It can be incredibly difficult to find plants that are safe for cats. One reason is that plants have common names AND botanical names and often those names change over time. I recommend researching every plant you consider by all the names you know for it because while the SPCA lists Begonia Climbing (Rex Begonia) as safe for cats when you look at the scientific name on their list they are really talking about Cissus which while safe for cats IS NOT A BEGONIA. Begonias are NOT SAFE. Same for the next plant. They are calling it a begonia and saying it is safe but what they are really talking about is not a begonia. Begonias are not pet safe plants!
Ok, what can I say, I love plants and I love cats. Together they can be a perfect match but every cat is different and every cat has different motivations for messing with your houseplants. Some will not care about them at all, some will just knock them over and some won’t stop chomping on them. If you have a cat who can’t leave your plants alone then here are 20 plants safe for cats!
Most plants in the Maranta, Stromanthe or Calathea (many now called Goeperttia) families are safe for cats. In my experience, cats aren’t particularly attracted to them and while my kitten has caused a bit of damage from jumping over the large stromanthe that lives on the floor (she must attack like a panther!) these houseplants have mostly been ignored. Here are six varieties to look out for.
- Maranta leuconeura Lemon Lime – Lemon Lime Prayer Plant
- Maranta leuconeura – Rabbits Foot Prayer Plant
- Stromanthe sanguinea triostar – Stromanthe Triostar
- Calathea Medallion – Medallion Calathea
- Calathea Ornata – Pin stripe Calathea
- Calathea concinna – Calathea Freddie
Hoya, commonly called Wax Plants, are safe for your cats and kittens to be around. Now, that said, if you have a kitten who is tempted by dangling things, they may have difficultly leaving hoya alone. Plants in this family are often sold in hanging baskets and grow long, vine like tendrils before filling those tendrils out with leaves. Fun stuff if you’re a kitty that goes after string or yarn! Still, they are safe and my cats haven’t bothered them at all – even with the vines hanging into view. There are so many varieties of cat safe hoya on the market you could fill your collection entirely with just hoya and not be bored.
7) Hoya Carnosa – Wax Plant
8) Hoya Pubicalyx – Porcelain Flower
9) Hoya Kerii – Heart Leaf Hoya
There are a number of small and cat safe pilea varieties to choose from but the Pilea Peperomioides or Chinese Money Plant shown above is a very common one you might see in your garden center or big box store. Pilea are safe for your pets however, the peperomioides is the ONE plant that my cat Willow just loves to mess with. She doesn’t eat it but those UFO shaped leaves on their long bouncing stems is just too much for her to resist. I also wonder if she is drawn to the smell of this plant which does give off a nice, herby scent. She has broken leaves off of this one, and knocked it over more times than I can count. Still, both the plant and, more importantly Willow, are still alive and kicking. Here are some other pilea varieties to watch out for that are way less tempting
10) Pilea Cadierei – Aluminum Plant
11) Pilea Depressa – Baby Tears
12) Pilea Mollis – Moon Valley Pilea
13) Pilea Nummulariifolia – Creeping Charlie
Peperomia are similar to Pilea plants mentioned above in that they are often smaller in size than many popular species of houseplants on the market. They are close to pilea in their care needs as well, though that can vary widely in these large plant families. Unlike the Pilea Peperomioides mentioned, my cat has zero interest in peperomia which reminds me – I need more. Here are some to keep an eye out for.
A few others we enjoy from various plant families
17) Hibiscus – The SPCA lists Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis as safe for cats and dogs however, if the pet ingests the flowers it may vomit. My cat enjoys hiding behind the foliage of our hibiscus, and when smaller she attempted to climb the tree, but she has not had interest in eating the plant and we have had zero issue.
18) Easter or Christmas Cactus – Schlumbergera. Aside from the fact that this plant is hanging out of reach, when I do have it down for watering my cat still has no interest in it. While it is commonly called a cactus, it’s really more of a jungle cactus over a desert cactus and isn’t spiny or otherwise dangerous.
19) Fittonia – We no longer have this plant as it died while I was away but I am itching to get another. Fittonia are safe for cats and ours never had any interest in bothering with it.
20) African Violet – This plant met the same fate as our fittonia mentioned above but they are safe and lovely plants which our cats have had no interest in.
Tips for living with cats and plants
There are several plants that are deemed safe for cats that I will never have in my home because while sure, the cat won’t be irreparably harmed by eating it – they are absolutely drawn to and just will not leave alone. It’s just going to be a never ending fight between you and your pet if you have a spider plant in their reach. Spider plants are hallucinogenic and your cat will get hiiiiiiigh. You won’t be able to keep him away from it once he figures out how easy it is to get a hit.
Pony tail palms and other long, slim leaved plants are also a no go here because they are just too grass like and cats do enjoy munching on them.
I’m not going to tell you that it’s ok to have toxic plants around your pets BUT we do have some plants labeled as ‘not safe’ in our home and some, like snake plants and bird of paradise just work well because I don’t think cats even recognize them as something they could chew on. They are tough and stiff and just don’t seem like something to eat. Keep that in mind if you feel your cat will be safe around them but do be mindful that they really aren’t safe for your pet to eat.
Do put plants out of your cat’s reach. I have a few highly toxic plants that are in bathrooms with closed doors or inside a greenhouse cabinet. While I don’t think my pet will ever chomp them, I’m not taking any risks with these ones and she is just unable to get at them which gives me peace of mind.
If your cat starts chewing on your plants
So you’ve been doing pretty well with your cat and your safe plants and all of a sudden, she’s interested in a salad bar. Please take your pet to the vet for a check up. Cats will often eat things to induce vomiting or diarrhea if they have a hair ball back up or other stomach or intestinal block. If your pet ever consumes a plant, it’s worth a call to a vet to double check that what she has eaten won’t hurt her. Keep in mind that cats can have allergies too so any plant, even a safe one, can cause a reaction.
One other thing I have learned is that cats are clever, clever little beasties and so they may attack or chew on plants just to get a rise out of you. They love to make up games! If your cat is in danger then of course stop them and move the plant out of reach but if not, it’s best to ignore the behaviour and just walk away. You may also have success with deterring your cats by using a bitter spray made for pets or covering the pots in aluminum foil.
NO LILIES EVER EVER EVER
Lilies are extremely toxic to cats and even licking the pollen off their fur can send them into kidney failure. Don’t ever bring lilies into your home if you have cats. I don’t even touch them when I’m out in the garden center.
*this is cat specific information and may not apply to dogs or other pets.