Use Caution with Houseplants and Your Cat


Before adding a touch of nature to your home with houseplants, it’s important to know what types of plants may be harmful to your cat and which are safe. In fact, some plants are extremely poisonous to cats, and others can cause them to become very ill. “Probably one of the most dangerous plants to cats is the lily,” says Jeff Werber, D.V.M., Chief Veterinarian of Pro Sense Pet Products, host and writer for PetCare Television Network and contributor to the Pet Health Network. “Ingestion of the plant, or even [drinking] the water at the bottom of the vase or pot, can cause severe kidney damage.” To help you figure out how to keep your cat safe and bring a little leafy love into your home, Dr. Werber complied this list of plants that are hazardous to your cat, and should be avoided at all costs:

Tulip/Narcissus Bulbs: These can cause gastric irritation, loss of appetite, salivating, cardiac disease and depression.
Azalea and Rhododendron: Have been known to cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, depression and cardiovascular collapse.
Oleander: This is a very toxic plant containing cardiac glycosides, which can cause abnormal cardiac function, hypothermia and gastrointestinal upset.
Chrysanthemum: Brings about gastrointestinal upset, drooling, depression and loss of coordination.
English Ivy: This plant contains saponins which, when ingested, can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, salivation and diarrhea.

Fear not — there are many safe plants that you can have in your home that won’t make your cat sick at all, including sunflowers, roses, snapdragons and live catnip. Keep in mind, though, that while these plants are safe for your cat to be around, she may still try to eat the leaves. “You can try spraying a safe bitters-type spray to make the plants unpalatable,” says Dr. Werber. “You could also try to booby-trap the area around the plant by placing larger pebbles or large rocks around it. Cats prefer sand and smaller, softer particles, so changing the ‘terrain’ to something rougher will help them to stay away.” If your cat tends to knock over your potted plants, try moving them to a room your cat doesn’t have access to. “If the plant is tall, it’s important to find pots or vases that are heavier and wider at the base,” said Dr. Werber. “This makes it harder for your cat to tip the plant over,” explains Dr. Werber.

Check out this piece for more advice on how to keep your cat safe around plants. And of course, some cats may try to use planters as a litter box. To curtail this bad habit, you’ll need to use a planter that’s unattractive to cats. Dr. Werber recommends adding larger rocks to the surface of the dirt, or compost. If that doesn’t work, you can use a remote form of correction, like a scat mat (a mat that emits a mild electrical current that cats don’t like) around the planter.
Being a cat owner doesn’t mean you have to give up having plants in your house — it just means you’ll have to spend a little extra time ensuring the ones you pick are safe for your furry friend.

Stacey Brecher is a freelance writer. She has contributed to Animal Fair magazine, and her blogs have previously appeared on The Dog Daily.

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