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What is Tulip Poisoning?

The tulip is a flowering plant that can be found naturally occurring across the entire northern hemisphere of the globe. The species is extremely popular with gardeners across the planet due to its large and colorful flowers and variants can nowadays be found in almost every locale. Despite its popularity, however, the tulip can be surprisingly dangerous to a large number of animals if eaten, including cats.

Symptoms of Tulip Poisoning in Cats

The symptoms of tulip poisoning will typically manifest quite quickly and be very noticeable. It is important for cat owners to note as much information as they can regarding the progression of the symptoms, as this information can be very helpful when the vet is making a diagnosis.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Salivation
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Lethargy 
  • Weakness

Causes of Tulip Poisoning in Cats

Tulip plants contain a group of toxins known as 'tulipalin' (which can be further divided into tulipalin A and B). The substance is an allergen produced for no other reason than to ward off herbivores that may otherwise come to view the plant as food. In large enough quantities, tulipalin can prove to be quite phytotoxic (meaning that it will cause damage to the liver). However, in most cases of tulip poisoning, it merely causes intense irritation to the tissues that it comes into contact with. This results in the salivation, vomiting and diarrhea that affected cats will go through. The allergenic properties of tulipalin also result in the 'dazed' state that many cats will enter into.

Diagnosis of Tulip Poisoning in Cats

When the cat is brought to the appointment, the vet will perform a physical examination. This will allow them to observe the symptoms first-hand, check for complications and test the cat's reactions and vitals. The will also typically have some questions for the owner pertaining to the cat's medical history and lifestyle, as well as the events surrounding the poisoning. The information provided at this stage can help hasten the diagnosis substantially, so it is important to have much of this information to hand before attending the clinic. The vet may also choose to take a blood sample from the cat for laboratory testing, as this will allow them to precisely identify the responsible toxins.

Treatment of Tulip Poisoning in Cats

The most common (and widely effective) method for treating poisoning is to start the animal on fluid therapy. This procedure puts liquids directly into the cat's body via an intravenous drip, thereby quickly replacing lost water and rehydrating them. It also has the effect of causing urination, which will help wick the tulip chemicals out of the body. The vet will also typically choose to use activated charcoal in order to absorb any tulipalin that could be lingering in the stomach.

Recovery of Tulip Poisoning in Cats

Recovery time is largely dependent on the quantity of tulip material that the cat has eaten and the severity of the resultant symptoms. For most cats, however, only a week or two will be needed before they will be fit again. During this time, owners should try to restrict the cat's movement as much as possible to ensure that they get enough rest. It is also important to feed them a somewhat bland diet, as this will allow their stomach to recover faster (unlike if it was digesting rich foods). Generally speaking, follow-up appointments will not be needed unless the cat suffers from a recurrence of the symptoms or a secondary complication (such as dehydration) arises.

Tulip Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Na-na Wookie
Domestic shorthair
3 Years
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms


My cat at a piece of the green tulip leaf. She immediately vomited it up. I then gave her, her regular breakfast and she ate all of her breakfast. She's not exhibiting any symptoms at the moment. Should I be concerned?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1051 Recommendations
Since Wookie vomited the tulip leaf up fairly quickly, she may be fine to monitor for vomiting or diarrhea. Large amounts of tulips eaten can result in liver disease, so it would be best to keep a cose eye on her for continued vomiting or diarrhea, and have her seen by your veterinarian if she is showing any of these signs.

Thanks so much. She seems alright. She's eating as normal and playing with us too.

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6 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

lack of appetite

My cat ate a small amount of tulip flower about 16 hours again. No vomit or diarrhea, just not that interested in his dinner tonight and is not himself. He did get into some bacon grease ina moment of curiousity this morning as well.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2474 Recommendations
Whilst the whole tulip plant is toxic, the bulb is the most toxic part and ingestion of any leaves, flowers or stems may result in a loss of appetite and vomiting due to gastric irritation even if eaten in small amounts; the bacon grease may also cause severe gastrointestinal distress. Keep an eye on Ollie and ensure that he is hydrated, if you have concerns visit your Veterinarian or an Emergency Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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