Do you have both a Wandering Jew plant and a pet? Have you noticed your cat’s skin being irritated?
I did some research on this after my cat decided he really liked to taste my cuttings, and also called my vet.
The answer I found is that it is nontoxic to cats, but may be mildly toxic to dogs.
Let us discuss if a Wandering Jew plant is poisonous to cats or dogs . And what are the symptoms, causes and treatment of wandering jew poisoning in cats or dogs.
What is a Wandering Jew plant?
Tradescantia zebrina or commonly known as a Wandering Jew plant or Speedy Henry is a usual plant in most gardens. It is a species of spiderwort or more known as inchplant.
The Wandering Jew plant is originally a herbaceous plant found in dense tropical rainforests and wetlands. However, due to its exotic appearance, the plant has been introduced to households as a garden plant.
The plant’s physical characteristics include a pointed and heart-shaped leaf with a purple outline, middle strip, and underside, a bud-like formation, and succulent stem.
It is also a trailing plant which means it spreads or hangs on vacant spaces. The Wandering Jew plant hails from South America and is also considered a regenerative and invasive to North America.
It is usually put in a pot along the window or any space inside a house that receives indirect sunlight. Under direct sunlight, the plant my dry out and eventually wilt.
Are Wandering Jew Plants Poisonous to Cats?
Studies and articles online have differing opinions whether the Wandering Jew is poisonous to a cat or any other type of pet.
Let us divide those who say it is harmful and those who say it is not so you can have an informed decision after reading this article.
Yes, the Wandering Jew Plant is poisonous
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a Wandering Jew plant can be toxic to both cats, dogs, and even horses. Other plant and pet blogs also note that the sap found on the stem of the Wandering Jew can cause skin or bowel irritation to a cat.
Dogs are more susceptible to be harmed by the Wandering Jew. According to Dr. Callum Turner, DVM on wagwalking.com, the Wandering Jew plant “isn’t toxic as such but may cause contact dermatitis and hair loss” to dogs.
The Pet Health Network, the Wandering Jew plant can cause vomiting or diarrhea. This can happen if the cat if it consumes any part of the plant, especially the stem.
Meanwhile, the Animal Emergency Centre in Australia says the irritation is caused by a contact allergen, a substance that causes allergic reaction to those who touch it.
This is agreed to also by the University of New Zealand. The Wandering Jew plant, according to their website, can “cause allergic skin reactions in dogs and other animals running through the foliage.”
No, the Wandering Jew Plant is poisonous
A 1987 study titled “Houseplant Poisoning in Small Animals” by the Iowa State University considered the Wandering Jew plant as an “attractive, hardy, and safe plant” for pets.
According to Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences say they are unsure whether if it is poisonous or not since there are no documented cases of the said poisoning.
The Minnesota Poison Control System also classifies the Wandering Jew as “non-toxic, safe, and not poisonous.”
The Illinois Poison Center rates the Wandering Jew plant as 0. Plants that have a 0 rating are non-toxic to humans while plants with a 4 rating (the highest one) are life threatening. Do note that whatever that is non-toxic to humans can be toxic to animals.
As you can see, there are mixed conclusions whether the Wandering Jew can harm your cat. Just to be safe and sure, minimize or prevent contact between the plant and cat. There is no need to risk your pet’s health just to know it.
Symptoms of Wandering Jew Poisoning in cats
You do not need to panic if your cat has been poisoned by the Wandering Jew. Common symptoms include:
- Mild to intensive skin allergy
- Mild to intensive skin irritation
These symptoms can be usually found on exposed areas such as the the abdomen, groin, anal area, scrotum and paws.
Treatment of Wandering Jew Poisoning in cats
If your cat shows these symptoms, all you need to do is to react as soon as possible you notice the effect to your pet and do either of the following solutions:
- Bathe him if there is a significant show or skin irritation.
- If your cat’s digestion is affected, it is better to consult the veterinarian for this. Let your pet drink water, lay still, and avoid further movement.
- Topical cream like aloe vera can be applied to the allergic or irritated spot.
A rule of thumb is to react quickly and the lesser the medication, the better. Your pets body can handle slight ailments and can recover naturally.
How to protect your pets to Wandering Jew poisoning?
The best way to protect your cat from ingesting or contacting a Wandering Jew is to separate the plant from your children and pets. Cats are naturally mobile so anywhere in the house that can be accessed by a cat is not a good place to put the plant.
Since the Wandering Jew is a trailing plant, it may drape down from rods or beams if left unchecked. Your cat may unknowingly or knowingly walk on it and get into contact or even ingest some part of the plant. So I suggest you to use Veterinary Best Bitter Cherry Spray on your plants to keep your cat away.
If not direct contact, you can transfer the sap to your home and in turn be contacted by your cat. The common things in which Wandering Jew sap is found are gloves and shears used for pruning, old pots (if you transplanted the plant), and old soil.
To sum it up, the plant can be mildly toxic to your plant. This does not mean you should ignore that the Wandering Jew plant can cause harm to your cat’s digestion or skin.
However, there is no need to be alarmed or throw the plant away from your garden since it is not highly toxic. The effect can be easily noticed but is not significant to cause a major ailment to your pet.
As said earlier, it is better to be safe than sorry. Should your pet experience a harmful irritation or poisoning from a Wandering Jew plant, let us know so we can update this article.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.