Are Paper Whites Poisonous to Cats?

Paper whites, jonquils or daffodils -- whatever you call them, they're known cat killers.
Paper whites, jonquils or daffodils -- whatever you call them, they're known cat killers. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Early spring flowers are among the welcomest of sights after a long winter. Your kitty might be happy to see the flowers as well, but for a different reason. He might be interested in trying them out as a snack. Plenty of plants are harmless for a cat to munch, but plenty are not. Among the latter are paper whites. Keep your cat away from paper whites. They're highly toxic.

Paper White Description

Paper white is a common name for the daffodil. Several flowers inhabit the daffodil family, and their names are often used interchangeably. A daffodil is the version that has yellow rear petals and lighter-yellow or cream front trumpet-shaped flowers. The jonquil has the same shape, but its petals are either all the same color of yellow or have a slightly darker center inside the trumpet petals. The paper white has wider rear petals than a daffodil or jonquil, and the petals are white instead of yellow. However, when most people mention paper whites, they are talking about daffodils or jonquils, which are more abundant.

How It's Poisonous

The paper white -- whether you mean the white flower, the daffodil or the jonquil -- is poisonous to your cat; ingesting any part of the plant. The flowers are also toxic to dogs and horses, according to the ASPCA. Flowers in this family contain lycorine, a dangerous alkaloid that can interfere with cell proteins. The flowers, stems and leaves contain the alkaloid, but the bulb has the highest concentration and so is the most dangerous part of the plant for your cat to eat.


If your cat has been outside when paper whites are blooming, watch him closely for adverse symptoms. These including vomiting, diarrhea and excess salivation. In more extreme cases, your cat might experience convulsions, irregular heartbeat, tremors and low blood pressure.

What to Do

Call your vet immediately if you think your cat might have eaten any part of a paper white. The vet might recommend encouraging your cat to drink fresh water to stay hydrated or he might tell you to bring your cat to the office immediately. In many cases your vet will give your cat fluids intravenously, monitor his heart rate and watch his blood pressure. The vet will induce vomiting if he feels it would be helpful to eliminate toxins from your kitty's body.

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