supervise him.
  • If your cat vomit, take a sample of the cat’s vomit to the vet if you have any suspicions about what it may have eaten.
  • It’s important to keep other animals away from poisonous plants or whatever could cause poisoning.

Advice to keep in mind:

  • Avoid waiting for signs of illness before contacting your vet.
  • Be wary of assuming your cat is fine just because it has vomited.
  • Never give your cat saltwater or try to make it throw up.
  • Don’t panic!

How Do Cats Get Better After Eating Peonies?

Upon your cat’s return, provide him with plenty of fresh water and a comfortable place to rest. If the peony just caused mild stomach distress, your cat should be okay in a day or two.

If the peony consumption led to GI distress, the vet would suggest a diet to be maintained while the stomach recovers.

If your cat has a taste for greenery, you might want to fence in your peonies to protect them from potential nibbling. To give their cats access to safe grazing areas, some people grow grasses certified by veterinarians in a fenced-in yard area far from the garden.

In some cases, it’s preferable to train a cat to consume only the grass growing in indoor containers rather than any grass it finds outside.

How to Prevent Cats from Eating The Peonies?

To prevent your cat from devouring your peony, use these methods:

Spray Insect Repellent

You can buy commercially available products with strong scents that will cause your cat to sneeze if it gets too close, or you can make your own at home using everyday ingredients.

Another option is to use a mixture of water and a highly scented soap (like lavender or citrus) or a puree of garlic in water, both of which are beneficial.

When things call for more seriousness, you can get a similar appearance by sprinkling fiery chili peppers among your plants.

In any case, keep in mind that the cats could experience discomfort if any of the solutions got into their eyes or nose in excess. Take care when using.

Hold Them Up

To prevent your cats from damaging your plants, you may need to physically relocate them, which could prove challenging if your feline friends are particularly nimble.

Away from other pieces of furniture, hanging baskets can be beneficial, as can containers that affix directly to the wall (no shelf).

Scoop the Litter

This may be why your cat keeps using your plant pots as litter boxes, while some felines may be doing it on purpose.

Make sure their designated litter box is easily accessible and that it is cleaned regularly. Try a new brand of litter if you’ve cleaned the litter box and your cat still won’t use it.

Don’t assume everything is fine just because it has been for a while if you’ve been using the same litter for your cat.

Give Your Cat Reliable Alternatives

To prevent your leaf-chewing cat from destroying your houseplants, consider giving it its plant to nibble on.

In place of catnip, you can grow a pot of mint, cat grass (a combination of oat and barley grass), or thyme. Cats love them, and it’s okay if they occasionally nibble on them because they’re safe.

You can attract your cat’s attention away from the real peonies by employing a few other techniques discussed.