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Monstera is a popular aroid houseplant commonly found in Central and South America at lower elevations. Belonging to the Araceae family, it can grow up to 6-8 feet tall. However, many plant lovers also have pets and children in their houses, and thus, they are often concerned about the toxicity of their houseplants.
The ASPCA listed the genus Monstera as toxic. It can be dangerous to babies and small animals because the majority of the plant-like stems, leaves, and roots contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause mild irritation to severe reactions.
Even though Monstera is not fatal, it can irritate your pets and babies. Thus, it is essential to look out for any symptoms in your pets, such as excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing, or general discomfort. But before your drop the idea of growing a Monstera plant in your home, here are a few things that you should know:
Monstera Toxicity on Humans
We know that this would come as heart-breaking news to someone planning on growing the Monstera plant and a proud parent to a toddler, but the plant is toxic to humans when consumed.
However, the reaction is immediate, which means one would not continue consuming the plant once the symptoms kick in. But it is difficult to say that a toddler would stop eating the plant once it starts to tingle their mouth.
One should not panic as a kid would have to consume a sizeable chunk of the plant to do some damage. However, one should keep the plant out of the reach of children.
Is the Entire Monstera Plant Toxic?
Parts of the Monstera plant are toxic and should not be consumed. But the plant still manages to offer a delicious fruit that is edible and safe to eat. However, one should be sure that the fruit is not unripe as it may contain calcium oxalates which can sting your mouth and even cause kidney failure if consumed in an excessive amount.
That being said, a Monstera is unlikely to fruit as a houseplant as it requires a lot of sunlight. Thus, accidentally picking an unripe Monstera fruit is also quite rare.
What are Calcium Oxalate Crystals?
We have been talking about this element, but what is it? Calcium Oxalate crystals are microscopic, needle-shaped irritants found in the leaves, stems, and saps of the Monstera plant. While it can irritate when consumed, it is beneficial for the plant.
Calcium oxalate crystals help normalize tissue calcium and eliminate unnecessary minerals. Other than this, its most obvious function is that it protects the plant from being eaten up.
While it is helpful for the plant, it can be dangerous for humans and animals. Calcium oxalate crystals can result in mild irritation or even more severe reactions depending on the kind of contact made with the element.
Here are a few things that one should know about calcium oxalate crystals:
- Calcium oxalate crystals may cause kidney stones.
- They are needle shaped, called raphids and sometimes may even have barbs which is why they may irritate and cause pain.
- Calcium oxalate crystals can also be found in some fruits and vegetables. Spinach, particularly has high concentrations of the element.
- There are also various houseplants that contain enough concentrations of calcium oxalate crystals to cause irritation. Dieffenbachia is one of the most famous culprits while syngonium, philodendron, alocasia are other plants are on the list.
Symptoms To Watch in Pets
Calcium oxalate crystals can result in a burning sensation around your pet’s lips or mouth. You may even notice that your pet is pawing at the mouth more frequently, or it may have oral swelling or drool excessively.
After ingesting the monstera plant, other common symptoms in pets are loss of appetite, vomiting, and upset stomach. However, these are the symptoms that you will only notice your pet has ingested the plant in large quantities, which is quite rare. But in this case, there is a risk of severe adverse reactions. So, be sure that you contact a veterinarian in this case immediately.
Symptoms To Watch in Children
If your infant ingests a Monstera plant, you may come across symptoms like coughing, difficulty swallowing or breathing, or drooling. Your child may complain about pain in the throat as well.
Besides consuming the plant, skin contact with the Monstera sap can also lead to redness and rashes. Also, if the plant comes in contact with the eye, it may result in irritation or abrasions.
Preventative Methods (For Pets)
Given the perils of consuming a Monstera plant, you must keep the plant out of the reach of your pet. Here are a few ways in which you can prevent it from ingesting your Monstera plant:
Spraying water on your Monstera plant is an effective way of developing a boundary between the plant and your cat. It will ensure that your cat does not touch or try to nip off the leaves. However, this trick is usually only applicable for cats whenever you are home, or the cat is in front of you.
Use Citrus Peels or Repellent Spray
To deter your feline friend from your plant, you can put some oranges or lemon peels around the Monstera pot. Cats do not like the pungent aroma of these citrus fruit peels, which can help drive them away from the plant.
A better alternative would be misting your plant with some citrus fruit essential oils or diluted fruit juices, which also fulfill the purpose. However, it would be best to be sure that you use an animal-friend essential only.
Creating an Unappealing Environment
You need to figure out how you can discourage your child or your pets from going near the plant. For instance, cats may find a space unpleasant if tin foils are lying around. So, placing tin foils around your Monstera plant might be helpful.
Since you would know your pet or your child in the best manner, you will be able to create a space around your Monstera plant that does not excite them.
Protect the Soil
As mentioned earlier, just brushing up against the plant can irritate the skin. Thus, it is essential to ensure that your pets and your children maintain a proper distance from the plant.
Pets like loose potting soil as it gives them a chance to dig it up. While digging the soil near the plant, they may also come into contact with the plant. To prevent this, you can cover up the soil with a layer of pebbles. Ensure that your pets do not dig up the soil and do not even disturb the plant.
While you can protect your Monstera plant by keeping it at a height, cats can reach almost any spot quite easily. So, if you have a cat in your house, you should consider planting your Monstera plant in hanging baskets to ensure that your plant is away from furniture, windows, and even walls, making sure that your cat does not get near the plant.
Get Another Pet-Friendly Plant
If your pets love green foliage, it is better to give them a safe plant for them. Here are many different houseplants that you can grow in your home without any fears would not only give them something to play with but ensure that your pets remain distracted and maintain a distance from the Monstera plant.
For example, Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma (Mini Monstera) which is not a true monstera contains calcium oxalate which puts animals off from eating its leaves. However, calcium oxalate raphides can kill a cat if they do eat it.
If your pet or child accidentally ate part of Monstera other than its fruit, you should not panic and carefully carry out the following steps.
- Rinse the mouth with water and spit. It is important that one does not swallow the water as the main aim here is to remove as much Calcium Oxalates out of the mouth as possible.
- Your pet or child may experience some symptoms such as discomfort, pain and irritation along with a sore throat or mouth. It is recommended that one should try sucking on iced chips or eat cold food such as ice cream as it may ease the symptoms.
- One should consume fluids. However, if the affected person is having trouble breathing or swallowing and is unable to take any fluids, it should not be forced on them.
- If your child or pet’s skin has come in contact with the Monstera sap, it is suggested that you should wash the affected area with soap.
- If the plant has come in contact with the eye, one should use water or a gentle eye drop to rinse.
If your child or pet is still in pain or discomfort, you should seek medical assistance at the earliest. They might administer a painkiller and offer additional treatment.
Note: Usually, there is nothing to worry about, and things only get serious if your pet or child has ingested a significant amount of the plant. While signs of pain and irritation are common after taking a bite, the only sign of danger is if an uncommon, swelling reaction occurs.
FAQ’s about Monstera plant
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I hope this information will help you get a clear idea about Monstera toxicity. And if you are still concerned about your pet child, it is best to omit the idea of growing a Monstera plant in your home.
And if you think that you will be able to monitor your child or your pet properly, you should go for this stunning-looking houseplant. Here is a blog highlighting some of the popular and aesthetic-looking monstera varieties to help you pick the right one for your home.