Why won’t my Cat Leave my Plants Alone!? Unveiling your Feline’s Fascination with Plants

In the world of pet-related toxin cases, plants adorn the top 10. Tens of thousands of cats are hospitalized each year in the US from plant toxicity, and that number is only increasing as indoor plant ownership becomes more popular. In fact, around 66% of American households own at least one live plant, and nearly 30% of American households own at least one cat. You can imagine the overlap is quite high.

vet near me are known for their playful antics and quirky behaviors, and one puzzling yet common habit is their inclination to chew on plants. Whether you’re a seasoned cat owner or a newcomer to feline companionship, understanding why cats are drawn to plants and which ones could be hazardous to their health is crucial. Let’s take a quick dive into the fascinating reasons behind this behavior and highlight some household plants that may pose a threat to our curious feline friends.

Why Cats Chew on Plants:

1. Instinctual Behavior:
Cats are natural hunters, and their ancestors often consumed plant material along with their prey. Chewing on plants could be an instinctual behavior inherited from their wild ancestors.

2. Dental Health:
Chewing on plant leaves may help cats keep their teeth clean and healthy. The fibrous texture of some plants can act as natural floss, promoting dental hygiene.

3. Nutritional Compensations:
Some experts believe that cats may chew on plants to compensate for nutritional deficiencies in their diet, such as a lack of certain vitamins or minerals like C, K, E, and folate.

4. Entertainment and Stress Relief:
Chewing on plants can be a form of entertainment for cats, especially if they are indoor pets. It may also serve as a stress-relief mechanism, helping to alleviate boredom or anxiety.

5 Common Houseplants Toxic to Cats:
While understanding the reasons behind cat chewing is enlightening, it’s crucial to be aware of potential dangers associated with certain household plants. Here are a few common plants that are toxic to cats:

1. Lilies:
These elegant flowers are highly toxic to cats and can cause severe kidney damage, vomiting, and lethargy. Lilies in the “true lily” and “daylily” families are especially dangerous for cats because the entire plant is toxic: the stem, leaves, flowers, pollen, and even the water in a vase.

2. Pothos:
Pothos, with their attractive trailing vines and modern variants, contain substances that can irritate a cat’s mouth and stomach, leading to symptoms like drooling and vomiting. Pothos are an incredibly popular indoor plant because of their “impossible to kill” reputation.

3. Dieffenbachia:
Also known as the Dumb Cane, it is known for its distinctive variegated leaves and large growth potential. Dieffenbachia contains insoluble calcium oxalates, making them toxic to cats. These crystals will cause intense irritation and burning to the lips and tongue and gastrointestinal tract irritation if swallowed.

4. Philodendron:
Popular for its low-maintenance care, this incredibly popular plant (and all it’s varieties) contains those same calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation and other gastrointestinal issues in cats.

5. Snake Plant (Sansevieria):
While praised for its air-purifying qualities, snake plants can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in cats due to a toxic compound called saponin. While more mild of a reaction than a lily, they should still be avoided.

Not all is lost in your dream of owning plants and cats in the same space, though. There are several indoor plants that are generally considered safe for cats, meaning they are non-toxic and pose minimal risk if your feline friend decides to try a sample. However, it’s essential to note that individual cats may react differently to certain plants, and while a plant might be generally safe, some cats may still have mild digestive upset if they ingest plant material.

10 Common Household Plants Safe for Cats

1. Spider Plant:
Spider plants are non-toxic and incredibly easy to care for. They have arching leaves and are known for their resiliency.

2. Areca Palm:
Also known as the butterfly palm or golden cane palm, the areca palm is safe for cats and adds a touch of tropical greenery to any sunny space.

3. Boston Fern:
Boston ferns are air-purifying plants that can thrive indoors making them a great alternative to the snake plant. They are non-toxic to cats.

4. Bamboo Palm:
A popular choice for homes, the bamboo palm is safe for cats and adds a tropical vibe to indoor spaces.

5. African Violet:
Looking to add some color? African violets are colorful and compact flowering plants that are safe for cats.

6. Calathea:
Many species of Calathea, such as the Calathea orbifolia and Calathea rattlesnake, are safe for cats. Although they are not the most “beginner friendly” species.

7. Air Plants:
Air plants are unique and do not require soil. They are generally considered safe for cats, but cats may not be safe for them. Some cats will steal them out of their containers and play with them!

8. Phalaenopsis Orchid:
Phalaenopsis orchids are safe for cats, adding elegance with their beautiful flowers.

9. Maranta:
AKA the prayer plant, with its attractive foliage, is generally safe for cats.

10. Polka Dot Plant:
The polka dot plant is known for its colorful leaves and is considered safe for cats.

Bonus***. Planting pots of catnip or wheat grass is a great way to get indoor greenery and plants that your cats actually can eat and benefit from!

Understanding your cat’s behavior and being aware of potential dangers associated with certain plants are crucial steps in providing a safe and enriching environment for your feline friend. Consider opting for cat-friendly plants and creating designated areas with cat grass or catnip to satisfy their chewing instincts safely. By striking a balance between a cat’s natural behaviors and a cat-friendly home, you can ensure a harmonious and healthy living space for you and your beloved pet.

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