Is Elephant Bush Toxic to Cats? (The Best Guide)

If you haven’t heard of elephant bush (Portulacaria afra) and its toxicity status, this article is for you. This hardy succulent can be found in Southern Africa. It goes by the name elephant bush simply because it has been a staple food for elephants for many years.

But, is elephant bush toxic to cats?

Well, the beauty of elephant bush is that it is, in fact, non-toxic to pets, including cats and dogs.

Generally speaking, cats are curious creatures and tend to gnaw on many things that they shouldn’t just to test their 9 live theory. But as elephant bush is not toxic to them, we don’t need to worry.

In fact, goats and tortoises also enjoy grazing on this plant as it grows in abundance within their migrational regions.

It is also known to have been used in South African cuisine in meals such as salads, soups and stews, and it adds a sour flavor to the dish. Being a common houseplant, It’s important to know the toxicity levels, especially if you own a cat.

Is elephant bush toxic to cats?
Is elephant bush toxic to cats?

What is an elephant bush?

The elephant bush is a clean-looking succulent shrub often grown for ornamental purposes. When carefully manicured, this shrub can be made to look like a bonsai plant. It has red stems with small green, plump, succulent leaves attached. It can be added to certain dishes to give a ‘tart’ flavor and has also been used for medicinal purposes.

This plant can assist in the treatment of over-exhaustion, insect bites, acne, sunburn, dehydration, and blisters and help decrease high blood sugar levels. Elephant Bush is also an exceptional carbon sponge; it can help take more carbon from the air than almost any other plant.

What is an elephant bush?
What is an elephant bush?

Is elephant bush poisonous?

There are quite a few species of succulents that are poisonous to both cats and dogs when consumed. Some include the Pencil Cactus, Aloe Vera, Panda Plant and Crown Of Thorns. The symptoms of such poisoning among house pets from ingesting these succulents include mild gastrointestinal upset to skin and eye irritation. Few species are fatal, but you can never be too careful with your furry friends.

Is elephant bush poisonous?
Is elephant bush poisonous?

On the other hand, elephant bush is perfectly safe to consume by humans or animals. According to the ASPCA’s (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) website, ‘Portulacaria Afra, ‘Elephant Bush’ foliage is edible and non-toxic to pets and humans. 

Is Rainbow elephant bush toxic?

The rainbow elephant bush is a variant of the elephant bush. It can often be mistaken for the jade plant due to its looks and growing environment. The jade plant is a toxic plant for animals. On the other hand, the rainbow elephant plant is non-toxic for humans and animals. 

Is elephant bush toxic to cats? The actual answer

The short answer is that the elephant bush is perfectly safe and non toxic for cats and other pets, and that’s why it is a great option as an indoor plant.

It is extremely low maintenance, it doesn’t rely on frequent watering, and it’s really hard to kill. Cats love trying to nibble on whatever they can get their inquisitive little teeth on. They tear bits of plants off, chew them, and roll around in them.

Is elephant bush toxic to cats
Is elephant bush toxic to cats?

Luckily for the elephant bush and cat owner, there is no reason to be worried about toxicity within the plant. It is safe and can also be used in certain dishes to add a mild tarty flavor. It doesn’t stop at house pets or humans either; elephants, goats and tortoises love this plant so much that the name came from the joy of the elephants’ jaws themselves!

What to do if your cat ingests an elephant bush plant leaf?

You don’t have to do too much, to be honest. It’s ok for cats to eat and play with. Many other succulents can be extremely dangerous for cats to gnaw on, but fortunately, the elephant bush is not one of those species. It’s generally quite clean, it doesn’t have any spikey, thorny bits that can harm a cat and the taste is palatable. 

Should I prune elephant bushes?

Elephant bush should be routinely pruned, or it can become tough to keep under control. They can be grown anywhere between six inches and 20 feet tall. Imagine the fight on your hands at full brush once they reach that height!

Should I prune elephant bushes?
Should I prune elephant bushes?

The elephant bush is a robust plant that can drop its leaves when introduced to a new environment. IF this is the case, give it some time to adjust, and it will start growing back as soon as it’s ready. A simple but effective pruning routine includes:

  • Removing parts of the plant that contain diseases or have been eaten by insects. Whiteflies, spider mites and root rot and some of the main culprits here. Discard any offcuts away from the plant to prevent the reintroduction of the issue. 
  • Removing any damaged or dead leaves and branches.
  • Cutting it back to a manageable size and shape.

Elephant bush benefits

Elephant bush has a few surprisingly handy uses. From an aesthetic perspective, they are a really pretty plant to have sprouted around with their bonsai-style features. They are a very effective ‘carbon sponge’ in the way that they help to improve air quality.

Elephant bush benefits
Elephant bush benefits

They can absorb some high levels of carbon from the air, which helps you breathe easier inside and around the home. They have also been known to help specific health ailments. Chewing on a bunch of the leaves can help alleviate a sore throat and suppress throat infections.

The leaves can be juiced and used as an effective topical antiseptic to help soothe and counteract such skin issues as sunburn, rash, pimples and certain insect bites.

It can be a tasty garnish to some dishes and has a mild tart/sour flavor. Salads, soups and stews can benefit from the extra gusto they can bring. Lastly, the stems can be dried out and used to thatch a hut’s roof.

Which plants are OK for cats?

You should keep your cat away from some more toxic plants to stay on the safe side. In contrast, mother nature has provided us with just as many cat or pet-safe plants around the home. These include:

  • Rattlesnake Plant.
  • Spider Plant.
  • Parlor Palm.
  • Calathea Orbifolia.
  • Ponytail Palm.
  • (Certain) Succulents such as Haworthia and Echeveria.
  • African Violet.
  • Bird’s Nest Fern.
  • Gloxinia.
  • Venus Flytrap.
  • Boston Fern.
  • Polka Dot Plant.
  • Watermelon Peperomia.
  • Orchid.
  • Staghorn Fern.
  • Bromeliad.
  • Baby Tears.
  • Friendship Plant.
  • Date Palm.
  • Most Herbs, including Basil, rosemary, and thyme.
  • Prayer Plant.

There are many more, and we will go through the list in greater detail in another related article.


As we can see, elephant bush is not toxic for cats. Nor is it poisonous for them. It’s completely safe, and the only real issue you will have with an elephant bush plant is its maintenance. It can bush out if you don’t keep a close eye on it.

Apart from that, the elephant bush is a pleasant plant that offers a lot in the way of benefits. It looks nice, you can eat it, use it as a form of medicine, and it’s bloody hard to kill! We hope that we have helped with any questions you may have regarding elephant bush. Thanks for reading. See you in the next article!

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