Houseplants cleanse the air and boost your mood, but plants and pets don’t always mix. If your curious kitty likes to nibble on anything with green leaves, it’s essential to know which plants are pet-safe and which are toxic.
Can You Have Indoor Plants With Cats?
The short answer is yes. There are many safe, non-toxic houseplants that won’t harm kitty.
The bigger issue may be your cat’s behavior.
Cats eat grass and plants in nature to aid their digestion. But even with dedicated pots of cat grass for your cat to eat, many cats prefer to munch on off-limit houseplants.
Curious kitties may also dig in the soil or knock over pots and make a mess.
So the real question is, can YOU have indoor plants with your furry friend’s disposition?
What Houseplants Are Toxic To Cats?
Here’s a quick rundown of toxic houseplants to avoid if you have a cat:
Lillies (nearly 100 species, which are all toxic and can cause immediate kidney failure and death if any part of the plant is ingested)
Snake Plant (Mother in Law's Tongue)
If you have an outdoor cat, these common plants, flowers, and shrubs are also toxic:
Onions (including garlic, chives, and scallions)
Tomato (stems and leaves)
If your cat ingests a toxic plant or you suspect poisoning from an outdoor plant, call your vet immediately or the ASPCA poison control line at (888) 426-4435.
The ASPCA also has an exhaustive database of toxic and non-toxic plants to give you definitive peace of mind before bringing home a new plant.
What Houseplants Are Safe For Cats?
If you don’t mind the occasional nibble taken out of your prized plants, here are some of the most popular, cat-friendly houseplants.
Chlorophytum comosum is a low-maintenance houseplant that is easy to grow, even if you don’t have a green thumb. They don’t like direct sun, and their long slender leaves make them ideal for hanging baskets in an out-of-the-way corner. Spider plants are also excellent air purifiers — perfect for homes with litter boxes!
Ponytail palms (beaucarnea recurvata), parlor palms, and areca palms are safe for cats. Their rigid fronds are quite resilient and hold up well to playful swats and naughty nibbles. The exception to palms being safe for cats is the sago palm, which is highly toxic (it’s also not technically a palm, despite its appearance and name).
Like palms, most ‘true’ ferns are not toxic for cats. However, several popular houseplants with ‘fern’ in their name are not true ferns and can harm kitty. Ferns to avoid include emerald ferns, sprengeri ferns, lace ferns, foxtail ferns, winter ferns, and hemlock ferns.
True ferns that are safe include:
Rabbit’s foot fern
Peperomia obtusifolia is another low-maintenance houseplant safe for cats. They like indirect light, and their thick, waxy leaves may deter cats from munching (cats generally prefer thin, wispy plants similar to grass). The watermelon peperomia has striking variegated leaves that pop amid the green of your plant collection.
Money trees are easy to grow, and their unique braided trunk makes them an attractive addition to any space. The leaves on larger money trees in floor pots may even be entirely out of reach for your kitty (depending on her jumping skills and determination!).
Like peperomias, calathea plants have large, thick waxy leaves that may deter cats from eating them. Also called prayer plants because of how the leaves close up at night, calatheas have beautifully variegated leaves, making them a beautiful addition to your plant collection.
They’re cat-safe, but they’re not the easiest plants to grow. They need low-light, greenhouse-like conditions, well-drained soil, and regular fertilizer to thrive. Dozens of calathea varieties exist under common names, like peacock plants, cathedral plants, zebra plants (different from succulent zebra plants), and rattlesnake plants.
Saintpaulias are pet-friendly plants. With a cozy spot on a windowsill receiving indirect sunlight and regular fertilizer, these beauties will bloom year-round. Like calatheas and peperomias, African violets have large, thick, textured leaves that most cats avoid eating.
A couple of different plants go by the name ‘friendship plant,’ and they’re both non-toxic. Pilea involucrata has intricately textured leaves that appear spiky but are soft to the touch. Pilea peperomioides, also called a Chinese money plant or pancake plant, have large, flat, circular leaves.
There are more than 1,000 varieties of ‘succulents,’ a broad term to describe thick, fleshy plants that store water and thrive in arid environments. For pet owners looking for non-toxic plants, consider these succulent varieties:
Echeveria (pastel, rose-shaped succulents)
Haworthia (spiky succulents resembling mini, striped aloe, also called zebra plants)
Tillandsia (air plants)
Another safe houseplant for cats and dogs, baby tears is a moss-like, creeping plant that likes high humidity. The lush, trailing greenery is perfect for a hanging basket in a bathroom or sunroom and is commonly grown in terrariums with other moisture-loving plants.
Polka Dot Plants
Hypoestes phyllostachya is another eye-catching and pet-safe plant that’s easy to grow. The bright pink and white variegated leaves stand out among other plants and tolerate direct sunlight in the morning. With proper plant care, these guys can get up to two feet tall and wide, so be prepared to give them some room to grow.
Cast Iron Plant
The cast iron plant is virtually indestructible for houseplant beginners. It grows indoors or outside and can survive a wide range of growing conditions and neglect. The long, slender, dark green leaves grow skyward and reach up to two feet tall, so it’s perfect in floor pots and entryways.
What Plants Can Cats Eat?
If kitty loves to eat anything green, give him his own plants. Cats eat grass and plants in the wild, so it’s natural to try and satisfy that need with your prized plants.
Plants you can grow specifically for your cat to eat include:
Cat grass (usually wheat or oat grass. You can even find cat grass kits on Amazon ready to grow)
Cat thyme (not actually a thyme, teucrium marum is a stimulant that may work for cats that don’t enjoy catnip. Cat thyme is sometimes called ‘kitty crack!’)
Grow kitty’s plants in small pots or trays on the floor, the counter, or next to your plant collection to tempt her away from off-limit plants.
How To Keep Cats Away From Indoor Plants
Keeping toxic plants out of your home is an obvious priority if you have pets. But cats can still be a nuisance by eating your plants or knocking them over. Here are some ways to deter them:
Make Your Plants Yucky
Cats dislike the smell and taste of citrus. For a natural repellent, mix a few drops of lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit essential oil in a spray bottle and mist your plants. If that's not enough, there are spray deterrents on Amazon that contain citric acid and bittering agents to make kitty think twice about nibbling.
Make Your Plants Prickly
If digging is a problem, 'scat mats' create a prickly environment that kitty doesn't like on her paws. The mats have flexible plastic spikes that cats don't like stepping on — but don't worry, while it's uncomfortable, it doesn't hurt them. The mats can be placed around plants or cut to fit inside the pots to deter digging.
Make Your Plants Sticky
If kitty can easily knock over pots (and revels in doing so!), try some sticky putty on the bottom of the pots. Just read the directions to ensure the putty is safe for whatever surface the pot is sitting on.
Make Your Plants Inaccessible
Putting plants out of reach is the most effective solution. There are many ideas online for floating shelves and planters, hanging baskets, terrariums, macrame hanging plant holders, and upcycled solutions like vintage birdcages.
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