Are Peonies Poisonous to Cats

icon June 15, 2023

Peonies are renowned for their exquisite beauty and captivating blooms, often considered the queens of the garden. However, when it comes to the safety of our feline companions, it's crucial to be aware of the potential hazards that certain plants may pose. One common concern among cat owners is whether peonies are toxic to cats. In this article, we will explore the potential risks associated with peonies and their effects on our beloved feline friends.

Before knowing whether peonies are toxic to cats, we need to learn how to properly identify peony flowers to avoid cat owners not realizing the presence of peonies in their cat's activity area.

Peony Identification


Peony foliage consists of dark green, glossy leaves with a smooth texture. The leaves are usually divided into multiple leaflets, and each leaflet has a slightly elongated or oval shape. The foliage remains attractive throughout the growing season.


Peony Leaves Images,

Flower Structure

Peony flowers are large and showy, often measuring 4 to 10 inches in diameter. They have layers of petals that form a full, rounded shape. The number of petals can vary depending on the cultivar but usually ranges from single to semi-double, double, or even bomb-type flowers with numerous petals. The center of the flower typically contains multiple stamens surrounded by carpels.

Peonies Flower Structure

Color Range

Peonies come in a wide range of colors, including white, pink, red, yellow, and various shades in between. Some varieties may have bi-colored or speckled petals, and certain cultivars may even change color as they age.

peonies Color Range

If you're unsure whether they are peonies, consider consulting with a local horticulturist, gardening expert, or peony enthusiast who can provide further guidance based on their expertise and knowledge of peonies. Because there are many flowers that are very similar to peonies, difficult to identify correctly without consulting books or relevant information. Such as:

  • Ranunculus
  • Camellia
  • Double-flowered Roses
  • Dahlia
  • Lisianthus
Ranunculus Blooms Rose Camellia Dahlia Lisianthus

Why Are Peonies Toxic to Cats?

Both the ASPCA and the Pet Poison Helpline list peonies as toxic to pets.

Peonies are considered toxic to cats due to the presence of compounds called paeonolide and paeoniflorin. These substances can cause adverse effects when ingested by cats. While the exact mechanism of toxicity is not fully understood, it is believed that these compounds can irritate the gastrointestinal tract and potentially affect other bodily systems.

When cats consume any part of a peony plant, such as the leaves, stems, roots, or flowers, they may experience symptoms of toxicity. The severity of the symptoms can vary depending on the amount ingested and the individual cat's sensitivity.

What Happens If a Cat Eats Peony?

If a cat eats peony, it can lead to various adverse effects due to the potential toxicity of peonies to cats.

While it is relatively uncommon, severe cases of peony ingestion could potentially lead to respiratory distress in cats. This could present as difficulty breathing, coughing, or wheezing. If any severe respiratory symptoms occur, immediate veterinary attention is crucial.

How Will Your Vet Provide Treatment?

If the ingestion occurred recently, your veterinarian may induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage (stomach pumping) to remove any remaining peony plant material from your cat's system. This is typically done within a few hours of ingestion.

 In cases of mild peony ingestion, the veterinarian may focus on supportive care to alleviate symptoms. This could involve providing medications to address gastrointestinal upset, fluid therapy to prevent dehydration, and monitoring your cat's overall condition.

 If your cat is experiencing severe symptoms, your veterinarian may administer additional treatments to manage specific issues. This might include antiemetic medication to control vomiting, antidiarrheal medications, or other medications to address respiratory distress or discomfort.

How Can You Keep Your Cat Away From Peonies?

If you still crave the beauty of peonies but want to ensure your cat's safety, consider exploring alternative flower options that are non-toxic to cats. 

Safe Alternatives to Peonies

Roses: Roses are a classic and popular choice for their beauty and wide range of colors. They are non-toxic to cats, making them a safe option for floral arrangements and garden planting.

Orchids: Orchids are elegant and exotic flowers that come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. They are non-toxic to cats, adding a touch of sophistication to any setting.

Sunflowers: Sunflowers are cheerful and vibrant flowers that bring a sunny and joyful atmosphere to any space. They are safe for cats and can brighten up both indoor and outdoor areas.

Snapdragons: Snapdragons feature tall spikes of colorful blooms and are available in a spectrum of hues. These flowers are safe for cats and add vertical interest to gardens and floral arrangements.

Gerbera Daisies: Gerbera daisies have large, bold blooms in a wide range of colors. They are non-toxic to cats and provide a cheerful and lively presence in bouquets and gardens.

Zinnias: Zinnias are versatile and colorful flowers that come in various shapes, sizes, and vibrant hues. They are a cat-safe option and can be used in garden borders or as cut flowers.

African Violets(Saintpaulia: African violets are small, delicate flowers that bloom in shades of purple, pink, and white. These indoor plants are non-toxic to cats and add a touch of beauty to windowsills or tabletops.

What is the Most Toxic Flower to Cats?

While many flowers can be harmful to cats if ingested, there isn't a specific flower that can be considered universally the most toxic to cats. 

That being said, there are certain flowers that are known to be toxic to cats and should be avoided.

L. longiflorum is toxic to cats. The true mechanism of toxicity is undetermined, but it involves damage to the renal tubular epithelium (composing the substance of the kidney and secreting, collecting, and conducting urine), which can cause acute kidney injury. 

Tulips contain toxins called glycosides that can cause gastrointestinal upset, drooling, and, in some cases, more severe symptoms if ingested in large quantities.

Daffodils (Narcissus): All Narcissus species contain the alkaloid poison lycorine, mostly in the bulb but also in the leaves. The toxic effects of ingesting Narcissus products for both humans and animals (such as cattle, goats, pigs, and cats) have long been recognised and they have been used in suicide attempts. Ingestion of N. pseudonarcissus or N. jonquilla is followed by salivation, acute abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Death may result if large quantities are consumed.

Hyacinths: Hyacinths contain oxalates that can cause oral irritation, drooling, and gastrointestinal upset if ingested by cats.


While peonies are undeniably stunning flowers, it's essential to be mindful of the potential risks they pose to our feline companions. As a responsible pet owner you should also be aware of the toxicity of other flowers to cats. By taking precautionary measures and staying informed, we can ensure the well-being of our cats while enjoying the beauty of our gardens.


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