Finding cat-friendly plants can be a daunting task. You should also be aware that even plants that aren’t dangerous to cats can still make them vomit. In fact, a fairly well-known saying goes something like: “you can have cats, or plants—not both”. Fortunately, this isn’t completely true. Check out this list for some great, safe plants that won’t wreak havoc on your feline companions.
You can decrease your pain (as well as your cat’s discomfort), by choosing plants that are safe for them. There are even plants that cats find attractive, which may help to keep them away from the aesthetic ones that you’re hoping to keep nibble-free.
I only have 2 indoor plants at the moment (excluding a cactus) as my boy Gregor has an affinity for munching on them. Not all cats are like this, of course. If yours is anything like mine, however, then you know the struggle well. If you’re new to cat ownership, it’s not something you want to find out the wrong way. Always better to be safe than sorry.
If you know your cat well enough, you can take some liberties with the plants you choose. I actually have a Croton, which is well noted on the toxic list. They taste bitter and have a slight scent if you get close enough. This has kept Gregor wholly uninterested. Some cats may not be phased by this though, so knowing your cat well is important.
A routine morning with my boy looks a little something like this: doling out Gregor’s brekkie and then after he has about two bites, following him to the balcony door and letting him out so he can have his morning cat grass. Of course; since I grew it specifically for him, he’s much more interested in my vegetables and ornamental grass instead. If your feline has access to the outdoors, you’ll need to consider that space as well. I’m focusing on your indoor space for the purpose of this article.
The following is a list of 11 cat-friendly plants for a number of different indoor environments.
1. The Calathea Genus
The Calathea family presents a variety of colourful cat-friendly plants. A couple of my favourites are the Rose Painted and the Rattlesnake. Both of these varieties offer variegated green leaves with bright red undersides. These plants are easy to care for as long as there’s a good level of humidity in the room, and they aren’t exposed to direct sunlight.
As they’re native to more tropical climates, care should also be taken to keep these plants away from cold drafts. As an added bonus, these lovely guys will aid in purifying the air in your home.
2. Sedum morganianum (aka Burro’s Tail Succulent)
This is a great trailing succulent that will add some soft colour and texture to your home. It loves the sunlight and may even bloom in the summer if taken outside. Just be mindful of the strong afternoon sun. It would like to rest in cooler temperatures for a period of time in the winter, but as with other exotic plants, this guy won’t do well if exposed to cold drafts.
3. & 4. Thyme and Parsley
You may already have these herbs in your garden. If so, than you’ll be happy to know that they’re completely safe for cats to nibble on. If you don’t already have them growing, keeping fresh herbs on hand is never a bad idea. In addition, they produce a nice fragrance when chewed. Herbs are also pretty easy keepers. Parsley requires a deeper pot and likes more moisture than thyme, but give these guys a good amount of sunlight and you’ll be set.
5. African Violet
There are many African Violet species to choose from. Depending on your tastes, you can find a violet to go with just about any room. They love bright light, but too much direct sunlight can burn them. Be careful not to over-water these guys, and take note that they’re not fond of overly cold water.
African violets also appreciate a humid environment. While easy to care for, they do appreciate some attention and will react positively to pruning. Part of that attention includes a light misting every so often. Make sure that they’re never left to sit in any excess water.
6. Friendship Plant
This plant has great texture and colour to its leaves, making it a great addition to any room. I’m a very tactile person, so I find plants like these very appealing. Other than wanting to be warm and having a nice humid environment, this species is very easy to care for—just make sure you don’t let him dry out.
They do well in low-light areas of your home as long as they’re exposed to several hours of light a day. This means they can be placed further back from a window or along an interior wall that faces a window.
7. Christmas/Easter/Thanksgiving Cactus
One of the few holiday plants that are nontoxic for your furry friend, these will make a lovely addition to any holiday decor. omething of interest to note: there are actually 3 species of these cacti that are very similar, except that they bloom at different times of the year.
For a long time I simply thought my Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) was confused, when in actual fact, it was an Easter Cactus. There’s also the Thanksgiving cactus. They all require the same care. Bright partial light, no direct sunlight, and constantly moist soil. Let your cactus rest after blooming by not fertilizing or watering for 30 days.
8. Areca Palm
If you have more space and are looking for a plant with some height, the Areca Palm is very popular and can be found in most garden centres. They’re really easy to grow as long as they have enough light—but again, make sure it’s indirect—and are not over-watered. They don’t like having wet roots. Make sure you use a well-draining soil. As an added bonus, this is another plant in the air-purifying category.
9. Money Tree
This plant is thought to bring wealth to its owner, and it’s safe for kitty. Furthermore, the decorative twisted trunk and broad leaves add a nice touch to any home. It’s interesting to note that in the wild, these trees can actually grow up to 20 meters! Thanks to years of cultivation, we can now enjoy them in our homes. As with many of the plants on this list, this one would like as much sunshine as possible, without getting burnt by direct sunlight. He would do well to dry out in between healthy waterings.
10. Boston Fern
Be very careful when selecting a fern for your home. While the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) isn’t poisonous, many other types are. Bostons are a popular choice for adding a classic touch to any room. This is another cat-friendly plant that can do well in a more shaded area of your home. They can’t live in a completely dark room and would like some sporadic light, but they’ll do just find farther away from a window.
One of the great things about a Boston is that they can appear to be half dead, but can still be revived with little effort.
11. Ponytail Palm
For those of you who would love to have plants, but can never remember to water them, this one’s for you.
These palms store water in their bulbous trunks, which allows them to go for a very long time without a proper watering. In the wintertime, they prefer even less water. They like bright light, but they are also very forgiving—they can sit in a place where they only receive bright light about half the time and still do quite well.
Better to be Safe than Sorry
Sometimes in your search, you’ll find conflicting information regarding a specific plant. Check with your vet, or forgo that plant entirely.
I mentioned the joyful fact that cats will vomit even when eating safe plants. You shouldn’t be too concerned by this. By providing your cat with greens that are safe to snack on, you help them to fulfill a natural instinct. Cats use grass and other greens to clean their digestive tracts and settle their stomachs.
In the wild, this would remove feathers, fur, and bones that would otherwise be difficult to pass. In your home, this can help to clear furballs. It may be frustrating, but please don’t be angry at your furry friend for doing what is natural to them. I grow cat grass on my balcony specifically for this purpose. He gets the greens he wants safely, and throws up as needed.
You will also notice that your dear friend will most assuredly go in search of a rug in order to perform this business. I don’t know why. You won’t either. But you’ll get really good at cleaning up cat vomit. You’ll probably get really particular about rug selection too! Oh and a fun little cleaning tip for you: solid barf come up quite nicely with a spatula. (Thanks Mom!)
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
Watch out for odd behaviour that accompanies vomiting, such as drooling, or lethargy. Get your cat checked out by a vet as soon as possible if they display these signs and symptoms.
So, although it may seem really difficult to find cat-friendly plants, with some time and research, you can find nice plants to accent your home without causing distress to yourself or your feline friend. Pretty soon, you’ll realize that the only constraint will be a lack of space! If you chance upon a great plant while out and about and you aren’t sure of its toxicity, a great online source for information is the ASPCA