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When we want to bring plants into our home, our first consideration is always; climate, species, and care needs – we usually pick a plant that will suit our home life and home. What we rarely consider is if our plants are poisonous to our pets. And really, it should be a top priority.
Usually, it’s not a problem, we put them on high shelves, and our dogs can’t reach them. But then you have a cat, and your perfect plan is suddenly quite flawed. So many of our favorite and easy-to-care-for houseplants are often the wrong choice to put with your pets. They cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, throat swelling, and foaming. To be blunt, they can kill your pet outright.
Why do my pets eat my plants?
This has been a debate raging for a while. Most people will say that dogs or cats eat grass or plants because they are feeling ill. Others believe it’s instead a case of curiosity. Dogs and cats explore the world as much with their noses as they do with their tongues and mouths. Whatever the reason your dog or cat decides to take a nibble, it is best to ensure there isn’t anything in the house they shouldn’t be nibbling on, lest it makes them sick.
Don’t ever assume that a dog ‘won’t eat what isn’t suitable for it. Dogs, in particular, are notorious for eating anything they can get their paws on. Chocolate, for example, is deadly for dogs, but that won’t stop your pet from eating up your box of valentine’s day chocolates while you’re out. Always make sure that your pets can’t reach anything that might be toxic for them, and that includes your plants.
So, before you rush off to buy your perfect houseplant, here are a few you should probably steer away from if you want Fido and Mittens to stay healthy.
We’ll also include some alternatives for you to consider. There are numerous plants you can buy instead of these toxic friends, so have a chat with your local botanist and listen to some of their suggestions as well.
- 1 11 Indoor Plants Poisonous to Cats and Dogs
11 Indoor Plants Poisonous to Cats and Dogs
1. Aloe vera
A popular choice for most homeowners, the aloe vera is easy to keep and can soothe some severe burns. But they are quite poisonous to both dogs and cats. You can expect vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, anorexia, and tremors.
Tip: If you suspect your dog has ingested aloe vera (or most other toxic plants), you’ll have to give them bland food to help them keep some of the food down. If diarrhea persists for longer than a day, contact the vet.
Stunning, striking, and downright out of this world, the Haworthia is an excellent alternative to the aloe vera if you’re going on looks and care alone. It’s a succulent from South Africa, and like the Aloe vera, its needs are simple, and it doesn’t require a lot of care to keep it alive. The only problem comes in with the medicinal properties which the aloe vera has in spades. The Haworthia isn’t as effective, but if you’re looking for a striking succulent, this one might just fit the bill.
2. Mother-in-law’s tongue
Another trendy plant to keep in the home for its low care needs, mother-in-law’s tongue, can also result in diarrhea, extreme drooling, and vomiting.
Alternative: Spider plant
The spider plant sports that same stunning light-green/dark-green combination. Its leaves are a little softer, so it won’t make such a bold statement, but it’s just as simple as the tongue regarding care. But the growth of the spider plant is what is the appeal. It creates small ‘clusters’ on its leaves, creating an almost web-like appearance in time. Striking is almost too soft a word.
Plus, the spider plant makes for an excellent air purifier, bringing something unique to the home.
3. Peace lily
Lilies are overall toxic to your pets and your children, so keep an eye out if you have any in the home! The peace lily, in particular, is a beautiful little flower that can spruce up any room. It’s just a pity they’re so poisonous to cats and dogs. When ingested, your pets will vomit, experience oral pain will drool, and won’t eat much.
Alternative: Moth orchid
Much like the peace lily, the moth orchid is beautiful and will catch the eye of any visitor. It does expect a bit more intensive care (it does not like a draughty room) than the peace lily, but it still has that pure white softness you’re looking for. But they also come in a few colors if the plain white doesn’t suit your needs.
When procuring an orchid, always keep in mind that it does require far more care and attention, unlike most of its houseplant brethren. It’s not a plant for beginners, and some Orchids won’t even bloom if their immediate surroundings aren’t perfect.
We really can’t deny that the Cyclamens are just pretty. They are soft, well-formed, and proud, with eye-catching colors. Unfortunately, they are quite poisonous to both cats and dogs, resulting in vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea.
Alternative – Gloxinia
Very little can compare to the unique blooms of the gloxinia. Preferring a sunny spot in the window sill with good food and lots of water, this flowering plant will demand attention. Still, it will reward you with stunning tiny blooms, although it does go into a sort of hibernation for the winter.
5. Devil’s ivy
The devil’s ivy makes a bold statement. Its trailing leaves and dark color are easy to spot. They can create a beautiful contrast in an otherwise simplistically designed room. But when ingested by your dog or cat, it will create an immediate reaction. Their mouths will begin to foam; they will paw at the face and, of course, vomit. What makes it especially dangerous is if they ingest too much, the swelling in their mouth can make it difficult to swallow or even breathe.
Alternative – Chain of hearts
Although indeed not as bold as the devil’s ivy, the chain of hearts still makes a statement of its own, albeit a bit softer and far more polite. It still drapes wonderfully and is very easy to take care of. They do like to ‘hook’ onto things, so be careful when handling them, and do try and keep them in a spot where your feline friend can’t reach them and possibly get hooked herself!
Sometimes we want a big plant in our house, and the dracaena, or dragon tree, will easily fit the bill. It’s tough, has little care needs, and doesn’t kick up a fuss as quickly as other plants. Like most other poisonous plants, the plant will cause drooling, weakness, and vomiting when ingested. Along with these symptoms, cats will have dilated pupils.
