Nature Canada

The Healthy Houseplant: Ten Feline-Friendly Selections


Guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy

This post was written by guest blogger and cat mom of two Rebecca Kennedy.

It’s no secret that plants are a lovely and valuable addition to the home. They can liven up a sterile room and elevate our mood. As natural air purifiers, plants also remove harmful pollutants from the air, notably gases emitted by common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene and formaldehyde. VOCs are found in many household and hobby products, and exposure to them can cause health problems such as headaches, nausea, and irritation to the eyes, nose, or throat. Some VOCs are known to cause cancer in both animals and humans. By filtering out these noxious fumes, plants help us and our animal companions breathe easier and be healthier.

Before introducing a plant to your home, consider the safety, health, and habits of your indoor feline friend. Some plants, while harmless to humans, are poisonous to cats if bitten or consumed, causing minor to devastating adverse reactions. These can range from mild symptoms like drooling and lethargy to worse like vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, bloody stools, kidney and liver failure, heart problems, and death.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) maintains a large database of common toxic and non-toxic plants, both indoor and outdoor varieties. This resource, although not comprehensive, is an excellent place to check which plants are safe for cats, as well as for dogs and horses. We selected some of our favorite nontoxic houseplants below—check them out!

L to R: Hens and chicks, gerbera daisy, spider plant

L to R: Hens and chicks, gerbera daisy, spider plant

Ten Indoor Plants That Are Safe for Cats:

  1. African Violet
  2. Aluminum Plant
  3. Calathea
  4. Candle Plant
  5. Gerbera Daisy
  6. Hens and Chicks
  7. King and Queen Fern
  8. Parlour Palm
  9. Spider Plant (also known as Spider Ivy)
  10. Variegated Wax Plant

For more information on household toxins, ways to make your home safer, and how to create a pet first aid kit, read the Pet Poison Hotline’s Guide to Pet Safety.

aluminum plant

The aluminum plant is safe for cats. Image courtesy of ASPCA.

If your cat is a biter, you may want to take measures to protect your houseplants, even if they’re not poisonous. One of mine enjoys biting leaves and stems and has shown great interest in my potted king and queen fern. I have encircled the plant with chicken wire, which while unattractive, has kept him mostly at bay, although he does try to stick his paw through the wire. Other methods suggested to me have included employing spray-bottle discipline, placing citrus peels in the pots, and cultivating distracting (sacrificial?) plants that he is allowed to eat, such as catnip and cat grass. It turns out he doesn’t like fresh catnip, but cat grass is a definite winner (and distraction).

What plants do you keep in your home? How do you keep your cats away from them?

Acknowledgements: ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List, Banfield Pet Hospital, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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