Monday, September 20, 2010

Cats and Dragon Trees Don't Mix

Ollie, the cat whose image graces this blog, was very sick today. It's all my fault, too. Short story in a couple of words: New houseplants.

I once resolved never to bring real plants into the house with a cat after reading so much about illness brought on by chewing on poisonous plants. This weekend, though, I was out garden shopping and was distracted by a new shipment of pots along with the indoor plants on display at a garden center. So I came home with three new houseplants and carefully selected pots. After they were all put together and situated artfully around the house, I noticed how fascinated Ollie was with the long, blade-form leaves of the dragon tree (Dracaena marginata). I hoped to discourage him from messing with it and running the long leaves sensuously through his mouth, but when I came home today he had pulled it completely out of the pot. That was mildly funny, until I walked further into the house and noticed the vomit all over the place. Well, he at least had met me at the door as he usually does and was moving around all right, but when he went for some more food from his bowl he immediately threw up again. I don't know how much of the Dracaena he chewed, but it didn't look like it had sustained much damage after I returned it to its pot (and deposited it outside on the front patio).

As I went about cleaning up and discovering more episodes of vomiting -- sometimes food, sometimes just fluid -- I decided I'd better take Ollie to the vet just to be sure he was okay. Columbia Animal Hospital gave him an anti-vomiting injection and some subcutaneous nutritional fluid and plenty of the love that makes him actually enjoy going to the vet. They also called a couple of poison control centers to track down symptoms and treatment for the ingested plant species. The doctor could have berated me for being so careless with new plants, but maybe she understood that I already felt foolish enough. Ollie came home this evening with a new hump over one front shoulder -- a "backpack of fluids", as they called it at the vet.

I checked the book I should have checked before purchasing plants, my copy of the Humane Society's "Complete Guide to Cat Care". Dracaena, all species, was indicated on the list of dangerous plants. Also chrysanthemum, and my new indoor garden included an indoor annual chrysanthemum, although I've had one of those in the house before and Ollie never bothered it. No listing for jade plant, or jade tree, the third plant among my purchases. The book also urges the would-be cat-and-plant lover to beware of whatever the place of purchase might have sprayed on a plant. So no more indoor gardening for Ollie and me.

Ollie was lively enough at the vet, charming them as usual and exploring the examination room. He's curled up on the cat pad beside me now, waiting for me to get off this damned computer. I can't give him any food tonight and will try just a small amount on him tomorrow morning. No more dragon trees, Ollie. We found out why they're called that.