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What is Tomato Plant Poisoning?

The scientific name of the tomato plant is Lycopersicon spp and it resides in the Solanaceae family. If you see your cat eating the leaves or stems of a tomato plant, get him to your vet right away.

While humans can easily eat tomatoes, substances in the stems and leaves of the tomato plant are toxic for small animals. The tomato plant contains solanine, which is toxic for your cat. If he nibbles on tomato plants, he will develop signs of illness. Fortunately for your cat, tomato plant poisoning isn’t typically fatal, but will definitely cause uncomfortable symptoms.

Symptoms of Tomato Plant Poisoning in Cats

You’ll notice the following symptoms after your cat has eaten from a tomato plant:

  • Excessive salivation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme stomach upset and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Behavioral changes
  • Central nervous system depression
  • Apathy
  • Physical weakness
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Enlarged (dilated) pupils

Causes of Tomato Plant Poisoning in Cats

Tomato plant poisoning in cats is caused by ingesting toxins within green parts of the plant and/or the unripe fruit, including solanine and alpha-tomatine.

Cats who are bored and have easy access to tomato plants are at higher risk of poisoning, due to their increased likelihood of eating the plants out of curiosity.

Diagnosis of Tomato Plant Poisoning in Cats

When your cat gets sick, you may find evidence that he ate from a tomato plant in your yard. Take a sample from your tomato plant with you to the vet to help confirm a diagnosis.

If your cat is in pain or drooling, the vet will examine his mouth and lips to look for irritation. She will also take a blood sample, which allows her to run a complete blood count and a chemistry panel. She may also decide to collect a urine sample, which allows her to test for your cat’s kidney function. 

If your cat ate a large amount of your tomato plant, your vet may decide to run an ECG to test his heart function. Fecal and vomitus samples may also help your vet to narrow down the exact toxin making your cat sick.

Treatment of Tomato Plant Poisoning in Cats

The treatments your vet gives to your cat will be based on his symptoms, giving support to your cat until he begins to improve. If he ate a large amount of tomato plant, the vet will induce vomiting, using a 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide. Once that process is over, she will neutralize any remaining toxins with activated charcoal.

If your cat has become dehydrated, the vet will offer electrolyte and fluid replacements with intravenous solutions. Your cat’s breathing may be depressed, making supplemental oxygen necessary. If he is experiencing cardiac symptoms, the vet may give a vasopressor to correct this issue. A large ingestion of tomato plant can also lead to convulsions for your cat. If this happens, your cat could receive diazepam. 

Recovery of Tomato Plant Poisoning in Cats

Bringing your cat to the vet after he has eaten any part of your tomato plant is the most prudent thing to do. This, in combination with eating only a small part of the plant, means his symptoms should be fairly mild. After all of the toxins are out of his symptoms, he should make a full recovery.

It may be difficult for you to keep your cat away from vegetable plants you grow for your family. If you can’t remove the plant, you may need to retrain your cat to live indoors 24/7. While he’ll have to make an adjustment, he will be safer and happier living indoors.

Make his adjustment to living indoors easier by buying cat-friendly plants and cat grasses that you can grow from a small kit. Once these have sprouted, place them in different areas of your house for your cat to nibble on.