Which house plants are safe for cats?

Finding the perfect plant for your home and your furry friend is not always a simple task. Many plants contain or release chemical compounds that are extremely toxic to cats, causing illness or even death. Most cats will leave your houseplants alone, but if there’s even the slightest chance that they’ll take a nibble of a leaf or two when you aren’t looking, it’s important to ensure you only have non-toxic houseplants in your home.

At Gardeners Dream, our horticulturalists have identified 10 varieties that are totally safe for cats and other pets for you to choose from. These are all part of our range of houseplants at Gardeners Dream.

Our 10 best pet-friendly plants

You can’t judge whether a plant is safe for cats and dogs by its name or even its looks. The Venus Fly Trap, for example, is totally safe for animals! Likewise, the tropical and often toxic-looking leaves of the numerous Calathea plants are also completely fine for homes with pets.

The 10 plants listed below are all suitable for homes with cats. They have different requirements, from peat moss soil to high humidity to varying light conditions – use this list to find the ideal pet-friendly plant for your home.

1. Polka Dot Plant (Begonia maculata)

The polka dot plant, also known as the Spotted Begonia, may look like a particularly dramatic plant… but it’s actually pretty safe for cats. The leaves are mildly toxic but only when consumed in vast quantities. Most animals are totally disinterested in this plant. Due to the small size of this begonia, you can perch it on a high shelf out of the way to be doubly sure.

Preferring partial light or low light, it has intriguing green leaves with white polka dots on the surface and burgundy red tones on the undersides. When exposed to too much light, the leaves may change colour.

High humidity is also a requirement for this plant, so if you can’t give it some room in the bathroom or kitchen, use a mister to give it some humidity every day. When it’s well looked after, the spotted begonia may produce blooms that are white daisy-like flowers.

2. Airplane Plant/Curly Spider Plant (Chlorophytum bonnie)

The airplane plant is another of our air plants that looks wonderful in a hanging basket. The foliage of this plant is not toxic to cats and trails down in long, luscious curls. Like other plants in the Chlorophytum family, it enjoys indirect light and tolerates shade more than bright sunlight.

We recommend the aeroplane plant for bathrooms and kitchens, as these are rooms that traditionally have quite high moisture levels in the air. Without humidity, this curly plant may start to brown and crisp up at the edges of the leaves.

Plant care is relatively simple however, you can trim the foliage if necessary, after your pet takes a curious nibble or likes to paw at the dangling leaves, to keep it looking neat. With the right light and humidity, there’s little that can go wrong here.

3. Cat Grass (Cyperus zumula)

Aptly named cat grass, this is one of the best indoor plants for cats. Not only is it safe for cats if they take a nibble, it actually attracts them! Like catnip, it’s one of those non-toxic plants that will keep your four-legged friend happy – you might catch your cat rubbing against or snapping at the blade-like grass leaves.

Cat grass prefers bright indirect sunlight and a regular water schedule to keep the soil slightly moist. Like most house plant varieties, it’s best not to let it sit in a puddle as this can damage or rot the roots.

Even if your cat is uninterested in this plant, it will look great in your home nonetheless. The foliage is a very vibrant and visually pleasing shade that adds a cheerful splash of colour to your bedroom or living room.

4. Prayer Plant (Calathea flamestar)

The prayer plant is part of the Calathea family of plants, all of which are safe for cats and non-toxic for babies too. This variety, the Calathea flame star, has deep green leaves with lighter green stripes, giving it an exotic and distinctive look. Native to the rainforest, it loves rich soil and a humid environment – the kitchen or bathroom is best for this plant.

As for light requirements, our horticulturalists recommend mimicking the light conditions of the rainforest too. Bright light is a must, try to stick with indirect sunlight. A direct sunbeam will be too much for the prayer plant.

Like our spider plants, this is an air-purifying variety. Air-purifying plants can remove toxins, from carbon dioxide to formaldehyde, from the air in your home as they are released by appliances, paints and furnishings.

5. Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)

The Cast Iron Plant is popular with humans as well as cats and dogs due to its easy-growing nature. It is aptly named the cast iron plant as it is quite hardy and great for beginners. This non-toxic plant has large green leaves atop long, slender stems which gives it a feather-like appearance. When mature, it can reach heights of 3 feet tall, so keep it in a large pot in the corner of a room where it has space to grow freely.

The requirements for this cat-friendly plant are relatively simple. It prefers shade but can also handle a little indirect sunlight, and doesn’t need regular watering either. The Aspidistra elatior plant is drought resistant, so you don’t need to worry if you miss watering it for a week or more.

