Wandering jew plant poisonous

My wandering jew plant is one of the most beautiful houseplants I own. It is also known as Tradescantia zebrina, fluminensis, or pallida.

As a plant lover and a cat lover, it’s vital for me to know which of my indoor plants are potentially toxic or poisonous.

Naturally, I wanted to know: is wandering jew plant poisonous to cats?

In short, the answer is a resounding YES.

The plant has sap within the stems that will bother your cat’s digestive tract. It’s important to note that usually there isn’t a toxic reaction to consuming the leaves. But there’s also no reason to risk it, when part of the plant is definitely toxic.

Also known as Tradescantia, the Wandering Jew Plant and cats do NOT get along. Source: J. McPherskesen.

Symptoms of Wandering Jew Poisoning in Cats

According to the ASPCA, which has a wonderful list of toxic and non-toxic plants, the most obvious symptom your cat (or dog) has been affected by wandering jew plants is a dermatitis-like skin irritation developing. You may notice your pet scratching incessantly as well.

Look for these areas on your pet to be affected first:

  • Groin
  • Stomach, due to laying on the plant
  • Under your pet’s chin
  • …any other body part that comes into contact

Protecting Your Wandering Jew Plants From Pets

What if, like me, you want fauna and flora to play along nicely in your home? I couldn’t stand to get rid of a plant simply because it was toxic to my pet. Instead, I take note of spots that pets can access in my home, and make sure to place all poisonous or irritable plants well out of reach.

Keep in mind, most cats are far more agile than they let on. I’ve had plants 6+ feet off of the ground, but still get mauled to death because a cat jumped from one ledge to another to reach it.

For wandering jew plants, try locating them in well-lit corners of a room that your cat doesn’t go in too often. You can grow it in a hanging basket and attach the basket to the ceiling with a pack of wall anchors and ceiling hooks.

Not only does this keep your plant out of reach of your cat, but as the wandering jew is a trailing, vining plant, it’ll also drape down nicely in the corner. As long as you prune it from time to time to make sure your cat can’t access the long trailing vines, you should be able to enjoy both your pet and your plant in the same home.

Have you had issues with your Tradescantia plants and your pets? Let me know in the comments.

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Kevin Espiritu
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Wandering Jew is a dark green, succulent, creeping carpet (up to 0.5m thick) with oval, shining leaves (3-6cm) and very short stems. The stems are very brittle and break easily. It produces clusters of small, white, three petalled flowers from August to November. It is found in moist shady areas, such as under trees and shrubs; and in the undergrowth on river banks.


If your pet has come into contact with Wandering Jew symptoms may include red, irritated skin. Areas such as paws, muzzle, ears, under carriage are most affected. This will often cause animals to itch, chew and scratch, causing further damage to the skin, with possible secondary skin infections.


  • Minimise contact with the plant.
  • Wandering Jew is easily pulled out, however readily recurs. Some effort is required to fully eradicate the plant from an area; there is further information in the link below.
  • Rinse your pet after walks or known contact. Neem soap products are great soothing cleansers.
  • Optimise skin and general health through excellent nutrition and gut health.
  • Topical remedies may help, such as Aloe Vera gel and Belle Bird cream.
  • Seek veterinary treatment as required.

More information here.

Wandering Jew and Canine Allergic Dermatitis (Dogs)

Wandering Jew is a common cause of contact allergies in dogs. The problem normally affects the underbelly, armpits and groin of the dog, as well as ears and face. Starting as pustules surrounded by red skin which the dog will self-traumatize – occassionally leading the bleeding and raw skin.

In the past few weeks I have seen at least 6 cases of confirmed allergy to this plant. The best recommendation I can give is to remove the plant from the garden. Failing that prevent their dog accessing the plant.

From the DPI QLD website. http://www.dpi.qld.gov.au/cps/rde/dpi/hs.xsl/4790_7385_ENA_HTML.htm

In a recent review of this article I was able to identify another species of plant that may be incorrectly identified as Wandering Jew and is probably more common in south east Queensland. This plant is not considered a noxious weed however does seem very good at proliferating in sunny areas.

I am still unsure as to whether this species is also allergenic but I suspect it might be. The plant has small hairs on the main stems that could plausibly cause allergic reaction in dogs.

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