With work from home becoming more and more common, people are inviting the natural world into their space to feel a bit connected to nature. But they tend to forget that plants will be sharing the space with their pets as well. And sometimes, both don’t get along that well. So what about rubber plants? Are rubber plants toxic to pets such as cats, dogs, birds, and other small pets? We will talk about that and more in this article.
Rubber trees or plants contain proteins that they use to deter the attacker, which could be anything, diseases, insects, or a curious cat or dog. The toxicity of rubber plants depends on the type of tree. Some are harmless, while others can be extremely poisonous for our furry friends. Puppies, kittens, birds, and indoor cats are most susceptible to getting poisoned because they tend to taste and chew everything they can lay their eyes on.
Rubber Plant Alternate Names
Ficus elastica, Indian rubber tree, rubber plant, Indian rubber bush, rubber fig
Rubber Plant Info
The rubber plant is a tropical plant belonging to the Moraceae family and is native to Southeast Asia and eastern South Asia. However, this plant is now found all over the world, including West Indies and the United States. These plants remain considerably smaller indoors, but outdoors, they grow up to 80 to 100 feet.
Ficus elastica or rubber plant is one of the most favorite tropicals among houseplant owners. Its name is derived from the latex-like sap that it produces when wounded. While this sap helps the plant, it can prove to be fatal for your pets.
Are Rubber Plants Pet Friendly?
The rubber plant is one of the least pet-friendly plants you can have. They do not cause death but can lead to several serious health issues, which, if ignored, can be fatal. Therefore, ideally, rubber plants must be kept away from all kinds of pets, be it cats, dogs, or other small pets.
What Is Rubber Tree Poisoning?
The different varieties of rubber plants contain different levels of toxins that can affect your pets, be it cats, dogs, or birds in different ways. Indian rubber plant contains ficin, a protease that has anthelmintic properties and helps to break down and digest protein. It’s this very protease that causes excessive drooling when ingested. Apart from that, the sap even sticks to their mouth and turns into rubber when dried, which causes oral discomfort. Ficin can lead to other adverse effects also, such as oral irritation or skin dermatitis.
The Jade plant contains toxins that cause depression and vomiting when ingested. The toxic principle of the jade plant isn’t known, as of now.
The American rubber plant does not contain any toxic principle; hence your pet is unlikely to develop any adverse reaction even on ingestion.
Signs Of Rubber Plant Poisoning
There are several varieties of rubber trees, each varying in toxicity level. Additionally, the reaction to eating poisonous or toxic plants is dependent on the amount that has been ingested. The larger the amount is eaten, the bigger would be the severity of the symptoms. Some of the common signs and symptoms of rubber plant poisoning include:
- Skin or dermal irritation
- Irritation of mouth
- Irritation of gastrointestinal tract
- Decrease in appetite
Which Pets Are Most Vulnerable To Rubber Plant Poisoning?
All kinds of pets, be it dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and even birds are vulnerable to rubber plant poisoning. That’s because pets are curious about everything around them. They touch and play with everything they can lay their hands on. And most of the time, they even munch on things without thinking about how it might affect their system. So if you want to keep your pets at peace, keep them away from rubber plants.
Is Rubber Plant Toxic And Poisonous To Cats?
Yes, rubber plants can be poisonous to cats. In fact, out of all the pets, cats are more susceptible to experiencing the dangers associated with the release of sap because of their curious nature. The sap secreted by the wounded plant is poison for them.
However, the effect is directly related to the amount they have ingested. If they’ve consumed just a small amount of it, the symptoms will be gone in a couple of hours. In some cases, you may not even know that your cat has consumed parts of the rubber plant.
What Can Happen If A Cat Ingests Rubber Plant Sap? Signs And Symptoms Of Rubber Plant Poisoning
If by any chance your cat ingests any rubber plant material, it can cause loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, and even drooling. The other signs of rubber plant toxicity in cats include:
- Reddened lips and mouth
- Swollen mouth
- Oral discomfort
Is Rubber Plant Toxic And Poisonous To Dogs?
