How To Keep Cats Away From Plants

by | Jan 6, 2019

It’s common for people who love cats to want to bring other living things into their homes, too. But what happens when those things – like some houseplants – are a potential risk for your feline friend? 

Even if your cat hasn’t expressed an interest in snacking on plants, it’s essential to stay up-to-date on what greenery is safe. And the good news is, we’ve got an easy list for you to follow to make sure your cat and your plants can peacefully coexist.

What Plants Are Safe?

Since any plant your cat eats could cause vomiting, we recommend that you set up your environment to discourage them from eating anything other than the food you provide. However, some common house plants are non-toxic. For a longer list, check out the ASPCA website for a longer list, but a few of our favorites are here.

  • Palms: There are a lot of palms that are good options (like a Parlor Palm) both for the safety of your cat and for adding beautiful splashes of green to your home. And the wispy look of a palm may make your kitty feel like a jungle cat! Areca palm and ponytail palm is also safe for cats. Sago palm is NOT safe for cats as this popular palm can cause liver damage, diarrhea, and seizures.
  • Ferns: are standard options for house plants – and there are a lot to choose from. You can easily find them in the garden department of most stores, but be sure to cross-check what type of fern you have purchased. Most sold for homes are safe, but it’s always good to double-check.
  • Peperomia Obtusifolia: Also called the “baby rubber” plant is a popular houseplant characterized by its thick, succulent-like green leaves. This plant is harmless to cats and is low maintenance, only requiring a few waterings a week.
  • Cat Grass: Cat grass is a safe alternative to outdoor grass (covered by harmful pesticides. It’s usually grown from oat, wheat, rye, barley, or alfalfa seeds. Not only is it safe, but it’s also packed with vital nutrients like folic acid, chlorophyll, fiber, and other minerals.

Other cat-safe plants include bromeliad, rosemary, peperomia, spider plant, air plant, prayer plant, money tree, elegant orchid, Pilea Peperomioides, and Calathea Freddie.

What plants are never okay for cat owners?

Unfortunately, there are also toxic plants that also make it into homes. The ASPCA also has a list of plants poisonous to cats (including a printable option if you’d prefer) that you can easily reference.

The top offenders are onion, orange, oregano, oleander, daffodils, cannabis, tulips.

Here are a few tips for ensuring your environment is free of toxic plants.

  • Begin by walking through your home, patio, and anywhere your cat may wander to look for, and then identify plants you already have. Give away any toxic plants (to a home without cats, of course) and ask for help if you cannot identify the plant yourself. (Social media can be an excellent resource for this kind of information, but always verify the answers people share!)
  • Check any new plants that come into your home – including flower arrangements. It can be easy to forget when someone brings a beautiful arrangement or a lovely plant as a gift that some or all of it could be toxic, so make it a habit to assess all new plants and flowers.
  • Talk to other cat owners! Try sharing this article on your Facebook page so you can help others understand what you and others do to provide a safe home for your cats.

Why Do Cats Eat Houseplants?

You may think, “cats are carnivorous, so why do they eat houseplants?” There are a few good reasons for that: Tons of added nutrients in many plants. Less justifiable reasons could be boredom or interest in leaves fluttering, bright colors, exciting patterns, etc. 

Side Note: Just because your cat may take a liking to houseplants does NOT mean your cat can thrive on a primarily vegetarian diet. Cat’s are carnivorous, and a vegetarian diet can result in a severe amino acid deficiency.

We have a few tips for you to keep your cat away from boredom-induced cat snacking.

Tips for Discouraging Plant Snacking

At the beginning of this post, we mentioned that we recommend keeping your cats from eating any plants, even the non-toxic ones.

However, if you have a kitty that’s already in the habit of adding greenery to its diet, here are a few ways you can discourage that behavior:

  • Spray Bitter Apple, a well-known repellent, on your plants. Cats hate the odor, but it is unnoticeable to humans and safe for your plants.
  • Citrus and diluted vinegar has a similar effect. The smell will often be enough to keep them away, but the taste will turn them off if not.
  • If you have a room, your cat can’t access – and we understand that this is rare – that could be an excellent place to keep your plants. Over time, once you break the habit, you may even consider bringing the plants back in to see if your cat has lost interest. (This only pertains to non-toxic plants. Never risk that they may eat a toxic plant.)
  • If your plant is in a large enough container, decorative rocks with sharp edges may be enough to keep your kitty from getting close enough to chew on the plant.
  • Consider what may be causing your cat to snack on plants. Try providing toys, entertainment, or even a second cat for the company if they’re bored.

And if you have a cat that has to have plants in its diet, there are various kinds of “kitty grass” available. It could be a gardening adventure the two of you do together!

We love hearing from our community, so please share them in the comments if you have other ideas!


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