Ficus elastica, or rubber plant, is an evergreen tropical tree. It is called a rubber tree or rubber bush fig because its latex sap is used to make rubber.
Many popular indoor plants like ficus elastica are loved for their low maintenance, but rubber trees are actually mildly toxic for dogs and cats and cause many symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, skin irritation, and vomiting.
Are Rubber Plants Safe for Pets?
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According to Pet Poison Helpline, rubber trees are a plant toxic to cats, and it is not safe for pets.
They can cause oral discomfort and irritation of the gastrointestinal tract when the pets eat rubber plants.
The irritating sap also causes skin irritation when it gets in contact with the pet’s skin.
Why Are Rubber Plants Toxic?
The rubber fig or Indian rubber plant is native to Southeast Asia and thrives in indirect sunlight and normal room humidity. They can even tolerate bright light coming from an east-facing window.
Rubber plant poisoning occurs due to its sap. The sap of this plant contains latex, which is an irritant.
Rubber plant latex is present in its leaves, and when a cat eats a part of the rubber plant, it can cause irritation to its mouth, skin, and eyes.
The rubber plant is not just toxic to cats but to dogs and humans as well. However, these plants are only moderately toxic and not as serious as other plants’ toxicity, like ZZ plants.
Rubber plant sap is rarely fatal, and symptoms can be cleared easily. The most sensitive areas of a cat’s body are its nose and eyes. If the sap irritates these soft tissues, it can cause skin lesions.
If a cat ingests rubber tree sap, it can cause moderate diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach upset.
Types of Ficus Plants
With the rising trend of popular houseplants like Ficus lyrata, or fiddle-leaf fig, many people tend to buy rubber trees for their homes due to their impressive heights and beautiful dark green leaves.
Ficus benjamina “Danielle” is a unique ficus with upright, deep green, leathery and shiny leaves.
The Ficus Danielle is a toxic plant for humans and their pets, as its sap can cause severe breathing problems and skin irritation.
Ficus Alii, or banana leaf fig, is known for its long and willowy leaves and bushy foliage.
This plant is also one of the most toxic plants for humans and pets, as eating it causes the following symptoms;
Loss of appetite
Weeping Fig Tree
Ficus benjamina, weeping fig, or Benjamin fig, also belongs to the family Moraceae.
Weeping fig can be toxic rubber trees for dogs and cats as they cause mouth irritation, gastrointestinal irritation, and dermal irritation if it gets ingested or comes in contact with their skin.
Ficus Audrey, ficus benghalensis, commonly known as the Banyan tree, differs from rubber plants by having smaller, oblong, and fuzzy leaves.
Its leaves are also mildly toxic to humans and pets, and ingestion can cause mouth and gastrointestinal irritation, resulting in vomiting.
Rubber plant, or ficus elastica, does not belong to the group of pet-safe plants.
Its unpleasant sticky sap is toxic to cats and dogs, and latex poisoning can induce drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The ficus elastica you have brought home may be a different cultivar than you expected. To understand their toxicity, you must become aware of different types of the rubber plant.
Ficus Elastica “Decora”
This type of rubber plant has larger and darker green leaves. The leaf’s center veins are red on the underside and slightly white on the top.
Ficus Elastica “Burgundy”
Also known as Black Prince, this type of rubber plant has leaves so dark they look almost purplish black.
Ficus Elastica “Doescheri”
This cultivar, or the rubber plant, has narrower and variegated leaves. The midrib is pink, and the leaves have varying shades of white, yellow, and grayish green.
Are All Rubber Plants Toxic to Cats?
Rubber plants have latex sap which is considered mildly toxic to cats.
Even though they are great additions to your houseplants, keeping a rubber plant when you have a curious cat lying around can be dangerous for their health.
The rubber plant toxicity is caused by its sap which produces its effects after coming in contact with your pet’s skin or when they chew its leaves.
All rubber plants are toxic to cats and can produce varying degrees of damage. However, there is one variety of evergreen flowering plants that are pet safe.
The baby rubber plant, also known as the American rubber plant, has similarities in its name with the rubber plant. But the two plants are not related.
The baby rubber plant has waxy, evergreen, and blunt leaves, and it is considered a plant non-toxic to cats as per the ASPCA list of non-toxic and toxic plants to cats.
Although the American rubber plant doesn’t produce severe oral irritation or deadly effects in your cats, if the plant is ingested in large amounts, it can cause mild discomfort in the GI tract.
Will a Rubber Plant Poisoning Kill My Cat?
The rubber plant’s toxic sap can poison your cats. The latex present in its milky sap, secreted by damaged trees, can hurt a curious cat if it tries to chew its leaves.