6 – Boston Fern (Nephrolepis bostoniensis)

The Boston Fern is an excellent plant that’s not toxic to cats. We recommend it for anyone with a low-light home, as it can thrive without extensive indirect light or a bright room to grow in. The tiny green leaves that grow along the small fronds can drop when there’s not enough humidity or too much light, but they won’t harm your pets or children if they are accidentally ingested.

The Boston fern is also a popular plant for a hanging basket. When mature, the fronds can drape down elegantly and add a lot of volume to the plant – it has a decidedly tropical feel.

We recommend placing the Boston fern in your bathroom, so it has access to humidity. You can also create more humidity by filling a shallow tray with pebbles and water and then placing your Boston fern nearby.

7 – Zebra Plant (Aphelandra green)

The Zebra Plant is safe for both cats and dogs, despite the tropical green leaves looking a bit like they should be on a dangerous plant list. Aphelandra green has firm, tall stems that are mostly hidden by the striped foliage. This plant can get moderately tall when mature, but it’s a good choice for an office as it grows.

This variety prefers indirect yet bright light over direct sunlight, so keep it away from the window but in a brightly lit corner. Humidity is important for the aphelandra plant, so consider misting it regularly if the air in your home is quite dry. You should also keep the soil moist yet well-drained, so remove any excess water that drains out the bottom of the pot after watering it.

Bright, colourful flower bracts may appear at times throughout the year, but these are also safe for your cats and other pets so there’s no need to be alarmed if they’re accidentally eaten. Instead, just enjoy the beauty of this amazing house plant!

8 – Variegated Spider Plant (Chlorophytum variegatum)

The spider plant enjoys regular watering, once or twice a month, to keep the soil moist and a little natural light. Unlike many tropical plants, this variegated plant doesn’t have any need for humidity. Partial shade with a little sunlight during a short time of the day is perfect for the variegated spider plant. This is an air-purifying variety too, so it will remove a small number of toxins from the air naturally.

These plants make excellent pet-friendly houseplants, with cat-safe long leaves with green and white stripes down the centre. This variety is popular with both pet owners and beginner gardeners too, as it’s very easy to care for.

9 – Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia)

Another Calathea, the interesting Rattlesnake Plant is non-toxic to cats and dogs. While many outdoor plants provide colour and vibrancy, Calathea lancifolia has to be one of the most colourful indoor plants. It has crinkled oval leaves with dark and light green patterns on the top (like a rattlesnake) and burgundy purple undersides for contrast.

This plant variety enjoys partial shade over bright indirect sunlight and desperately needs humidity to stay healthy and vibrant. Besides watering it fairly regularly (twice a month to keep the soil relatively moist) there’s very little upkeep required for this plant.

10 – Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens)

The last non-toxic plant on our list is the bamboo palm, also known as the Areca or butterfly palm. Safe for cats and dogs, this palm variety thrives in bright light, enjoying partial sunlight or momentary direct sunlight throughout the day. This variety can grow up to 32 feet tall (10 metres) when mature, but thankfully it is a very slow grower and the bamboo-like canes take a long time to reach their full height.

The bamboo palm is very upright and feathery with tall foliage. It is wonderful for brightening up a lonely corner in your home. If your cat is fond of climbing curtains or Christmas trees, you may be better off with a plant that cannot be climbed (a fern, for example) instead of the rather statuesque palm family.

Toxic plants to avoid

From the bamboo plant to the Calathea hoard, there are many plants that humans and cats love in equal measure. But we also have numerous plants here at Gardeners Dream that are totally poisonous plants for cats, dogs and other house pets.

The next three plants are varieties that we regularly receive questions and queries, regarding their toxic status for cats, babies and other animals.

Friendship Tree

Although the friendship plant sounds like it should be a pet-friendly plant, it is actually toxic to animals and humans if ingested. This plant, Crassula ovata, goes by numerous names. You may find it listed as the money plant, money tree, or jade plant too.

With fleshy, succulent leaves, the friendship plant is a good plant for sunny and hot homes with low humidity and plenty of direct sunbeams. So long as no pets are present, it is a low-maintenance and easy-going indoor plant variety.

Ponytail Palm

The Ponytail Palm can cause vomiting when ingested, despite not being totally toxic to cats. If your cat takes a sizable bite, it will need a trip to the vet, so we don’t recommend it for pet lovers.

Like other species in the palm family, the ponytail palm prefers bright shades and direct light, so it’s ideally suited to a windowsill or conservatory. Just don’t get it mixed up with the pet-friendly Bamboo Palm!

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