Are Roses Toxic to Cats?

Freshly cut in a vase or brightening up bushes in your front yard, roses are one of the most beautiful flowers.

But whether you are green-fingered in the garden or just love the look of indoor blooms, pet owners may be concerned about whether their plants are safe for cats.

Cats by nature adore investigating anything aromatic, meaning they will nudge against a bouquet, give it a sniff, and maybe nibble some to see if they taste as good as they smell.

So, are roses toxic to cats and why is your kitty so drawn to them? Newsweek asked feline experts to explain this curious behavior.

cute white kitten eats a red rose
Cat owners report they have occasionally caught a kitty licking or munching on their roses. Olga Novikova/Getty Images

Why are Cats Attracted to Roses?

Humans are not the only animals drawn to the color, fragrance and delicate petal structure of the rose.

Their sweet scent may attract cats over for a taste, more than their appearance, since cats cannot detect colors as well as humans.

And although it is thought many swiftly decide the flower is not to their taste, some do make a habit of eating roses.

Are Roses Poisonous to Cats?

Eating plants found around the home and in the backyard can prove dangerous—and even fatal—depending on the specimen.

This risk to unwary cats and their owners can be so great among a minority of plants, the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center ranked plants both indoors and outside fifth on its 2020 list of top 10 pet toxins.

But the good news for cats lovers, is roses are a safe option to have in and out of your home.

However, Anita Kelsey, feline behaviorist and author of Let's Talk About Cats suggests owners should still exhibit caution with the flowers.

She told Newsweek: "Roses are not poisonous to cats but rose thorns would certainly do damage to the mouth and paws.

"Not sure why they eat rose petals, but cats do tend to chomp down on some flowers or grass and although grass tends to encourage vomiting, certain flower petals may cause stomach upset."

"Best to put them out of reach to avoid any downside to seeing such beautiful flowers."

Cats and roses
A cat with roses in the background. Upset such as vomiting and diarrhea may occur if cats ingest roses. gyro/Getty Images

Another potential issue with these flowers, whether they are growing in the garden or arranged indoors, are the chemical pesticides sprayed on roses are potentially poisonous when eaten.

If you do not use pesticides on your roses, your cat should suffer no major consequences.

But if the kitty does develop a taste for roses sprayed with pesticides, it should fortunately be easy to spot, with symptoms of toxicity including:

  • Drooling
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures

Always pay very close attention to any of these signs of illness and should you suspect your cat has developed them, immediately take them to the vet.

Cute domestic tabby cat is sitting on
Cute domestic tabby cat is sitting on a blue grey sofa exploring some pink roses. Roses alone are not toxic to cats. Angela Chestnova/Getty Images

Flowers Toxic for Cats

While roses are (mainly) fine to have around cats, other flowers may be more dangerous. Cat expert Celia Haddon notes the main thing to make sure of is lilies are never in the home.

She told Newsweek: "The most dangerous cut flower of all flowers is the lily."

"Even a spec of pollen if it falls on the cat's fur can poison it severely if the cat licks it off while grooming.

"The leaves, the petals, are all poisonous. If you are given lilies as a cut flower over east, cut off the stamens with the pollen and place the bouquet well out of reach."

Also, be certain to keep clear of these flowers toxic to cats containing "rose" in their name:

  • Christmas Rose
  • Desert Rose
  • Moss Rose
  • Primrose
  • Rosebay
  • Rose of Sharon

Find a full list of plants that are toxic to cats here.

Kitten pawing vase of roses
A kitten pawing a a vase of roses. Martin Poole/Getty Images