Cat-Friendly Houseplants: Growing Houseplants That Are Non-Toxic

By Mary Ellen Ellis | September 18, 2020
Image by Spanishalex
by Mary Ellen Ellis
September 18, 2020

I love houseplants, but I also love my cats. This means my options are limited, but I have found some great options that won’t make them sick if they decide to take a nibble. Cat owners can enjoy safe houseplants and also grow riskier plants in safer ways.

Choosing Plants for a Cat-Friendly Home

I choose only houseplants that are non-toxic to my three cats: Bunsen, Beaker, and Stormy. They don’t have a lot of interest in eating plants, but it’s not worth the risk. Some of my favorites for growing indoors without worrying about the cats are:

  • African violets – Always a popular houseplant for its pretty flowers, the cats don’t even try to eat the furry leaves on this one.
  • Aluminum and friendship plants – These are closely related and have attractive small leaves. The former has leaves with a bumpy texture and the latter variegated stripes.
  • Peperomia – These are similar to aluminum and friendship plants in terms of the small, interesting foliage. But peperomia come in a variety of colors and textures.
  • Parlor palm – I like this one for its height and tropical feel.
  • Spider plant – Spider plant is so easy to grow and requires little maintenance. It’s a great beginner houseplant.

Prevention for Cats Chewing on Houseplants

I would never risk growing a toxic plant anywhere my cats could get to them. However, even with safe plants I don’t necessarily want nibble marks marring the leaves and flowers. I have a couple of strategies for protecting houseplants with my curious three.

First, I provide some decoy plants. These are plants I know my cats will want to chew on and that I can just toss after a week or so when they begin to look ragged. In spring and fall, I pick up flats of pansies from the garden center. This is my cat Beaker’s favorite, and they’re cheap when in season. They also like lettuce in the summer and cat grass year-round.

For plants I know are dangerous or that I don’t want the cats to destroy, I use a terrarium. I have a couple small glass jars and one large glass house that I use to grow small tropical plants. They don’t last forever under there, but they look lovely for a while.

If you love your cats, you don’t have to sacrifice a home filled with plants. Use these strategies and, if in doubt, check with your vet before bringing a plant into the house. 

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