Are Orchids Toxic to Pets and Children?


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As an orchid grower, you may be wondering if orchids are toxic or poisonous to your pets or young children. After all, some houseplants are poisonous to animals and humans. Is this true for orchids too? Cats, dogs and very young children are naturally curious and ingesting a toxic or poisonous plant can have devastating consequences. Fortunately, many orchids are safe to keep in the home.

Most species of orchids are not toxic or poisonous to cats, dogs, or humans. However, if ingested, orchid parts can cause stomach upset and discomfort. For the most part, orchids are safe to have in your home if you also have pets or small children. However, some orchid species have not yet been studied in terms of their effects on animals and humans. You should still be cautious when introducing a rare or unstudied orchid into a home with pets and young children.

Cat on edge of sofa, sniffing an orchid plant. Is this orchid toxic to pets?

In this article, I’ll go into more detail about whether orchids are toxic to pets and humans. You’ll learn what to expect when certain parts of the orchid plant are accidentally eaten and what you should do. Plus, you’ll get some tips and ideas on how to keep your pets away from your orchid plants.

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Are Orchids Toxic or Poisonous?

Green liquid in a glass bottle with a poison label

People love to have plants and flowers in their homes. Orchids can add aesthetic value and a feeling of peace and serenity to the surroundings. Some other houseplants can even help purify the air around them. However, pet owners and parents need to be mindful about which plants they keep in their homes.

While most orchids are safe to keep as houseplants, remember that there are thousands of orchid varieties and hybrids known to exist today. These orchids come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors.

The varieties of orchids that are commonly grown indoors and in your gardens are considered non-poisonous and non-toxic. Phalaenopsis orchids are a favorite among orchid growers and hobbyists. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has declared these orchids to be non-toxic for dogs, cats, and even horses.

Check out the ASPCA’s list of plants to see which ones are poisonous to dogs and cats. Thankfully, many common varieties of orchids are non-toxic to dogs and cats. Most orchids are safe houseplants to have around your pets.

In addition, many popular household varieties of orchids are also not known to be toxic to humans. In fact, some are even edible.

Orchid varieties such as Dendrobiums, for example, are believed to have medicinal properties. Dendrobium orchid blooms are also used in Thai and Hawaiian foods as a garnish. Some other orchids varieties are consumed as tea in traditional Chinese medicine. Many orchid varieties, due to their colorful blooms, are used to enhance feng shui in a home.

Another excellent example of edible orchids are the vanilla orchids. We make vanilla extract by extracting vanilla essence from the seed pods of the vanilla bean orchid, also known as Vanilla planifolia.

Can Eating Orchids Kill Cats?

Gray and white cat sniffing a Phalaenopsis orchid in bloom. Is this orchid toxic to pets?

The orchids you have inside your house are generally not poisonous to cats and are not likely to kill your beloved pet. Cats do tend to be very curious and exploratory, however. It is possible that they might play with your orchid or nibble on the orchid stems or leaves.

Eating part of the orchid plant might result in stomach irritation and vomiting for your cat. This will be uncomfortable for the cat and worrisome for you, but it is not life-threatening.

So, no, eating orchids will not kill your cats. But your cats could kill your orchids.

Are Orchids Pet-Friendly?

Cat sitting next to a blooming orchid on a windowsill--is this orchid toxic to pets?

Many household orchids are pet-friendly and pet-safe. It is definitely possible for your pets and your orchids to co-exist in the same space.

However, it is still best to keep your orchids out of your pets’ reach. Your pets might accidentally knock over your plant, break the orchid stems or leaves, or eat parts of the orchid.

Orchids have tough leaves and roots. While the majority of orchids are not poisonous, your cats and dogs could still choke on the orchid parts.

However, there are exceptions. One popular orchid has a mild toxic rating.

According to research by the University of California, Davis, Cypripedium or Lady Slipper orchids are mildly toxic to animals and humans. The California Poison Control System lists Lady Slipper orchids as having a toxicity rating of one. This means it causes dermal reactions upon contact with the skin. These reactions include redness, rashes, and itching.

Rest assured though, the majority of household orchids are not toxic or poisonous and are safe to be in your home. However, remember that there are thousands of varieties of orchids. Not all of them have been studied with regard to their effects on humans and animals when consumed. As such, there might be more orchid species in the wild that could be toxic.

What Happens if Your Pet or Child Eats Part of Your Orchid?

Black and white cat lounging next to a potted orchid plant in bloom

Sometimes, toddlers or very young children may become curious and place an orchid bloom into their mouth. Cats or dogs may nibble on an orchid bloom, leaf, or aerial root for reasons known only to the cat or dog.

Of course, as soon as you see this happen, you will stop your child or pet from what they are doing. Obviously, you will do your best to remove the orchid from their mouth. But what happens if your cat, dog, or small child accidentally ingests part of your orchid leaf, flower, or root?

As mentioned above, most household orchids are non-poisonous. However, there are still other problems that may arise if your pet or young child accidentally ingests or tries to ingest part of your orchid plant.

Most orchid plants are not edible or suitable for consumption. Orchids have tough, thick leaves and aerial roots. This can pose a choking hazard. Parts of the orchid that are hard to chew can end up getting lodged or stuck in the throat, or worse, in the windpipe.

Moreover, ingesting orchid parts may cause vomiting, stomach upset, loss of appetite, or even lethargy.

