ZZ Plant Toxicity: Is a ZZ Plant Toxic to Cats, Dogs and Humans?

By: Matt Slaymaker
December 6, 2023
ZZ Plant Toxicity: Is a ZZ Plant Toxic to Cats, Dogs and Humans?
Share this post:

ZZ plants are beautiful, exotic-looking plants with glossy green leaves that have become one of the most popular choices for spaces with low-light conditions.

Your houseplants share the same home with you, your kids, and your pets, so it’s vital to know whether any plants you own are toxic. Is ZZ plant toxicity something you should be worried about? Learn all about its toxicity and other properties in our guide.

How Poisonous Is ZZ Plant?

The ZZ plant is only mildly toxic. Unlike many other indoor plants, ingesting it isn’t normally fatal to humans, cats, or dogs. It’s often even omitted from most official lists of poisonous houseplants because of this.

Why Is the ZZ Plant Toxic?

The reason that the ZZ plant or Raven ZZ plant is considered to be mildly toxic is that it contains calcium oxalate, a crystalline salt present in a variety of different plants, including some that are used for food, like spinach. It isn’t poisonous but is an irritant that can cause a variety of symptoms, like skin inflammation and itching if touched and diarrhea and kidney stones if ingested.

Are ZZ Plants Poisonous to Pets?

Are ZZ Plants Poisonous to Pets
Because of the calcium oxalate they contain ZZ plants can also be toxic to pets. Although not fatal, the symptoms are unpleasant and may be frightening if you don’t know what caused them. Because touching the sap can cause a burning feeling on sensitive skin, keep your ZZ plant out of reach of your pets whenever possible.

ZZ Plant Toxicity to Dogs: All You Need to Know

Although not considered poisonous for dogs according to the ASPCA, the ZZ plant can cause irritation, stomachache, diarrhea, and vomiting if ingested by your dog.

Is ZZ Plant Poisonous to Cats?

Cats like to nibble on leaves occasionally, which is why your ZZ plant must stay out of their reach. Its sap can irritate your cat’s mouth, causing a burning and painful sensation. Another way your cat can get in contact with the toxins contained in the ZZ plant is by trying to sharpen its claws on it.

Get a Personalized Plant Recommendation

Take the Quiz

ZZ Plant Symptoms: What Happens If Your Cat or Dog Eats Part of a ZZ Plant?

If your cat or dog eats a ZZ plant’s leaf, stem, or root, it may first of all feel an unpleasant burning in its mouth. Depending on how much it has eaten, it can also experience digestive problems, diarrhea, and vomiting. It’s also possible that your pet will start scratching itself, drooling, or whimpering because of the unpleasant sensations it is experiencing.

Handling ZZ Plant Exposure in Pets

If your pet has ingested a part of the ZZ plant, don’t panic. Check your pet’s mouth for any pieces of the plant that you can remove. Wipe its mouth with a wet soft cloth and give it plenty of water to drink to dilute the toxins. You should contact your vet, as well, if your furry friend has serious symptoms.

Are ZZ Plants Toxic to Humans?

Are ZZ Plants Toxic to Humans

 

Now that we’ve looked at how they can affect your pets, are ZZ plants toxic to people? ZZ plants are toxic to humans, although to a lesser degree than to pets. Yet again, the sap of the ZZ plant can cause skin irritation, as well as diarrhea and vomiting if accidentally ingested.

So, ensure that you wear protective gloves when you take care of your ZZ plant.

Is the ZZ Plant Safe for Kids?

It’s probably the best policy to keep your ZZ plant way out of your kids’ reach because its shiny green leaves can be quite attractive to toddlers exploring what various everyday objects taste like.

Can I Touch My ZZ Plant?

What most people want to know before buying a ZZ plant boils down to the question: 'Is a ZZ plant poisonous to touch?'. Under normal circumstances, very few plant owners experience any issues when handling their ZZ plants. If it comes in direct contact with your skin, the sap can cause itching and swelling. To prevent irritation to your skin or eyes (if touched accidentally after handling the plant), always wear gloves when pruning or repotting your ZZ plant.

What to Do If You Touch a ZZ Plant

Normally, if you touch a ZZ plant nothing unpleasant will happen. Skin irritation usually results from the plant’s sap, which would only surface if a stem is cut or if you’re repotting your ZZ plant. If your skin comes in contact with the sap, wash your hands with soap immediately. Also, avoid rubbing your eyes or face until you’ve washed off all the sap. 