Alternative – Ponytail palm
This palm, although more succulent, can grow quite tall and offers just as much of a presence as the dragon tree. With its curly leaves and the odd-shaped trunk, it makes for a reasonably interesting conversation piece at the very least. It’s pretty forgiving in its care, and like all succulent’s, needs little water to stay healthy and strong.
Keep in mind, although all succulents have minimal care, they do need the correct setup to ensure they survive. Make sure you buy the right-sized pot and some succulent specific soil. Otherwise, your tough-as-nails little succulent won’t last for very long.
7. Jade plant
The Jade plant has become quite popular in the home for being hardy and quite pretty, but like all the plants on this list, it’s pretty toxic to both cats and dogs. The toxins in the plant have yet to be identified. Still, it causes heavy drooling, incoordination, and, most worrying, a slow heart rate.
Alternative – Elephant Bush
The elephant bush is a small plant from Africa, and like the Jade plant, it’s quite a tricky little beast. Also, a succulent’s care needs are similar to the jade, and its leaves do have that same roundness. Although it doesn’t have that ‘dwarf rubber tree’ look, it is still a beautiful (and safe!) addition to any home.
8. Asparagus fern
Asparagus ferns have feathery-like leaves, which make them quite pleasing to look at. Ferns are usually fine to have in your home. They aren’t toxic, and they are pretty easy to keep. The Asparagus fern is a little unique because it’s related to lilies – which is quite harmful to dogs and cats.
Alternative – Boston fern
The Boston fern is heavier than the asparagus, but it’s still a beautiful fern for any home. It is easy to care for and easy to keep; it can look great just about anywhere in your home. If your heart is set on a different fern, don’t fret. Most ferns will do just fine, as stated above, as they are not toxic to dogs or cats. Just make sure the fern you pick up isn’t related to another species that is, in fact, toxic.
9. Widow’s Thrill
Probably the sweetest little plant you’ll ever bring into your home, the widow’s thrill captures the eye with its unique and pretty blooms. When ingested by dogs or cats, it affects the intestines, particularly the heart, and can cause severe heart damage if too much is consumed.
Alternative – African violet
In shades of red, pink, and purple, the African violet can easily replace that splash of color you were hoping for with the widow. The plants are pretty hardy and don’t need a lot of care and attention to keep them happy and blooming.
10. Tomato plant
Some homeowners like to have a little tomato plant in the kitchen to keep those juicy, fresh tomatoes close at hand. The fruits of the tomato are lovely for a dog to eat, but the green foliage is an entirely different matter. It contains solanine, which is toxic to both cats and dogs. But don’t fret too much if your dog does get into your poor tomato plant. They need to eat a lot of it for it to be fatal.
Chives belong to the allium family, which includes the dreaded onion. As most dog owners know, dogs cannot eat onions, which goes for chives. It physically poisons their bloodstream and can damage their red blood cells. It’s best to keep your pets far away from them.
If you have a little herb garden somewhere, be sure to plant some Scaredy Cat or other Magnolias. Dogs and cats live by their scent, and if the plants don’t smell nice, they’re less likely to investigate.
How to keep your pets away from your plants
In buying a tomato or chives plant, the point is to harvest those plump tomatoes or delicious chives for the kitchen and pot. In the same vein, we sometimes want to have that peace lily or the Jade plant. Much like animals, plants can bring out that emotional connection. Nothing disappoints us faster than realizing that perfect Cyclamen will be dangerous to our pup.
So to help you out, here are some alternative methods and good tips for keeping pets away from those poisonous plants.
- Make sure your pet is getting good exercise
Before we look at spraying your plants or putting them on high shelves, we first need to ensure your pets are content. A happy pet won’t be as destructive as an unhappy pet. So make sure your dog is exercised and that your cat has enough playtime and toys. If their energy is low while you’re out, they won’t be as eager to destroy your prized orchids.
- Make sure your pet is trained.
You also need to make sure your pet understands it really shouldn’t go anywhere near your plants on the point of the exercise. Use positive reinforcement and make sure they know not to touch your plants. It takes a little time for your pet to understand they shouldn’t go near the pots, but with a bit of patience, they should get it eventually. Rather prevent a problem than try and solve it later.
- Try placing the plant on an unreachable shelf
The simplest solution is often the best one. If you only have a dog, you can put the plant in a space the dog won’t reach. Simple yet effective. If you have cats, it might be a bit more challenging to find a spot your cat won’t be able to get to. They are so talented at getting into places they really shouldn’t.
Some plants you can hang from the roof, like our Ivy friends. If that is your plant, make sure you trim them now and then ensure that they don’t eventually reach a point that your dog can get at them.
- Spray some diluted lemon juice over your plants
If you don’t have a high shelf, you might have to get creative, like spraying your plant down in unpleasant scents. If something smells funny, a cat or dog won’t be as eager to go near it. Lemon juice works quite well because it’s completely natural, and it can’t hurt the plant or the pets. Just dilute some in a spray bottle and soak your plants with it before you go out. It should at least deter your pets from touching it.
Be careful when doing so and with which plants. Some plants prefer hot, dry climates, and spraying them down might cause them problems like fungi. So make sure your plant is okay with getting wet before bathing it.
Keeping house plants and pets can be a wonderful symbiosis, especially if we pick plants suitable for our homes and pets. But if you’re dead set on getting that aloe vera, it is best to ensure your pets are well trained and get enough attention to now to want to destroy your plants.
Pets can get destructive when not given the attention they require. So make sure, at least at the start, that you have plants that won’t kill your dogs and that you first train them to leave your plants alone before bringing in those more poisonous friends you so want to have.
As much as having a particular plant is essential, the health and wellbeing of your pet will consistently rate much, much higher.