Also, while the leaves and flowers generally do not trigger any serious adverse reaction, the plant’s tuber may be a different story. Tubers have bitter substances that could potentially cause irritation in the stomach, liver, and intestine. Children may experience severe vomiting and diarrhea when they consume this bitter substance.

In the case of Lady Slipper orchids, contact with the skin could cause additional issues. These issues include mild skin reactions, rashes, itching, and redness. 

Create a Barrier

If you have babies or toddlers, you can place a barrier around your orchids. This will help protect your plants. It will also keep your child from accidentally ingesting your plant, knocking over the pots or breaking your orchid plant.

If you want to prevent your pets from having access to your orchids and other plants, you can also use a baby gate. This baby gate by Toddleroo allows you to safely section out a portion of your room for your orchids, providing a safe space for plants without worrying if your baby or toddler will get into them.

Another alternative is to place your orchid collection in another room where your pets cannot go. You can also place the orchids in an area that is out of reach (though this may be more difficult for cat owners).

Do Pets Need To Go to the Vet After Eating an Orchid?

It is always best to take your pets to the vet if they have ingested parts of your orchids and have been vomiting, eating less than usual, or been lethargic, or if you are unsure of what to do.

Likewise, if your young child has accidentally eaten part of your orchid plant, it is best practice to contact your child’s pediatrician. Let them know of the situation and get their advice.

You may also want to consult with your pet’s veterinarian or your child’s pediatrician if your pet or child experiences mild dermal reactions. This may happen due to their skin coming into contact with a Lady Slipper orchid.

While your orchids at home may not be toxic, they can still cause mild adverse reactions when eaten or when coming into contact with the mucus membranes like the eyes and nose.

Keep in mind that people and animals are different. Certain substances may have different effects on different bodies. When in doubt, contact the veterinarian or pediatrician.

How To Keep Your Pets and Children From Eating Orchids

Dog sitting next to orchid blooms--is this orchid toxic to pets?

One of the ways you can keep your pets and children from getting into and accidentally eating your orchid plants is to keep the plant out of reach. This is an obvious and relatively easy intervention. You can place your orchid in a location that is too high for your dogs or young children to reach. Put your orchids on top of the console, on a shelf, or on the center of a table.

Alternatively, you can teach your pets and kids to stay away from your plants. Establish early on that your orchids should not be touched. Teaching your pets and kids not to touch your plants will take some effort and time, but it will be worth it in the long run.

These solutions may not be as effective when it comes to cats, though. Cats can leap and reach high places. Even putting your plant on the topmost shelf would not guarantee its safety. Cats also tend to enjoy playing with plants more than dogs do.

Cayenne Pepper as a Deterrent

As such, one effective way to keep your cats from your orchid is to make it smell bad or unattractive. Cayenne pepper is sometimes used to achieve this.

Some people feel using cayenne pepper is inhumane. I personally would not use this for my cats. However, I just want to lay out all the options for you, so am including this because maybe you want to deter stray cats from your outdoor orchids and plants. I have heard of people using cayenne pepper in this manner.

You can sprinkle a small amount of cayenne pepper on the edges of the leaves to deter cats from coming near your orchid. However, be aware that if cayenne pepper gets into cat’s eyes, or the cat’s paws and then it licks its paws, the cat will be in distress. Ingesting the cayenne pepper will cause severe intestinal discomfort for the cat. This is why some may feel that the use of cayenne pepper is cruel and inhumane.

Though the idea is that the mere scent of cayenne pepper should deter cats from coming closer, some curious cats will investigate further. Some cats might sniff up or lick the cayenne pepper. Keep this in mind before you use cayenne pepper, especially if your cat tends to be very curious.

Aluminum Foil as a Deterrent

Another option is to place slightly crumpled aluminum foil sheets around your orchid pots. This will deter cats from coming too close to your orchids. Cats dislike the feel of aluminum foil, especially crinkled aluminum foil, under their paws. The sound and feel of the aluminum foil may be enough to keep cats away from your orchid plants.

Citrus as a Deterrent

Cats also dislike citrus smells. To deter your cat (or any cat) from playing with your orchid, you can put some lemon and orange peels in the orchid pot. You can also dilute orange oil and lemon juice in water, put this mixture in a spray bottle, and spray it on the orchid leaves to deter cats. 

Final Thoughts

If you do have pets or small children in the house, using plastic orchid pots for your orchids would be the safest option for all involved. This way, if your orchid pot accidentally gets knocked over and falls to the ground, you at least will not have to worry about broken pot shards injuring your pets or children.

Thankfully, the most popular or common household orchids are not poisonous to dogs, cats, or children. However, it is still best to keep these plants out of their reach. These plants have thick leaves and roots that are difficult to chew, posing a choking hazard to your pets and children. If ingested, orchids can irritate the stomach and cause nausea, vomiting and upset stomach.

It is also important not to generalize and assume all orchids are safe and non-toxic. While the majority of household orchids are non-poisonous, Cypripedium Lady Slipper orchids are mildly toxic. They could cause contact-based skin irritation and other mild dermal reactions.

Moreover, many varieties of orchids, especially those that grow in the wild, have not yet been studied. As such, their effects on humans and animals when eaten are still unknown.

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Black cat looking out a window, sitting next to multiple potted orchids
Cat looking at orchid
Dog with orchid plant near mouth

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