Is Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai Banyan Toxic to Cats?

Remove all toxic plants from a cat's life.
Remove all toxic plants from a cat's life. (Image: Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A bonsai Hawaiian umbrella tree (Schefflera arboricola) with banyan, or aerial, roots is considered pretty, but its potentially detrimental effects on cats and dogs are anything but pretty. Keep the Araliaceae family plant -- and all other plants in the Schefflera genus -- far from cats as well as dogs.

Toxic Component

Hawaiian umbrella tree, which is an evergreen and hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12, is dangerous to cats and dogs because of its calcium oxalate content. Never allow them access to the plant. If an animal eats any part of it, that animal could be poisoned. A simple bite into the plant is all it takes to free calcium oxalate's crystals, which can cut the mouth.

Signs of Poisoning

If your cat gets its mouth on a Hawaiian umbrella tree, the animal may make that fact extremely apparent to you. Some telltale signs of Hawaiian umbrella tree poisoning are unusual salivation, inflamed airways, problems breathing, trouble swallowing food, throwing up and severe oral discomfort -- notably burning sensations. The cat may constantly place her paws by its mouth in an attempt to ease the unpleasant feelings.

Quick Action

Signs of some kind of plants' toxicity takes a few hours to days to occur. The delay isn't the case with Hawaiian umbrella tree. If a cat munches on that tree, it may exhibit troubling symptoms right afterward. If you have any reason to think a cat's mouth was near a Hawaiian umbrella tree, then get the cat veterinary care immediately.

Other Poisonous Monikers

Because plants of the Schefflera genus are poisonous to cats, having a strong awareness of their many forms can be a good safety measure for cat owners. If you're familiar with the plants' common names, you can help your cat avoid those plants much easier. Other common names for the Hawaiian umbrella tree are schefflera, Australian ivy palm, starleaf and octopus tree. If you're ever uncertain about the safety of a plant, keep it out of your cat's access. A veterinarian can inform you about the pet-friendliness of specific plants.

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