When it comes to dogs, not all, but some varieties of rubber plants can be toxic. That’s because each variety of rubber plants has different levels of toxins. Fortunately, none of these cause death to dogs, but they should nevertheless be avoided.
Non-Toxic Rubber Plants For Dogs
American Rubber plants (Peperomia obtusifolia), derived from the genus Peperomia, are not toxic for dogs. These are rather small-sized rubber plants and grow only up to 1 foot tall. Even Peperomia caperata is considered a safe rubber plant for dogs. Even if your dog ingests parts of it, the worst that can happen is stomach discomfort.
Toxic Rubber Plants For Dogs
North Carolina Extension Gardener states that Japanese rubber plants, scientifically known as Crassula arborescens are highly toxic to dogs. These trees can cause depression, vomiting, and even slower heart rates in some cases. The other names of Crassula arborescens are jade tree, silver dollar plant, jade plant, and Chinese rubber plant.
Ficus benjamina or the Indian rubber tree can cause severe skin irritation, even if your dog just rubs its body against it. Ingesting it can cause vomiting and stomach upset. That’s because its sap contains ficin, a proteolytic enzyme, and compounds such as psoralen, which target the DNA in cells. All the parts of Ficus benjamina are harmful to your pets. The other name of Ficus benjamina is weeping fig tree. These trees or plants have thick, dark green, shiny leaves. The plant can reach up to 1 foot in length and the leaves up to 5 inches in width.
What Can Happen If A Dog Ingests Rubber Plant Sap? Signs And Symptoms Of Rubber Plant Poisoning
Some of the signs of rubber plant toxicity in dogs include:
- Intestinal discomfort
- Lack of coordination
- Oral irritation
What Can You Do If Your Dog Has Ingested Poisonous Rubber Plant? Diagnosis And Treatment
Rubber plant toxicity can be distressful, but it is seldom fatal. So don’t fret and take your pet to the veterinarian ASAP. The sooner you take your dog to the vet, the better. And please do not try to induce vomiting yourself as it can do more harm than good unless it has been directed by the veterinarian himself. The recovery is good, especially among dogs. They recover soon and completely with supportive therapies.
Your vet will first perform a complete physical examination of your pet. This will help them know if the plant has caused any abnormalities in their vitals. The vet can even examine the vomit of your pet to find evidence of what it has ingested.
Apart from that, a complete CBC test and chemistry panel will be done to assess the situation properly. PCV test may also be done to check the hydration status of your pet.
Since the effect of the toxicity of the rubber plant depends entirely on the amount it has ingested, knowing how much of it your dog has consumed can help a lot in the treatment. And make sure you inform your vet of everything about the plant, including the scientific name. If you’re unsure about the part your pet has ingested, take it along with you to the vet clinic. This will help the vet identify the plant and the toxins it contains.
If your pet has drooling, foaming, or oral pain, the vet will first wash the mouth. And if it has suffered skin or eye reaction, he might flush the area. Topical medication can also be applied to prevent further injury.
If the ingestion is causing gastrointestinal tract discomfort, the vet will start with inducing vomiting in the dog. If a long time has passed since the ingestion, he may give activated charcoal to bind and absorb the toxins that haven’t been absorbed by the body. A few medications may also be administered to protect the lining of the intestine. Additionally, fluid therapy can be given to flush the toxins and prevent dehydration.
Is Rubber Plant Dangerous To Birds?
Rubber plants can be dangerous to birds as well, due to their poisonous sap. Birds have a habit of chewing on plants. While some plants are safe for their consumption, rubber plant isn’t. If ingested in large quantities, rubber plant can cause poisoning, which may lead to:
What Can You Do If Your Pet Has Rubber Plant Poisoning?
If you notice any of these above-mentioned signs, without any further delay, run to your local poison control center or a veterinarian. If you can find it, take the part that it has ingested also with you. The vet will perform a thorough physical examination of your pet and the part it has consumed. Also, make sure you provide complete information to your pet about what it has come in contact with and the behavioral changes if any.
