Keeping Kitty Off the Goods

My 12 year old cat Voltron is a determined plant nibbler – in fact most cats have a natural curiosity about their surroundings and tend to enjoy a little taste of fresh greenery now and again.

Unfortunately many common houseplants are toxic so it is worth familiarizing yourself with both your plants and your cat’s tenacity. Many houseplants can cause some form of digestive upset or nausea, and some such as dieffenbachia (aka dumb cane) and philodendron can even be fatal. I’ve included a short list of dangerous common houseplants to avoid [see below and sidebar for further resources]. A little bit of plant material, even the inert stuff can make kitty throw up a little. However, symptoms such as excess vomiting, diarrhea, and a lack of appetite can suggest poisoning and should be taken seriously.

Before rushing to throw much-loved houseplants into the compost heap, try out a few tricks that have worked to create harmony among the species in my own household. Keep in mind that every cat is different and some are just a whole lot more persistent than others! Consider:

Cat Repellents

Make a cat-curbing spray using a “tea” of seeped cayenne pepper flakes and spray on your plants’ leaves or soil surface. NEVER spray your cat directly with this kind of tea. Cats hate strong smells especially citrus. Place citrus peels on the soil surface.

Plant Placement

Some cats are agile climbers and won’t be deterred by high bookshelves or furniture obstacles. Use hanging baskets to keep enticing grass-like plants such as spider plants out of reach. In addition placing plants grown just for kitty in accessible spots will train him to distinguish between his plants and your plants.

Plants for Kitty

Rather than going to war, grow a plant or two that kitty can safely chomp. “Cat grasses” such as wheat, rye, and oats are easy to grow in a shallow container. Alternatively try grasses with a bit of flash such as blue fescue or lemongrass. If neither you nor kitty jive with grasses try herbs such as valerian, catnip, lesser calamint, or Persian catnip. Don’t forget that chemical pesticides and fertilizers can be toxic too – grow organic!

Toxic Houseplants

  • Dracaena
  • Corn Plant
  • Easter & Tiger Lily
  • Dieffenbachia (aka Dumb Cane)
  • Ivy
  • Philodendron
  • Forced Bulbs – Daffodil, tulip, amaryllis
  • Caladium
Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla