In recent years, carnivorous plants are becoming more and more popular among gardeners of all experience levels. Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is probably the most sought-after species, but if you’re planning to get one, you might worry about your pet being harmed by it. However, are Venus fly traps poisonous to cats and dogs?
Venus fly traps aren’t any more dangerous to cats and dogs than other houseplants you might already be growing. They hunt their prey with snap-type traps which work by mechanically shutting down, instead of utilizing any kind of poison or secretion which could compromise the health of your pet.
Nonetheless, there are other popular plants that are indeed poisonous to cats and dogs. If you want to learn what those plants are, why the Venus flytrap isn’t one of them, and much more, we recommend you read this article.
There are many different species of carnivorous plants, which utilize one of 5 types of trapping mechanisms. Some plants, including species of butterworts (Pinguicula) and sundews (Drosera), secrete sticky mucilage that traps the prey. Others, like species of pitcher plants (Nepenthes), secrete enzymes that digest the prey.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASCPA), none of the popular carnivorous plant species, including Venus fly traps, are poisonous to dogs and cats. The secretions are only dangerous to insects and bugs and aren’t effective against dogs and cats.
Regardless of that, no plant material is supposed to be ingested by pets and can result in indigestion. If you suspect your Venus flytrap or another carnivorous plant was eaten by your pet, watch out for symptoms like:
Chances are your pet isn’t likely to experience any adverse health effects from taking a bite of your plant. In most cases, it’s the plant that you should worry about getting damaged. If your dog or cat touches the Venus flytrap, it’s likely going to activate its trapping mechanism, and its leaves will shut close.
However, you also shouldn’t worry about your pet being harmed by the closing trap. While it’s extremely quick, and can shut close in under 100 milliseconds, it evolved to trap small insects and isn’t strong enough to injure your pet.
But what are some plants that are actually dangerous to pets and can poison your cat or dog?
According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, these plants are some of the most poisonous to pets, including dogs and cats:
The seeds of this plant contain a highly toxic protein called ricin. It’s toxic to both, humans and pets, and ingesting it can cause severe symptoms including:
- Excessive Thirst
- Loss of Appetite
In high doses, ricin can even cause death.
This genus contains 23 species of flowers, all of which have toxic chemicals called saponins. Their concentration is the highest in tubers and roots, and if ingested or just chewed by your dog or cat, it can cause severe health problems with symptoms like:
The bulbs of both species of this genus contain a toxic alkaloid called lycorine, which causes vomiting. It’s a bigger risk for dogs because cats are unlikely to come upon a bulb and eat it, while dogs are known to dig in the yard looking for a treat, which in this case, could be harmful.
This species naturally grows in shrub form, but some people train it to grow into a single-trunk tree. Regardless of its shape, Nerium oleander contains compounds called cardiac glycosides, which were used for arrow poison in South America and Africa.
Naturally, these compounds are incredibly poisonous to cats and dogs. If your pet ingests Nerium oleander, it could experience symptoms like:
- Abnormal Heart Function
- Gastrointestinal Tract Irritation
In some cases, if the pet is older or ingests a large amount of cardiac glycosides, it could even result in death.
Also called common yew, European yew, or simply yew. Every part of this tree contains toxic compounds that don’t even have to be ingested to be harmful and can be absorbed through the skin or lungs.
It contains toxic nitrile and ephedrine, but the most dangerous are taxine alkaloids that can cause symptoms like:
- Shortness of Breath
- Coordination Problems
- Rapid Breathing
- Loss of Consciousness
Many animals, including wild, livestock, and pets have died from ingesting leaves, needles, or seeds of yew, so be extremely cautious about letting your dog or cat run freely around a yew.
Here you can find an extensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants for pets by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Venus fly traps are among the few plants capable of what’s called rapid plant movement because their traps snap shut in just about 100 milliseconds. However, as fast as that is, the traps aren’t powerful, and according to this study, have a bite force of just 149 mN or 0.149 N.