After performing all the necessary examinations, the veterinarian will decide on the next course of action. If the condition is severe, your vet will ask you to admit your pet to the hospital. With proper support therapies, your pet will recover soon.
How To Prevent Your Pets From Ingesting Rubber Plants/Trees?
If you have rubber plants at home which you can’t do away with, the best thing you can do is keep them out of reach of your pets. Below we’ve mentioned a few ways to keep your dogs, cats, and birds away from rubber plants.
How To Keep Dogs Away From Rubber Plants?
- It can be a bit difficult to keep puppies out of reach, but you can train the adults for it, instead. You can leave pieces of lemon near the plant or spray lemon juice on them. The smell of lemon is quite bothersome to dogs, so they will avoid going near it. Or you can make a line of cayenne pepper around your plant or tree. Cayenne pepper is irritating to the noses of dogs and will deter them from going near the rubber plants.
- For outdoor plants, we would suggest you keep them at places where your dogs can’t have any access to. And always monitor your pets to prevent indigestion.
- Potting marigolds will keep your dog away from your rubber plant.
How To Keep Cats Away From Rubber Plants?
- Just like dogs, even cats do not like the citrusy smell of lemon and orange. So if you suspect your cat hovering around rubber plants, spray lemon or orange juice on it or places pieces of it near the plant.
- Create a rocky surface around your rubber plant using stones and other harsh objects. Cats like to walk on smooth and sandy surfaces. Rocky and sharp objects will prevent them from reaching out for the plant.
- Cats do not appreciate the smell of coffee. So add some coffee grounds to the soil of your rubber plant and it will keep your feline friends away.
- Rosemary and lavender will also keep your cats away from rubber plants.
How To Keep Birds Away From Rubber Plants?
- Ultrasonic trainers will be your best bet for keeping your birds away from rubber plants. These trainers emit a sound that birds absolutely detest.
- Alternatively, you can take the help of an aluminum screening to protect your birds from rubber plants. Just bend the aluminum screen in U shape and it will keep your birds away.
- Helium-filled balloons can also scare the birds away from rubber plants. And there’s absolutely no risk involved with it. Just tie a couple of helium-filled balloons around your rubber plants and it will do the trick.
- Rubber snakes and decorative scarecrows will also keep birds away from rubber plants.
FAQs About Rubber Plant Toxicity Or Poisoning
Is it safe to have a rubber plant in the house with a cat, dog, or indoor pets?
Simply put, it can get a bit dangerous to have a pet living alongside rubber plants as the latex produced by these plants can be fatal to them. Even if you want to keep it, place it out of reach of your pets. You can put the plant on a shelf or group it with other plants so that your inquisitive furry friend isn’t particularly attracted to it.
What other plants are dangerous for cats?
The rubber plant isn’t the only plant that can pose a risk to the wellbeing of your feline friends. Several other houseplants such as Ivy, Monstera, Dieffenbachia, Philodendrons, Croton etc. can be harmful to cats.
Is any variety of rubber plants safe for cats?
You might not know, but there are several varieties of rubber plants bred from the Indian rubber tree. All these varieties are equally popular among houseplant enthusiasts, but none of them are safe for cats.
How toxic are rubber plants?
The toxicity level of rubber plants is moderate, but that again depends on the amount ingested by your pet. If the bite is small and you take instant action, things won’t turn fatal.
The University of California has given rank #4 to the toxicity level of rubber plants, which means least dangerous. They might cause irritation, but that is easily curable.
We hope you found our article on rubber plant toxicity helpful. If you have any queries related to the article, leave us a comment below.
Aiza Siddiqui is one of the content providers in Gardener’s Toolbox. From a very young age, Aiza has been passionate about gardening, which explains her choice of major in studies. She holds a BSc Degree in Botany from the University of Calcutta. Aiza is a green thumb through and through and owns more than 100 different types of plants. Every article that she contributes to Gardener’s Toolbox is written by doing extensive research and from her own experience with planting and gardening. Hoping that you will find her articles on different houseplants helpful.