What to Do if a Child Eats ZZ Plant

If a child eats even a small part of the ZZ plant’s leaves or stems, here’s what to do. Remove any pieces from the child’s mouth and wipe it gently with a soft cloth. Give them some water to drink to wash off the remainder of the sap. Call your local poison helpline if you’re not sure how much of the plant the child has swallowed.  

ZZ Plant Toxicity: Safety Tips and Prevention

ZZ Plant Toxicity Safety and Prevention
Source: Petal Republic 

 

Because of the irritant calcium oxalate that the ZZ plant contains in its sap, it’s important to protect your skin from contact with the plant’s broken stems, cut leaves, and roots. 

Keeping Your Pets and Kids Safe From ZZ Plants

With its unusual appearance and shiny leaves, no wonder the ZZ plant can inspire curiosity in both pets and children. Here are several tips to help you keep them safely away from your ZZ plant:  

  • Position your toxic plants on hard-to-reach shelves to keep them away from your kids or dog (note that a cat may still manage to jump onto a higher shelf)
  • For young plants or smaller varieties of the ZZ plant, use a hanging pot that will make it hard for pets or children to touch the plant  
  • Place ground coffee or orange peels next to the plant to keep pets away as these smells act as a repellent 
  • Spray one part vinegar mixed with two parts water on and around the toxic plants to make them unattractive to your pets  

How to Handle ZZ Plants Safely

Avoid touching your ZZ plant unnecessarily. Make sure you don’t touch the leaves and stems when watering, and always wear gloves when cleaning your plant from dust, repotting, or propagating it. Wash your hands after you’ve finished working with your ZZ plant. 

5 Alternative Pet-Safe Plants to Grow at Home

If you’re uncomfortable with having mildly toxic plants in your home, there are plenty of amazing pet-friendly plants you can grow instead. Here’s a selection of plants that radiate a tropical vibe and are also entirely safe for your pets:

Cat Palm

Cat Palm

One of the most popular houseplants during the Victorian era, the cat palm, or Chamaedorea cataractarum, is an elegant indoor palm. Not actually a tree, since it has no trunk, the cat palm’s beautiful fronds will add exotic charm to any living space.

Guzmania 

Guzmania Bromeliad

Guzmanias belong to the bromeliad family and come in a variety of bright colors. These delightful plants usually flower only once during their lifecycle, but their colorful inflorescences can last for 3 - 6 months. 

Boston Fern

Boston Fern

The Boston fern is a bushy and amazingly charming plant that thrives in bright, indirect light and humid air. It’s completely harmless for pets and looks beautiful in a variety of plant combinations.  

Spider Plant

Spider Plant

The spider plant, or Chlorophytum comosum, is an easy-to-care-for plant that comes originally from southern Africa. Well-known as an excellent air purifier, this plant produces star-like flowers and is very easy to propagate.   

Money Tree

Money Tree

One of the most popular plants in Feng Shui, the money plant, is believed to bring luck and prosperity. Easy to grow and pet-friendly, this plant makes a wonderful gift for a variety of occasions. 

Related: Snake Plants Toxicity to Cats, Dogs and Safe Alternatives

ZZ Plant Toxicity: FAQs

Q: How do you know if you are allergic to ZZ plants?

A: Normally, ZZ plants don’t cause allergic reactions, but you should still be careful when handling the plant, due to the possibility of skin irritation from its sap. 

Q: Can a ZZ plant kill a dog?

A: No, the ZZ plant cannot be fatal to dogs although it can cause irritation. The symptoms it can cause include vomiting and diarrhea, but swallowing parts of the plant won't kill your dog.

Q: Is it good to have a ZZ plant at home?

A: ZZ plants are known for their air-purifying properties, which make them a great choice for your home.

Q: Can I have a ZZ plant in the bedroom?

A: Yes, ZZ plants are low-maintenance plants that thrive in low-light conditions, and they can be a great addition to your bedroom.

Conclusion

ZZ plants are some of the easiest houseplants to take care of and are rightfully many people’s favorites. ZZ plants aren’t toxic to any serious degree, and their sap is considered more of an irritant than a poison. You should always handle a ZZ plant with care, but no long-term harm will come to your pets or kids if they touch it or swallow a piece. 

Sources & References