Are Orchids Poisonous? What To Consider For Children And Cats

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:30 pm

Orchids are among the most popular houseplants in this country and delight with their colorful flowers of the numerous species. Despite their beauty, more and more cat owners report symptoms of poisoning after their pet has chewed on the plant or swallowed parts of it. Many parents are also concerned for this reason and ask themselves the question whether orchids are now poisonous and if so, how to minimize the dangers of poisoning.

Are orchids poisonous?

The question of whether orchids are poisonous cannot be answered in a blanket manner, as up to 30,000 species exist around the world. However, there are no known poisonous varieties available in Europe that develop toxins due to their way of life. Nevertheless, no plant parts of the Orchidaceae should be chewed or swallowed for too long, especially the flowers and the roots. The following symptoms occur due to the consumption of the orchids in cats and children.

  • Stomach discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • hallucinations (orchids with alkaloids)
  • Dizziness (orchids with alkaloids)
  • visual disturbances (orchids with alkaloids)
  • liver damage due to consumption of the root
  • Skin irritations (only with Vanilla planifolia)

Orchid species

Are Orchids Poisonous? What To Consider For Children And Cats

The liver damage that occurs is especially a common problem with young children, as they dig in the pots and substrate of the plants and thus have remnants of the roots on their fingers. These are ingested through the mouth and in many cases swallowed, which can lead to liver poisoning even in small amounts, as children have smaller organisms than adults. Cats function differently than humans, but they are very sensitive to the ingredients of the orchid.

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The following are popular species:

  • Phalaenopsis
  • Oncidium
  • Vanilla planifolia

These are the most common species offered in Europe. Of course, there are many other, more unusual varieties, but the toxicity is the same for all varieties. The spiced vanilla is also irritating to the skin and respiratory tract compared to the other varieties. If touched too often, it can cause skin rashes. With the thin skin of a young child, the toxins of spiced vanilla move much faster into the skin and cause painful irritation. In addition, native orchids should be avoided as well, including the following.

  • Orchis (marsh orchid)
  • Cypripedium (lady’s slipper)

Especially these two varieties are found in our own gardens and are a found food for free-roaming cats. Likewise, children are fascinated by the blaze of color the flowers emit, and picking and tasting them out of curiosity can be a common occurrence. Lady’s slipper species also cause skin irritation from the stem and leaf hairs, which contain a toxin that can be easily absorbed through the skin.

Are Orchids Poisonous? What To Consider For Children And Cats

Please note, if your child or the cat swallowed parts of the roots, be sure to consult a doctor. The roots of the orchid contain bitter substances, which can even be absorbed through saliva and cause the above-mentioned liver damage.

Toxic for animals

Why do cats chew on orchid plants?

Compared to wild cats, today’s domestic cats no longer rely on certain instincts. First and foremost, this includes the knowledge about poisonous and non-poisonous plants, which is provided by the mother animal. For this reason, a classic domestic cat simply does not know whether the moth orchid on the windowsill is intended for consumption or not. Moreover, a cat’s sense of smell is only half as strong as a dog’s, so they try out whether the houseplant tastes good. But the sense of taste is even worse than the cat’s nose. Orchids stimulate only the instinct to chew in the cat.

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Precautions for cats

If you have a cat in the house, you should apply the following tips to protect the house cat from accidental poisoning. In recent decades, orchids have become the biggest causes of plant poisoning due to their popularity. With a little preparation, there is no need to make a trip to the vet.

Are Orchids Poisonous? What To Consider For Children And Cats

Tip 1:

If possible, place the orchid so that the cat does not reach it.
due to the jumping and climbing abilities of the animals this is easier said than done.
here are suitable, for example, partitioned window sills or the conservatory, which is not accessible to the cat
some orchid owners get a cage in which they put their orchid and which at the same time provides for an aesthetic aspect in the apartment.

Tip 2:

be sure to collect the flowers and other parts of the orchid immediately if they have been shed

Tip 3:

older cats are often no longer interested in chewing on plants
therefore protection is not so important for them

Tip 4:

you can teach young cats not to go near the orchid
this requires a little training and patience
as an alternative you can sprinkle a little pepper or chili around the orchid’s location
these hot spices cats hate

Tip 5:

with free-roaming cats it is worthwhile to bring outdoor orchids into the greenhouse
also here can sprinkle a protection against cats around the orchids

Are Orchids Poisonous? What To Consider For Children And Cats

Poisonous for children

Why do children put orchids in their mouths?

While domestic cats have a poor sense of taste and are no longer told which plants are safe through their mother, young children explore their world largely with their mouths and hands. Eyes and hearing only sharpen over the course of childhood. This is why babies and children put their fingers in their mouths or try to eat soil. Plants of all kinds are especially interesting to young children because humans have a keen sense of taste and want to adapt it, especially at a young age. Therefore, parents need to take extra good care of their children.

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Precautions for children

Children, especially toddlers, are not as agile at a young age and can be kept away from orchids with little effort. In the first few years of life, it is enough to place them in a higher place to protect the child. As the child gets older, keep reminding him or her that orchids are not for consumption and species such as the lady’s slipper should not be touched. By doing this, you reduce the risk of your offspring getting poisoned. Even if the orchid itself is not poisonous, care must be taken, as children are curious by nature.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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