Although many plants are toxic for cats if eaten, these houseplants and popular garden additions are safe for cats to be around.
Most cat owners are aware that our feline friends love a good nibble on any plant that’s within their reach. In fact, given the innate curiosity of our kitty companions, it’s important to incorporate plants safe for cats in our botanical decor (and gardens, if your cat is prone to venturing outdoors) since your cat’s desire to chew on leaves means eating a plant is less of an if, and more of a when.
But choosing the right plants to green up your space can be a tall order and one that’s made even more difficult for would-be gardeners if you’re searching for options that are OK for both flora and fauna.
If your green thumb and feline friend are at odds, don’t panic: the experts at the Pet Poison Helpline say there are several plants that are non-toxic to cats.
Cats, like people, seem to enjoy the sights and smells of flora. Sometimes that love for nature also includes eating plants (and also using them as an occasional alternative to the litter box.). But Ahna Brutlag, DVM and Senior Veterinary Toxicologist at the Pet Poison Helpline, says there are several common houseplants, greenery, and succulents cats can coexist with peacefully.
The plants grow easily indoors, adapt well to the pots you put them in, and can live with only a little sunlight. They come in different varieties—all of which are non-toxic to cats—and require little care to keep alive. Their spider-leg-like leaves, bursting from central roots in the ground, do entice some cats to explore, chew, and eat them, so try hanging them out of reach of your cat if that's a problem.
Many of these big frond-growing plants are perfect for the outdoors in warm climates, including Ponytail, Parlor, and Areca varieties. Cat owners thinking of keeping palms indoors around cats need to first be sure the variety can thrive indoors and, second, they don't have Sago or Cycad in the name. Those aren't true palms! Sago palms are a type of cycad, and they are extremely toxic to cats and dogs.
These plants are more finicky about water and sunlight than hardier options like spider plants, but they come in a variety of bright flower colors. While they're not considered toxic to cats or dogs, African violets are often grown in small pots that can be easily knocked over by curious cats. To help avoid a mess, pick bigger, heavier pots and weigh down the bottom of them to keep cats from unhelpfully spreading soil into your carpet.
Carefully check your variety of succulent before you bring it home to the cat. Varieties such as kalanchoe, aloe vera, and jade are toxic to pets. Haworthia and burro's tail are two nontoxic varieties.
Just like succulents, check your varieties of ivy. English ivy—which is extremely common in the United States—is toxic to pets and, if ingested, can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, drooling, and diarrhea. Devil's ivy (pothos) is also toxic to both cats and dogs. When eaten, the leaves send out a burst of tiny calcium oxalate crystals "shaped like needles," Brutlag says. These irritate the mouth and the throat and can cause breathing problems. Swedish ivy, on the other hand, is nontoxic and considered easy to care for with a little bright light and the right soil.
Pandas love eating bamboo leaves, stems, and shoots, and cats aren't in danger from this nontoxic plant either. But just because it’s not toxic doesn't mean your cat should be making a regular snack out of bamboo. So if you find this water-loving plant attracts too much cat attention, put it out of reach.
True ferns, like the Boston fern, are safe for cats. There is a so-called "Fern palm," which is actually not a true fern, but a cycad (like that pesky sago palm) which is highly toxic to cats and dogs.
Great for the forgetful gardener, this flowering plant gets its name because it can live through owner neglect. It can thrive both indoors and outdoors, loves shade, and is drought-tolerant—a perfect option for a cat lover who needs something easy to care for.
These tropical additions provide pretty colors to your patio and are considered relatively easy to grow. They can grow in pots or as an air plant and are non-toxic to cats.
Brutlag says she tends to see an increase in questions from cat owners who ask what flowers are safe during holidays when floral arrangements are in higher demand, like Mother's Day and graduations. But if your cat happens to take a bite out of bouquets of the below, he should be in the clear.
Whether you plant these colorful additions in your yard or arrange them in a vase indoors, these colorful additions are considered safe for cats to be around:
- Peruvian lily. (But beware of other varieties of lilies!)
- Roses. Watch the thorns if cats decide to nibble the stems.
Remember, enriching your home with these particular plants doesn't mean a cat who indulges in eating leaves or flowers from these plants won't vomit, but it means your veterinarian "doesn't expect any other signs of poisoning," Brutlag says. If you do suspect your cat has been poisoned, either by ingesting a plant or another substance, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 and reach out to your vet.
There are many plants that are toxic to cats if eaten. While not comprehensive, this list of plants that are not safe for cats can help guide your selections at the greenhouse toward safer options.
Lilies can be particularly dangerous to cats. Brutlag says cats seem really attracted to Easter lilies when people bring them into the home, “maybe because they're new around the house. But they are highly toxic to cats." So while lilies may be popular in floral arrangements and as staples in landscape design, these blooms can be deadly—causing serious multisystem organ failure in cats if ingested.
Just remember: With nearly 400,000 plant species that have been identified by humans so far, no list of plants safe for cats is comprehensive. To keep cats safe, your best bet is to check the Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Animal Poison Control databases for plants that might harm your pet, and avoid growing those in and around your home. As you add new houseplants, succulents, or flowers to your space, keep ones you’re not sure of out of reach of your cat’s paws.