Pets and Indoor Plants

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Pets and Indoor Plants

My interior garden used to be as lush as my outdoor garden, but not anymore thanks to our current cat Twinky. Mr. Twinks is one of those cats that can’t seem to resist taking a bite out of just about every bit of plant material that comes inside.

That means no floral arrangements – fresh or dried – survive on our dining room table.  So, what’s a pet and plant lover to do to keep both in-home flora and fauna cohabitating healthily?

Begin by choosing keeping only indoor plants that are known to be non-toxic to pets. One of the best places to start is with the ASPCA’s list of plants known to be toxic to cats, dogs and even horses – not that you’d keep a horse in your living room. If birds are your companions, check out Birdchannel.com’s list of plants your fowl friends can (and cannot) ingest.

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Once you have updated your indoor garden to include only plants safe for your feathered and furry friends, take care placing your plants in locations your pet cannot reach.  In our house, indoor plants grow in locations on high shelves and windowsills where Twink can’t jump or I pay the price when he eats my bonsai to its trunk, punctures the stems of my Christmas cactus, or coats the fuzzy leaves of our African Violets with his fur – as he chews the edges of the same leaves into a ragged mess. If you’ve got birds, finding a high spot might not do the trick. Instead, consider keeping your plants in a room they cannot access.

This technique of segregating pets from plants is also an option if you insist on keeping plants that might make your pets sick, but it can be risky. I know our dog has the ability to push open doors, but she certainly doesn’t shut them to keep the cat out. She’s even been known to pull down a houseplant, toss the plant toward the cat and demolish the “toy” container in which it had grown.

Another option: Give your pets plants to eat. Cats in particular love to snack on fresh greens.  “Kitty Grass” and small catnip starts are available at most pet stores. Wheatgrass, sold at many grocery stores, is another favorite for kitties looking for a green snack. But, if your cat likes to eat plants, they may not stop eating your ornamentals even if you offer them fresh, living edibles of their own.

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If your pet does manage to get her teeth into your houseplants, first check to be sure the plant isn’t toxic to pets. If it is poisonous or if you have any concerns at all, call your veterinarian right away for help. If your pet is in the clear but the plant needs a rescue, trim out any areas that have been chewed and place it in location where the cat, dog, bird, or even that indoor miniature horse can’t reach it. Watch it carefully, perhaps providing it with a fresh rinse, deep soak, and a bit of extra fertilizer to help it recover from the shock of meeting with your pet’s munching maw.