If you’re looking for a towering tree feature to make a statement indoors, Fiddle Leaf Figs is your answer. But, if you have pets, you may want to rethink your purchase. Not all houseplants are pet-friendly, including the ever-popular Fiddle Leaf Fig. Follow this guide to find out the signs of Fiddle Leaf ingestion and what you can do to keep your pets away.
- Are Fiddle Leaf Figs Pet Friendly? – The Essentials
- About Fiddle Leaf Figs
- Are Fiddle Leaf Figs Toxic?
- Which Pets Are At Risk Of Fiddle Leaf Fig Poisoning?
- What Are The Signs Of Fiddle Leaf Fig Poisoning?
- What To Do If Your Pet Ingests Fiddle Leaf Fig
- How To Keep Pets Away From Fiddle Leaf Figs
- Fiddle Leaf Fig Toxicity – The Final Word
Are Fiddle Leaf Figs Pet Friendly? – The Essentials
Fiddle Leaf Figs contain a milky sap with sharp calcium oxalate crystals. This sap is toxic to all pets, including cats, dogs, and birds. Symptoms include oral irritation, swelling, and vomiting, among others. You can keep your pets away by keeping the tree out of reach, placing citrus around the pot, or training with a spray bottle.
About Fiddle Leaf Figs
The scientific name for the trees commonly known as Fiddle Leaf Fig is Ficus lyrata. They are part of the Ficus genus, along with more than 800 other species of plants.
Ficus lyrata is part of the subgenus Urostigma, with other popular houseplants like Ficus benjamina and Ficus elastica, the rubber plant. The common fig, Ficus carica, falls under a different subgenus.
These plants are part of Moraceae, also known as the fig or mulberry family. Members of the Ficus genus make up the majority of this family.
Ficus lyrata is most beloved for the large leaves shaped like fiddles, hence the common name. These leaves appear on woody branches from a thick central stem or trunk. The leaves can grow up to 18 inches long, just a bit shorter in width.
Outdoors, these trees grow can grow 40 feet tall. Indoors and restricted by ceiling heights, they typically max out at about 10 feet tall. They also don’t branch out as much indoors as they do outdoors, but this can be improved with regular pruning.
These trees can produce fig-like fruits in their native habitats but are unlikely to do so indoors.
Fiddle Leaf Figs originate from western Africa, from Cameroon closer to the center of the continent to Sierra Leone out west. Like most houseplants, they grow in tropical rainforests in warm temperatures and high humidity.
Are Fiddle Leaf Figs Toxic?
Fiddle Leaf Figs and other members of the Moraceae family have a white milky sap in their stems and leaves. This sap contains crystals of calcium oxalate also found in other houseplants, such as Philodendrons.
These crystals are incredibly sharp. The sharp edges cause irritation when ingested and can lead to a host of other health problems if not dealt with immediately.
Small doses are usually mild and don’t result in long-term issues, but they can still have negative effects on you or your pets. Whenever you encounter the sap of the plant, as when pruning or propagating, it’s important to wash your hands immediately afterward and avoid touching your eyes or mouth.
Which Pets Are At Risk Of Fiddle Leaf Fig Poisoning?
If your cats decide to munch on the leaves of your Fiddle Leaf, or even brush past it when the stems are open or exposed, the sap can stick to their fur and skin, causing irritation. But, the real problem occurs when they try to get rid of the sap by licking it off.
When ingested, the first problem will be oral irritation and swelling. If a lot of the sap is ingested, it can burn the digestive system, causing severe discomfort.
Due to the irritation, they may show resistance to eating food. Your cat can also become dehydrated and may start drooling uncontrollably.
Dogs are less likely to have problems with Fiddle Leaf Fig ingestion as they typically remain out of reach. However, curious pups may find the urge to nibble on one of the leaves to test them out if they are close to the floor.
This has the same effect on dogs as it does on cats. Mouth irritation and swelling occur first, and you may notice your dog pawing at its mouth or showing signs of discomfort. If they ingest more than a small bite, vomiting and intestinal problems can occur.
Birds are known to enjoy munching on the leaves of many plants. However, it’s important to keep them away from all members of the Ficus genus due to the milky sap contained within the leaves and stems.
This can have a much more drastic effect on birds due to their smaller size. They may have difficulty swallowing and can begin vomiting if the problem is severe.
What Are The Signs Of Fiddle Leaf Fig Poisoning?
The first sign to look out for is on the plants themselves. Keep an eye out for bite marks in the leaves or scratch marks on the stems or in the soil. Pests can also create holes that look like bite marks, so check for any bugs before checking your pets.
The second sign in cats and dogs is swelling, drooling, or general mouth irritation. They may paw at their faces or lick around their mouths, indicating discomfort.
If the problem persists, your pet may stop eating or drinking as a result of the oral irritation. If the crystals reach the stomach and intestines, they can begin vomiting or having problems with diarrhea. Your pets can also become dehydrated and generally tired or weak.
What To Do If Your Pet Ingests Fiddle Leaf Fig
If you notice any of these issues, take your pet to the vet as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely the problem is to escalate. The vet will have the ability to assess the problem and determine what treatment is best.
Take a look at the plant to determine how much of it has been ingested. Keep track of how long it has been since your pet first started showing symptoms to give the vet an idea of the scale of the problem.
Initially, they will rinse the pet’s mouth to get rid of any remaining residue. Based on the symptoms, they will likely conduct tests to determine which organs are affected and prescribe treatment accordingly.
How To Keep Pets Away From Fiddle Leaf Figs
To avoid any trips to the vet, it’s best to stop your pets from getting to your Fiddle Leaf Fig altogether. No method is fool-proof, but there are many options you can try:
- Keep the plant out of reach. For taller trees, this is not the easiest task, but it is the most effective. You can also prune the bottom leaves off the fiddle leaf fig tree to shape it and keep the foliage out of your pet’s eye line. Be sure to collect any fiddle leaf fig leaves dropping from the tree. For more, see our guide on where to position fiddle leaf figs in the home.
- Use citrus. Some cats and dogs are not fans of citrus and will normally stay away from any strong citrus smells. Leave some orange or lemon peels near the pot or line it with citrus essential oils. Don’t put them in the soil as this can damage the roots.
- Train your pets to stay away. Keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby to encourage them to stay away from the tree.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Toxicity – The Final Word
While we love our pets and our houseplants, it’s usually best to keep them apart. Although Fiddle Leaf Figs are only mildly toxic and unlikely to be fatal, they can still cause health issues that are damaging to your furry friends.
For more, see our in-depth guide to the meaning and symbolism of fig trees.
Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.