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Safe Plants for Pets and Toxic Plants to Avoid

pets and plants
What’s the Harm? Symptoms of Ingesting Toxic Plants

If your cat or dog ingests, inhales or rubs against a toxic plant, the symptoms can range from upset digestion to lethal kidney failure. That’s right, you could lose your fur baby or seriously harm their health if you keep toxic plants in your home.

The first and best way to protect your pet is to resist the temptation to have toxic plants in your home. That probably means saying goodbye to some of your favorite plants, but it’s the only 100-percent safe solution.

We also have an article with several tips for how to keep your cats, dogs and puppies out of your plants.

Below you’ll find 30 common toxic and non-toxic houseplants, plus we recommend some herbs that are healthy and enjoyable for dogs and cats to munch so that they don’t feel left out of the gardening fun.

Why do Cats and Dogs Eat Harmful Plants Anyway?
  1. Curiosity. Ever heard the expression ‘curiosity killed the cat’? Of course you have. You’ve also probably been witness to numerous baffling shenanigans your cat pulled just because it was curious. Same goes for many dogs. Most pets can’t help but explore anything that smells or looks interesting, and their best senses for exploration are smell and taste.
  2. Boredom. Our fur babies get a little rambunctious and naguhty when they miss our attention or feel completely bored…which seems to happen a lot. Eating plants is entertaining and it may get a reaction (aka attention) from you.
  3. Tasty. Instincts aren’t always right. You’ve probably seen, tasted or smelled food that was off and known “I definitely don’t want to eat that”. But sometimes there are toxic foods like mushrooms that taste fine — good even — and we don’t know to stay away from them unless we’re taught. That’s the issue with plants and pets. Sometimes the toxic plant tastes good, or your pet is instinctively looking for something green to add fibre to their diet. Either way, sometimes toxic plants seem totally appetising and our poor fur babies don’t know any different.
  4. Movement. Plants may be the cat toy you didn’t know you had. Grassy fronds from spider plants and dracaena shift in the air and easily trigger a cat’s lust to hunt. And of course what they hunt, they will bite.
  5. They don’t learn. Have you ever got a stomach bug and developed an aversion to a food you used to like? That’s an evolutionary adaptation to stop you from eating harmful food twice. With cats and dogs it doesn’t seem to work like that. They will return to a toxic plant that made them vomit again and again. Maybe really effective training can put an end to the behavior, but you can’t count on your pet learning from experience.
Common Toxic and Non-Toxic House Plants for Cats and Dogs

The following chart lists 30 common houseplants and indicates whether they are toxic or non-toxic to both cats and dogs. (Information sourced from ASPCA.org).

Please note that even safe plants can cause digestive upset if your pet gobbles them down, so you may need to nix non-toxic plants if your pet is really interested in eating it.

Plant
Toxic
Non-Toxic
African Violet (Saintpaulia spp.)
X
Aloe (Aloe vera)
X
Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens)
X
Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus cv sprengeri)
X
Boston Fern (Dryopteridaceae)
X
Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum)
X
Caladium (Caladium hortulanum)
X
Calathea (Calathea spp.)
X
Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
X
Coleus (Coleus amboinicus)
X
Dracaena (Dracaena spp.)
X
Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)
X
English Ivy (Hedera helix)
X
Hindu Rope Plant (Hoya carnosa)
X
Horsehead Philodendron (Philodendron bipennifolium)
X
Ivy Peperomia (Peperomia griseoargenteaI)
X
Jade Tree (Crassula argentea)
X
Mother of Millions (Kalanchoe spp.)
X
Nerve Plant (Fittonia verschaffeltii)
X
Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
X
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
X
Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)
X
Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
X
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
X
Prayer Plant (Calathea insignis)
X
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
X
Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa)
X
Wandering Dude (Tradescantia zebrina)
X
Watermelon Peperomia (Peperomia argyreia)
X
Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
X

Wondering about a plant not mentioned here? Consult the ASPCA’s extensive lists of toxic and non-toxic plants for cats and dogs:

Planty of Treats for Pets

Despite a large laundry list of toxic plants, there are many plants that are actually healthy and enjoyable for cats and dogs to munch on. These plants may benefit your pets by providing fibre, chlorophyll and other trace minerals and vitamins.

The jury is out on exactly how beneficial these plants are, since they should be consumed in small doses, but they are definitely a safe and entertaining snack! As with any treat, small amounts are best — any plant can cause an upset stomach if your pet eats too much of it.

Here are a few of our favorite planty treats for cats and dogs:

  • Cat grass is easy to find in pet shops, grocery stores and you can easily grow it from seed. Cats get particularly excited by new growth. Since stores often sell mature grass, we recommend trying out growing from seed.
Cat Sniffing Cat Grass
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) can be enjoyed fresh or dried. My cat loves anything crunchy and goes nuts for dried thyme!
Dog Sniffing Thyme
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) can be enjoyed fresh or dried. This treat is counter-intuitive for cats because they are supposed to hate citrus scents but my kitty goes bananas for any lemon-scented herb. And here’s the evidence (yes, that’s my cat shoving his face into a pot of lemon balm like he’s at an all-you-can-eat buffet).
Merlin Eating Lemon Balm
  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a classic dried treat that makes some cats very frisky and playful. Cats will also enjoy ripping fresh leaves of the plant. If you think your cat is a bit too lethargic, this is a great treat to help them burn some calories. Did you know dogs enjoy catnip too? It’s true! However, your dog won’t feel the same zippy effect that cats do, it may actually have a mild sedative effect.
Catnip - Pixabay
  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum) has a gorgeous aroma for both you and your pet to enjoy. For many pets sniffing is a full-blown hobby so basil can be quite entertaining even if they don’t take a bite.
Cat Sniffing Basil
Dog Eat Basil
  • Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Dill - Pixabay
  • Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)
Cilantro - Pixabay

We hope you have fun offering your fur babies these plant treats. Leave a comment with your pet’s favorites!

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