Nerve Plant Toxicity to Cats, Dogs, and Humans
With their vibrant, colorful pink, red, or white veins, it’s no surprise that nerve plants are also called mosaic plants. Nerve plants are characterful, compact houseplants that are ideally suited for growing in terrariums. However, before you bring any plant into your home, it’s a good idea to find out if it’s potentially toxic. In this article, we’ll run through everything you need to know about whether Nerve Plants (Fittonia) are poisonous to pets, animals, and humans.
- Are Nerve Plants Toxic to Cats, Dogs, and Humans? – The Essentials
- About Nerve Plants
- Caring for Nerve Plants
- Are Nerve Plants Toxic to Cats, Dogs, and Humans?
- Do Nerve Plants Cause or Exacerbate Allergies?
- What Happens to Pets If They Ingest Nerve Plants?
- What to Do If Your Pet Becomes Unwell?
- Tips to Keep Your Pets Away From Nerve Plants
- Tips and Considerations for Handling Nerve Plants
- Wrapping Up
Are Nerve Plants Toxic to Cats, Dogs, and Humans? – The Essentials
Nerve plants are not toxic to humans or pets like cats or dogs. That said, nerve plants do have tiny hairs on their stems that may cause mild irritation if ingested. Nerve plants don’t bloom indoors, so they shouldn’t trigger allergies like hay fever. Handle nerve plants with gloves when performing any plant care activities such as repotting, or pruning.
About Nerve Plants
Nerve plants are evergreen perennial plants that belong to the Fittonia genus within the acanthus family (Acanthaceae). The genus gets its name from Elizabeth and Sarah Fitton – two well-known Irish botanists from the 19th Century. The genus was named in their honor in 1865 by Belgian botanist Eugene Coemans.
Nerve plants are indigenous to the tropical rainforests of Peru and other regions of South America. These small evergreens spread in clumps across the jungle floor. Nerve plants only grow up to 6 inches tall but can spread up to 18 inches wide.
Due to the colorful veins on their leaves, nerve plants are also known as mosaic plants. These characteristic veins can be pink, red, or white. The stems of nerve plants are also coated with tiny hairs.
Caring for Nerve Plants
Nerve plants can be tricky to keep happy, but will reward you with vibrant color and attractive foliage. These plants need warm temperatures between 60 and 80ºF and high humidity levels between 60 and 90%. Nerve plants grow best in bright, indirect light, filtered light, or partial shade (see our in-depth guide on where to positon nerve plants here).
Nerve plants prefer consistently moist soils that are still well-draining. Water nerve plants whenever the top inch of soil feels dry – usually every 3 or 4 days during the growing season. Fertilize nerve plants every month or two to promote good foliage growth.
Are Nerve Plants Toxic to Cats, Dogs, and Humans?
Nerve plants are not considered to be toxic to humans, although they aren’t edible. While not toxic, nerve plants do have tiny hairs on their stems that may cause minor skin, mouth, or stomach irritation. Nerve plants also produce sap that may cause irritation if it comes into contact with bare skin.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists nerve plants as not toxic to cats or dogs. However, the sap or hairs on nerve plant stems may cause minor mouth or stomach irritation if ingested.
Do Nerve Plants Cause or Exacerbate Allergies?
Nerve plants produce tiny white flowers when growing in the wild. However, nerve plants nearly always fail to bloom when grown as houseplants. Without any flowers, nerve plants shouldn’t trigger pollen-based allergies such as hay fever.
In fact, nerve plants may yield some benefits for people who suffer from asthma or hay fever. Nerve plants have air-purifying properties, which means they absorb harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air. By helping to remove these VOCs, nerve plants can remove chemicals that can trigger asthma attacks.
What Happens to Pets If They Ingest Nerve Plants?
If your cat or dog happens to ingest part of a nerve plant, it shouldn’t suffer too many adverse effects. Your pet may experience some minor stomach discomfort due to the hairs on the stems, which may cause vomiting or diarrhea. Pets who have eaten some Fittonia leaves may also experience some irritation around their mouth.
In most cases, the effects of nerve plant consumption should be relatively minor. Try to keep your pets away from your nerve plants wherever possible. If your pet experiences severe discomfort, book an emergency appointment with your local veterinarian.
What to Do If Your Pet Becomes Unwell?
If your pet becomes seriously unwell after eating part of a nerve plant, seek advice from a qualified veterinarian immediately. In most cases, pets may experience minor mouth or stomach irritation that potentially causes some diarrhea or vomiting. However, contact your local veterinarian if these symptoms do not pass within a few hours. Arrange an emergency appointment if advised to do so.
Tips to Keep Your Pets Away From Nerve Plants
The best way to keep your pets away from nerve plants is to keep them plants out of reach. Nerve plants work best in steamy bathrooms, so position them somewhere that dogs and cats can’t reach. Nerve plants are ideal for terrariums, which protects them against inquisitive muzzles and mouths.
If you can’t keep your nerve plants out of reach of your pets, consider using pet-repellent sprays on the leaves. These should deter your pets from investigating your nerve plants without harming the plant. You could also distract or misdirect your pets using plants that are safer for them to potentially ingest.
Tips and Considerations for Handling Nerve Plants
Although nerve plants aren’t toxic to humans, they do have hair and sap that may cause minor skin irritation. Always wear gloves when handling nerve plants, especially if you’re repotting them.
If you’re growing nerve plants outside as ground cover, wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers around them. This protects your skin against hairs and sap in case you kneel down near the nerve plants.
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap after touching nerve plants. Take special care not to touch your face or eyes until you’ve thoroughly washed your hands.
Nerve Plant Toxicity – Wrapping Up
Nerve plants are compact houseplants that can brighten up even the smallest space thanks to their colorful foliage. As well as being beautiful, nerve plants are also non-toxic to humans, cats, dogs, and other pets. However, nerve plants do have tiny hairs on their stems that may cause minor skin, mouth, or stomach irritation.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.