Which garden plants are highly toxic for cats? This subject is near and dear to me, as I have cats, garden plants AND houseplants. All, for the most part, coexist peacefully. However, with one cat, I was not so lucky (More on that to come shortly.) You’d be surprised, some of the most popular varieties could be the most dangerous.
And it just so happens that I have 4 on the “no-no” list: Aloe, peace lilies, philodendrons and parsley… and 3 cats.
But what I also have…oat grass, which is in the third pot on the table. They LOVE munching on this stuff. (I’ll elaborate more on that one shortly!)
Why Do Some Cats Nibble on Plants?
Glad you asked. Because cats, even though they are carnivores, do have some vegetable-related dietary needs. You may notice that dry cat food today (the more nutritious kind, anyway…) contains more diverse recipes that include vegetable/fruit components (e.g. dehydrated sweet potatoes, spinach) to round out their diets. In other words, your average feline DOES need a little veggie supplementation – he’s just getting it in the wrong ways when he tries to nibble one of your fern fronds.
Many times I wondered what could have happened to my third cat, Sputnik, who passed away in 2019. He was only 3 years old, too! Could he have ingested something he shouldn’t?
This is Sputnik “resting” in my spider palm plant. I shared it on my IG. The pot he’s sitting in is wide enough to double as a “bed” but the main issue is – if he nibbles a frond, will he end up having to go to the vet:
Things That Can Discourage Cats
Now let’s look at some things you can do to steer Miss Kitty away from your prized ferns or phlox. One thing you can do is plant things they can enjoy. Get and plant some oatgrass seeds. This is a great plant to grow for your cat. It gives them some necessary roughage, it’s good for them and it can divert them away from your houseplants.
It sprouts quickly (more so in the warmer months) and is nutritious, too, as cats will always need some roughage in their diet.
Citrus fruits are abhorrent in a cats’ point of view, so one way to discourage them is to put the peels of oranges, lemons and limes in your pots as a repellent. I don’t know if they are toxic, but since cats dislike their scent, they should leave your prized ficus be.
I put some stones in some of my plants under the advice of a foster cat carer, which is another way to keep cats from digging around and messing with your plants. Anything you’ve got that’s decorative but also prohibitive in design, can act as a barrier.
Hanging Plants Instead
If you’ve got the tools for it and adequate light sources, consider displaying your plants in hanging baskets instead, where Fluffy won’t be able to reach them. I have a succulent and philodendron both hanging – the succulent is in an empty coffee can I fashioned into a planter in the kitchen. Then use three or four pieces of wire or cord, bundled together to create the hanger part – very easy to do.
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List of Toxic (Or Feline-Unfriendly) Plants
Now on with the list. If you’re like me and you’ve got a few in these categories, I don’t mean for you to start to yank them like a madman. You’re better off following some of the suggestions above. Each plant category has varying degrees of toxicity – while a few could cause serious injury if ingested, others could be much milder and worst case scenario, they may just end up with a bout of diarrhea.
You may want to talk with your vet further if there are any special concerns. Some plant types you may need to eliminate for good, but others, safeguarding may be the only thing you need to do. And now, for “the dirty seven”!
As a pro tip – Cats have a strong sense of smell, and when they don’t like the scent of something they tend to leave it alone.
The worst offender…Lilies
Yep, in the presence of felines, beautiful but deadly. So much so is the potential for serious illness that one place has started a “No Lilies for Kitties” promo. The most severe include the varieties of daylilies, tiger lilies and Easter liies, the stems, roots, and even the water runoff and pollen that lands on them have the potential to cause kidney failure if ingested. (Yes, seriously, it’s that bad!)
I remember going down the road once and seeing this beautiful cluster of tiger lilies. In our old neighborhood, we had a lady next door that had them growing all along her fence (no surprise, she owned no cats, just a small dog named Bobo.) They are that lovely shade of orange like that of a cantaloupe. For awhile I would rue the day for not stopping to cut some of them, but now I’m so glad that opportunity was missed, I may have regretted it!
I know I had cause for concern as I own a peace lily (it was a bereavement gift ) and just recently I thought it was getting overgrown and separated it into multiple offshoots – eventually ending up with a total of 7.
Thankfully, peace lilies – although still not safe for cats to nibble on, are not in the “severe” category – in other words, because they aren’t in the “true” lily category, they might get sick for awhile but it won’t be an emergency ordeal. One of my cats insists on toying with the big plants’ fronds, so I have to stay after her, but I haven’t seen her try to eat any of the leaves, thankfully.
This makes for a great houseplant – it has stiff leaves that are a little spiny, it is valued due to its healing properties from the liquid in the leaves. My cat will rub up against it, which is no big deal but she doesn’t try to taste it. Do not let them.
Another classic houseplant for its fast growth and appealing vines…I have mine hanging, and I’ve managed to wrap the long vines around the top of the planter so it doesn’t become a temptation. You may wish to do the same if you have one of these.
I have one parsley I keep inside (well, it’s pretty much toast now, I never have luck with growing parsley indoors.) if you have these don’t yank them just yet, as a little of the curly variety could be beneficial,due to its diuretic properties and could help prevent bladder stones. it is the “spring parsley” that contains furanocoumarins which can produce photosensitivity in felines.
Interestingly enough, parsley’s closest cousin, cilantro, is considered safe for cats. The point is moot, however, as my cilantro has not done well either!
At the present, I may have about 10 tomatoes set out, and my oldest cat (Buddy, a yellow tabby) does go outside, but I don’t see him cozying up to them. So that’s good. My youngest one too, has taken to the backyard as well, so I let her “explore” a little…and the most I’ve seen her do is gnaw on some stray grass nearby. Honestly, I’m more concerned about my cats doing their “business” in the beds than I am that they’ll try to eat any of the plants, lol.
But back to tomatoes…It is mostly the green parts of the plant that can affect cats negatively – they contain solanine and tomatine, which are both toxic alkaloids as far as felines are concerned. Only the ripened fruits are reputed to cause no harm. However, I’ve yet to see a cat try to eat a tomato. My cats like peanut butter, chicken, ham and tuna…but tomatoes? That seems weird.
(And all onions in general…)
Chives are in the onion family,also known as allium – and they’re one of my favorite garnishes. Onions are a big no-no around cats. Because chives look so similar to the oat grass I grow specifically for them, I don’t want to take chances and I just don’t grow it. In the past, I had a chive plant in a hanging basket so they couldn’t access it.
Well this list may not be exhaustive but I have made sure to cover the worst possible plant categories, Thanks, and good luck!! Keep those precious kitties safe, and be sure to plant them some oat grass seeds.…you can thank me later.
Hopefully this will help all you kitty moms and dads out there and if you have any other experiences you’d like to share, or if there is another plant I need to add to the list. let’s hear form you in the comments,thanks!!