Pets and plants are a great way to make a house a home, but can they coexist? Our furry friends love to nibble on things they shouldn’t, especially when they're young. While you may not care if you lose a flower or two, toxic plants can be a major concern for your animals.
Lilies can be fatal to cats, for instance, and dogs have been known to die from eating something as simple as cut tulips. This article will focus on how to keep your furry friends safe, while enjoying your plant life, too.
Identify Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants
When bringing in new pets or plants, the most important thing to do first is identify which ones are toxic. Until you know for sure, keep the two parties away from each other.
Check out a reputable source like the ASPCA website to determine what’s okay for your new babies to nibble on, and remember that cats and dogs respond differently to different species. While one plant may be okay for the pup, it may not be for the kitty.
Introduce Them Slowly
Once you know what plants won’t harm your pet, try bringing them into a room and observe what your animal friends do. Some dogs and cats could care less, while others will make it their life’s goal to conquer and destroy any greenery.
Majesty and Areca palms are safe for both dogs and cats to play with, and may be hardy enough to withstand some swatting. If your critters are curious or playful but not destructive, it may be okay to let them interact a bit. They may get bored of this new “toy” and move on, or it might become a fun, harmless hideout for them.
Deterrents and Tactics
If your pets are destroying a plant or ingesting too much plant material, try tactics to deter them. Redirect their attention to their toys, and engage them in play. They may only notice the plants if you are paying attention to them.
Consider setting up a play zone that’s more interesting than your greenery. Cardboard boxes, toys, and blankets can do the trick, and felines love cat trees or “condos.”
Loud noises like clapping often scare cats away, and stern verbal discipline may work on some animals that are timid. Timeouts can be an excellent and safe way to enforce discipline, just make sure to be consistent, and keep the duration the same—about ten minutes in a closed room will send them the message.
Spray bottles can be helpful for pets that aren’t responding to any of these methods, but spraying cats with water is considered borderline abusive, and dogs may just think of this as more play, so best used as a last resort. Adding scents like spices or essential oils to plants as a deterrent may also be toxic to your pet!
Unfortunately, a lot of the trendy plants we love to have in our homes are the ones that are most toxic to our pets. True lilies can cause immediate kidney failure in cats, and many spring bulbs are toxic to both dogs and cats, so always check before bringing cut flowers into the house.
Dieffenbachia, Jade, and Monstera (Philodendrons) are a few trendy indoor plants that will cause major gastrointestinal stress to both species, so keep them away from curious kitties or nibbley puppies.
ZZ plants and Aloe Vera are supposedly only mildly toxic, but is it something you want to take a chance on? Always better safe, than sorry, especially when there are workarounds.
Safe Storage Ideas
Non-toxic plants can be put in wooden crates, milk crates, larger pots, etc., so if your fur-babies do want to play with them, they won’t be easily knocked over. This might also be a good time to create your own DIY pet-friendly wooden crate stand or shelving unit.
Toxic plants can be kept in a separate room where you keep the door closed, put on a shelf or plant stand that they can’t reach, or safely stowed in a dog crate. Remember, as kittens grow, so do their jumping skills, and sometimes a dog may not be interested in a plant at all until it's bored, or left unattended for too long.
The safest thing to do is sell or exchange any toxic plant for safer varieties, or consider having a friend or family member foster them for you. Here’s a list of easy swaps!
Toxic / Non-Toxic Alternative
Snake Plant / Cast Iron plant
Philodendron / Majesty or Areca Palm
Dieffenbachia / Kimberly or Button Fern
ZZ Plant / Peperomia
Caladium / Prayer plant
Pothos / Pilea
Aloe Vera / Zebra Cactus
English Ivy / Swedish Ivy
Aglaonema / Spider Plant
Cacti (most) / Christmas Cactus
Jade / Echeveria
Oleander / African Violet
Lilies / Orchids
Hyacinth, Tulips, Daffodils / Calendula, Sunflowers, Roses
Consider growing edible plants for your cat or dog. Cats love catnip, and you can grow either fresh leaves, or give it to them dried. Cat grass is another plant specifically for cats that may help get them away from the other greenery.
Put these in a tiny pot next to their food and water dishes, or near the other plants they like to nibble on. Dogs can eat a variety of herbs, but getting them to do so is tricky, as they aren’t as prone to eating grass as their feline companions. They may just end up knocking over the pot and soil.
If your dog or cat has ingested any plant material you're unsure of, call your vet right away. They will be able to help you identify any concerns, and whether immediate attention is required.
Animals and plants both bring us joy. As the human in the situation, make sure you pick compatible plants and pets to keep all of your natural friends healthy and happy.