The Indian rubber tree plant latex contains certain proteins and alkaloids, which are known irritants to humans and animals.
This milky sap that comes out of the stems and leaves when they are broken is actually the Indian rubber plant’s defense system against predators.
If you have a cat that is known to chew different items in your home when it is excited, it can hurt itself when it bites off a rubber tree leaves.
It is your responsibility to control this toxic member of your houseplants and place it out of reach of your domestic cats.
A rubber tree can create poison in response to an attack from animals, insects, or pests.
The toxic principles in this plant, such as proteolytic enzyme ficin and psoralen ficusin, are DNA-attacking and toxic to cats and dogs.
While rubber tree poisoning will not kill your cat, eating rubber plants can induce severe symptoms such as oral discomfort, swelling of the lips, and GI irritation, which needs medical attention.
My Cat Ate Rubber Plant: What Should I Do?
Not all houseplants can be toxic to your cat, but some can produce severe symptoms like problems in coordination, oral irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Rubber plants eaten by a cat will not produce fatal effects, but they can be toxic and produce discomfort in the form of oral irritation, digestive system issues, and dermal irritation.
If you suspect that your pet ate a rubber plant or any other poisonous plant and is now showing signs of its toxicity after a few hours, contact your local poison control center immediately or seek veterinary treatment.
Meanwhile, here are some things you should immediately do;
Clean the bits of the rubber tree leaves from your cat’s mouth, paws, and fur.
Remove the entire rubber plant away from your cat, or move your cat to a safe and confined space until you can take it to a vet.
Try to identify the true cause of poisoning, and if possible, take a sample of the plant or your cat’s vomit along with you so that it is easier for the vet to treat your cat.
Signs and Symptoms of Rubber Plant Toxicity in Cats
The signs of rubber plants poisoning include;
Keeping Your Cat Safe From Toxic Plants
Cat owners know how attracted their cats are to indoor houseplants.
Younger cats can attack and try to chew a plant due to their playful nature, and older ones try to treat their digestive system issues with your indoor plant.
Whatever the reason is that your cat is drawn to a rubber tree, you should be extremely vigilant about the plants you let into your house to avoid any toxicity and poisoning accidents.
Some of the popular pet-safe plants are;
Peacock Plant, etc.
However, following houseplants are extremely toxic to cats.
You can check the complete ASPCA list of plants that are non-toxic to cats.
How to Keep Rubber Plants Away From Cats?
Keeping your cats away from houseplants is a tough job, but you can easily keep your houseplants out of reach of your curious cats.
Here are some tips that will help you protect your rubber plants from cats or vice versa;
Make your rubber plants inaccessible to cats by placing them in a corner of your house where your cats cannot reach them. Cats love to wander on smooth surfaces, and a plant hanging from the ceiling or placed on a hard-to-reach shelf will make them lose interest.
Try a cat-safe deterrent spray that will prevent them from nibbling on your rubber plant leaves, but please consult your vet before using such type of spray.
Lemon juice and other citrus fruits will help repel the cats from your rubber plants, as they do not like such strong and bitter smells.
Coffee grounds mixed in your plant’s soil will also keep the cats away as they highly dislike the smell of coffee.
Cats also hate the smell of herbs like lavender, lemon thyme, and rosemary, so these repellant plants will also keep your indoor cats and outdoor cats away from your rubber plants.
Is Rubber Plant Also Dangerous to Dogs?
A plant that is poisonous to your cat can also be poisonous to your dog.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the weeping fig indoor plant is toxic to both cats and dogs.
If you suspect that your dog has ingested rubber tree plant leaves, immediately take it to a veterinarian.
A toxic plant eaten by your dog can result in symptoms of gastrointestinal upset, and the vet may induce vomiting in your dog to try to clear its stomach of the plant poisoning.
To prevent your dog from chewing on a rubber tree, you can try sprinkling some cayenne pepper around your rubber trees and see how they repel your dog away from these plants.
Which Other Pets Are Vulnerable to Rubber Plant Poisoning?
Rubber tree plants like Japanese rubber plants, Indian rubber plants, or other indoor plants are toxic to cats and dogs.
Not only are your indoor cats and other pets vulnerable to this plant poisoning, but outdoor cats, dogs, and other small animals too can nibble on a rubber tree and get harmed by its plant poisoning.
If your cat has ingested a part of your rubber tree and starts showing signs of plant poisoning, immediately take it to a vet instead of waiting for the signs to disappear themselves.
Rubber trees are toxic plants to cats and dogs, and they can produce mild to severe symptoms in your pets. So keep your animals away from these plants, or try to keep these plants as out of reach from your pets as possible.