Rosary pea plants are poisonous to cats. Toxins are released when the seeds of this plant are chewed and swallowed. The seeds contain several toxic compounds, including the toxalbumin called abrin, which is a ribosome inhibiting protein and one of the most toxic compounds known.
Animals, including cats, are not often poisoned by rosary pea plants, since only the seeds are toxic. However, the poisoning upon ingestion of even one of the seeds is severe, with as little as 0.00015 percent body weight capable of causing fatality in humans. All animal species are affected by the poisons in the rosary pea plant. Cats are susceptible to the effects of the poison in minute amounts, and the level of poisoning is rated as moderate to severe.
Signs of rosary pea poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, bloody vomit, elevated heart rate, abdominal pain and shock.
The rosary pea is a slender twining vine that grows up to 20 feet, Its flowers are red to purple in color. The plant produces one-inch pods that, when dry, split open to reveal bright red seeds, or peas, that have a black spot on one end. This perennial vine has a woody base, which makes it an unlikely plant for cats to eat, since cats prefer the tender foliage of indoor house plants to woody garden plants.
The scientific name for the plant is Abrus precatorius. Other common names for the rosary pea include Buddhist rosary bead, precatory bean, Indian bead, lucky bean or love bean.