Are Bonsai Trees Poisonous to Cats? What Should You Do?

Cats behind Plants

Maybe you’ve just been gifted a bonsai tree or recently bought one. Immediately, one of the first concerns you might have is if it is pet safe. Will that pesky feline be alright? Are bonsai trees poisonous to cats?

As we all know, cats can be pretty devious. They like to topple, climb, and chew things all the time. This can be bad news if you’re the owner of a bonsai tree, so are they poisonous to cats?

Which trees are poisonous?

There are quite a few bonsai trees that are definitely poisonous and that you should look out for if you own a cat.

Here are some:

Fig Trees

Fig trees can make quite a lovely bonsai, but did you know they’re poisonous to cats? While the fruit might be safe for humans to consume, it’s not for cats.

If your cat ingests any part of the bonsai tree, such as the stem, fruit, leaves, or seeds, you should watch out for any symptoms that may occur, such as diarrhea, drooling, vomiting, and irritation of the skin.

Fig Tree Bonsai

Jade Plants

Jades usually are grown as indoor bonsai trees. They have a multitude of nicknames, such as baby jade or the Chinese rubber plant. They can make a lovely addition to your home and are very easy to keep and grow, but did you know they’re poisonous to cats?

If your cat ingests any part of a jade plant, you should seek advice from a vet immediately and get them treated. Symptoms such as vomiting, loss of muscle function, aggressiveness, and lethargy may occur.

Jade Bonsai


Azaleas grow all over the world, such as in the mountains in Japan and China. It’s a beautiful plant that can be developed as bonsai.

Azaleas are part of the Rhododendron family, and the most common species used for bonsai is Rhododendron Indicum.

Unfortunately, azaleas are poisonous to both cats and humans. In cats, symptoms such as vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, tremors, a lack of appetite, or even, in the worst cases – a coma can occur. These symptoms typically start a few hours after your cat ingests part of the plant.

Azaleas Bonsai

Norfolk Island Pines

You might know it as a Christmas tree! They belong to the Araucariaceae family, specifically known as the Norfolk pine. Many people will grow it as an indoor plant, so you should beware of its poisonous characteristics!

If your cat ingests needles from the pine or even drinks water that you keep your tree in, this can cause some alarming symptoms. Diarrhea, anorexia, mouth irritation, vomiting, and dermatitis can occur from ingestion.

Norfolk Island Pine Bonsai

Sweet Plum

A sweet plum is one of the most poisonous bonsai trees you could grow! Although they may sound appetizing, they’re not.

Sweet plums contain cyanide in all parts of the tree; however, the toxicity isn’t high if it’s eaten in low amounts. Nevertheless, symptoms such as vomiting and shock can occur, which can even lead to death.

Sweet plum poisoning symptoms include breathing difficulties, bright red gums, panting, and dilated pupils in your cat.

When the fruit of sweet plum wilt, this is also highly poisonous.

Sweet Plum Bonsai

Cherry Trees

Again – another appetizing tree ruined once again by poison! As much as you might love cherries, your cat won’t.

Cherry trees contain cyanide, similar to sweet plums. This is toxic to animals.

In low amounts, there is no harm; however, if large amounts are consumed, this can poison your cat. Symptoms such as bright red gums, shock, and dilated pupils are symptoms, and massive quantities can lead to death.

Cherry Tree Bonsai

Boxwood Trees

The Boxwood is fast-growing and hardy – these make a great bonsai tree.

However, the chemicals inside them (alkaloids and butterlike oils) make the tree very toxic to cats. 

Boxwood’s leaves are pretty bitter, which helps to deter your cat from eating them. However, it can be fatal if your cat eats it in large amounts.

Boxwood Tree Bonsai

How do you keep cats away from your bonsai trees?

This is the right question to be asking! If you are dead set on owning one of the above species and own a cat, you still can!

If you want to keep your trees within reach of your cats, you should choose a species that is safe for cats. If you ask at a garden centre, they most likely have great advice on which ones are and aren’t! Nevertheless, it would be best if you still did your own thorough research.

Depending on your cat, you could grow the tree outside! You could consider keeping the tree outside if you own an indoor cat. However, some trees can only be kept inside due to the temperature requirements. Make sure to research first!

Are you feeling artistic? If so, consider mounting the bonsai on elevated shelves. You should be okay if your cats don’t have anywhere to jump up on and reach the shelves and trees! Many bonsai enthusiasts like to keep their bonsai mounted on lovely shelves (if they’re indoor trees).

Need some me-time? You could establish a space where no pets are allowed! This can be your greenhouse or a specific room in your house.

Which bonsai trees are safe for cats?

If you’re too worried about your cats to keep bonsai trees that might be dangerous, you could look for a pet-friendly alternative!

Many popular trees are pet-safe and won’t poison your cat if ingested, so maybe your cat can prune your tree for you after all!

Below are some of the bonsai trees which you can keep that are safe for cats.

Juniper Trees

One of the most popular and common bonsai trees is the juniper. They are a staple in every bonsai enthusiast’s collection; chances are you’ll end up with one too!

Junipers are hardy and can put quite a bit of growth on in a season if you give it the right conditions. However, you should watch out for yourself with junipers!

The juniper species Juniperus Sabrina has very toxic berries when consumed by humans. Eating them in large amounts frequently can cause kidney damage.

Juniper Bonsai

Maple Trees

Again, one of the most popular trees used in bonsai is maple trees! It’s no surprise – they have excellent characteristics for being grown as bonsai, and some show off a lovely colour in spring or autumn.

The majority of maple trees are not dangerous to pets. However, they can be highly toxic to horses.

Maple Bonsai

Fukien Tea Trees

One of the harder bonsai to keep is a Fukien Tea tree, which can be pretty challenging to work with. However, they’re perfectly safe for pets.

Fukien Tea Bonsai

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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