To put it into perspective, the force of 1 N feels about the same as simply holding an object weighing 100 grams. So yeah, the Venus flytrap isn’t dangerous to most animals, and the closing trap wouldn’t do any harm even to bigger insects.
However, the Venus flytrap doesn’t prey on insects by crushing them using force. Instead, they trap the prey by shutting down the trap and not allowing the prey to leave while it’s being digested by enzymes secreted inside.
The digestive fluid secreted by the Venus flytrap consists of several enzymes, including cysteine proteases and aspartic proteases, which combined result in a pH level of 3.4. That might seem acidic, but many foods we eat daily are as much or even more acidic than that.
Apples, peaches, cherries, blueberries, and many other fruits have similar acidity levels to the digestive fluid of the Venus flytrap, so you can be sure that the Venus flytrap isn’t going to harm you or your pets even if somehow you get in contact with its digestive fluid.
That’s why the Venus flytrap is only dangerous to small insects that can fit inside their traps reaching up to 1.5 in (3.81 cm) in diameter. So, unless you’re a fly, a spider, an ant, or a small grasshopper, you shouldn’t worry about Venus flytraps posing a threat to your wellbeing.
Most Intriguing Venus Flytrap Cultivars
Now that we know that Venus fly traps aren’t dangerous, we can talk about the cultivars you should consider getting. A cultivar is a variety of plant that was specifically bred for certain traits.
Think of cultivars as dog breeds, they all belong to the same species (Canis familiaris in dogs’ case) but can exhibit wildly different traits and characteristics (e.g., pugs and German shepherds).
As the Venus flytrap is one of the most popular carnivorous plant species to grow at home, botanists and gardeners have bred dozens of different cultivars. Here are 5 of some of the most intriguing ones:
This is one of the most famous Venus flytrap cultivars among carnivorous plant hobbyists. Its Japanese name translates to “Red Dragon”, which comes from its deep red color traps and leaves, making it look like a red multi-head dragon. “Akai Ryu” was a breeding parent plant of other red-colored cultivars.
If you’re a fan of the Alien movie franchise, this Venus flytrap cultivar is just for you. It was bred to have elongated traps reminiscent of the Xenomorph XX121. They can grow over 1 ½ in (3.81 cm) in length and have dozens of small red hairs on the inner side. Finally, the “Alien” cultivar is very hardy and can survive harsher conditions than other varieties.
This cultivar features incredibly thick leaves and traps, which make their snapping motion very slow, taking up to several minutes instead of a fraction of a second. The thicker structure also makes the “Wacky Traps” cultivar resistant to colder temperatures and easier to grow outside.
Cultivated in the Czech Republic, it’s one of the smallest Venus flytrap cultivars, growing just up to 3 in (7.62 cm) in diameter. However, its main selling point is deep red-colored traps that have unique saw-like teeth (not to be mistaken with various “Sawtooth” cultivars). Finally, “Bohemian Garnet” multiplies quickly and abundantly.
For a change of pace, let’s take a look at this cultivar, which is the biggest cultivated Venus flytrap variety. Mature plants can have traps reaching 2 in (5.08 cm) in size! Additionally, the “DC XL” cultivar is one of the hardiest Venus flytrap cultivars and can flourish even in adverse weather conditions.
(A): Inside the trap, there are small trigger hairs called trichomes. If you touch two separate trichomes in a span of 20 seconds, or a single one twice in quick succession, the trap will activate, and try closing down on your finger. However, it’s designed to trap small insects and is too weak to do any harm to your finger.
(A): No carnivorous plant is big enough to eat a human being. Even the biggest pitchers belonging to plants in Nepenthes genus reach just a foot in diameter, which is way too small to trap a human being. However, such plants are recorded to trap and eat rodents and other small mammals.
Venus fly traps are great plants that pose no danger to your pets, including dogs and cats. We hope this article taught you more about this incredible carnivorous plant species and calmed your nerves in case you were worrying about it harming your beloved pet.