If you’re a cat lover and also a lover of household plants, you should know that these two things don’t always mix well. You already know that cats are excellent jumpers and climbers, which means they can get to anything if they want it badly enough – including plants.
Although plants can complement anyone’s home, many are toxic to cats, which is unfortunate because cats usually love plants! This includes the spider plant, which is popular for many reasons and is often found as a hanging plant.
If you love your kitty but don’t want to get rid of your spider plants, what are your alternatives? Do you really have to decide between your furry family member and a plant? Read on to find out the answer to these questions.
Why a Spider Plant?
Spider plants dangle from baskets and shelves and are great household plants because they are both attractive and easy to grow. Also known as the Chlorophytum comosum, the spider plant produces a mild hallucinogenic effect when consumed, and this might be the main reason your cat loves it so much.
Sure, your kitty may like the plant because it reminds it of the grass it likes to chew when it has an upset stomach, or because it is a dangling plant and therefore fun to play with. But for the most part, the plant’s hallucinogenic effect is what attracts cats to the plant. Think of these plants as similar to opium plants, and you’ll understand why cats are so attracted to them.
While spider plants do have a mild odor, it is barely noticeable to humans, but even if cats notice the scent more than we do, that’s not what attracts them to these plants. The chemicals in spider plants produce an effect that is similar to catnip, which affects your cat’s fascination and obsessive behavior.
Indeed, it doesn’t take long for cats to realize that spider plants have something in them that causes them to react this way, but does this mean that spider plants are toxic to felines? According to the ASPCA, the answer to that question is “no.” Spider plants will not kill your cats, which is good for pet parents to know, but that doesn’t mean they should be allowed near the plants.
So, are spider plants harmful to cats even when they’re not fatal? Unfortunately, they can be, because even though they may not kill your cat, they can still cause a lot of negative side effects, including vomiting, diarrhea, and upset stomach.
Just like humans, cats react differently to things such as spider plants, so you always run the risk of your cat becoming violently ill after consuming this type of plant. While your cat may barely react to eating part of a spider plant, there is just as good of a chance that your cat will become very ill, so it’s always best not to take that chance in the first place.
The problem isn’t just that the hallucinogenic effect of spider plants is something cats are attracted to and enjoy, but if they enjoy it for too long, they can actually become addicted to it.
This is something no pet parent wants to deal with, so even though small quantities of spider plants likely won’t hurt your cat, it’s better not to let the cat anywhere near spider plants regardless of its reaction to it. Of course, this is easier said than done, right?
What to Do with Spider Plants
If you have a furry family member that you wish to keep away from your spider plants, there are options available to you. These include the following four main methods:
- If your cat stays inside all the time, you can keep your spider plants outside. It won’t really matter exactly where they are, because your cat won’t be able to get to the plants if they’re outside of your home. Of course, if your cats do go outside this isn’t much of a solution, but it works like a charm when you have indoor cats.
- Consider planting cat grass. Cat grass can be found in most pet stores and even online, and your cats will love nibbling on it. In fact, cat grass can even come with different nutritional benefits, so it’s like having a plant that is specifically designed for your pet to benefit from and enjoy. Your pet will also become healthier because of the nutritional value of the grass. If you plant the grass in your garden or in a flowerpot, it may very well keep your cat away from your spider plants, at least most of the time. If you choose to grow cat grass, the best piece of advice is to keep it completely separate from your houseplants. The grass and your household plants should be in totally separate areas of the house so that cats aren’t tempted or get confused as to which ones are safe and which ones aren’t.
- Hang the plants as high up as possible. Yes, cats can jump up really high, but if you leave your spider plants in a hanging basket or in a very high plant stand, the chances are good that your cats will leave them alone most of the time. You can also trim the plants so that they don’t dangle and become even more of a temptation for your cats.
- You can also try spraying your spider plants with some type of repellent that has a bad taste to keep your cats away, but you need to be careful with this option and make sure the repellent itself isn’t toxic or dangerous to your feline friends.
One word of caution, however. If you decide to get rid of your spider plants and choose to purchase other plants in their place, make sure you choose these new plants carefully.
Other plants can be just as dangerous for cats and may even be toxic. Some of the plants that are unhealthy or even toxic to your cats include:
- Aloe vera plants can cause tummy problems and vomiting, as well as more serious issues such as trembling, anorexia, and even depression.
- Azaleas and rhododendrons can cause problems such as a drop in blood pressure, skin irritations, vomiting, diarrhea, and even coma and death. These are extremely toxic plants indeed.
- Cyclamen, a plant that is toxic to cats in its entirety, but at the root, which can lead to intense vomiting and other severe tummy problems.
- Lilies, which can cause a host of liver problems in felines. These include varieties such as Asian, Eastern, Stargazer, Tiger, Japanese Show, and Casa Blanca lilies.
- Oleander, a plant that can cause tummy problems, hypothermia, abnormal heart functions, and even death if consumed in large quantities.
- Tulips, which have toxins that can cause loss of appetite, stomach problems, and even cardiac abnormalities.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of plants that are toxic for cats and other animals. Before you include plants in a home where cats live, it’s recommended that you check out the plant thoroughly so that you don’t accidently buy some that can cause serious damages to your pets.
If you visit the ASPCA site at www.aspca.org, you can get a more complete list of plants to avoid when there are cats in your home, as well as a list of nontoxic plants that you may want to substitute for these more dangerous plants.
What If Your Cats Eat the Spider Plants Anyway?
Of course, even under the best of intentions, it is possible for your cats to eat your spider plants anyway, regardless of how hard you’ve tried to keep them away from the plants. It is easy for this to happen when you’ve brought a new plant – or a new cat – into your home. You can’t watch your cats 24/7, but you can do what you can to keep them away from your spider and other potentially toxic plants.
When that doesn’t work, however, the main thing you have to remember is that fast action is a must. Once you realize your cat has eaten your spider plants or other potentially dangerous plants, you should watch their behavior to see if any stomach problems or lethargy has occurred. If so, the cat needs to be checked out by a veterinarian or clinic right away, so that it can get the medical treatment it needs quickly.
It’s easy for cats to be attracted to spider plants because they have long, thin leaves that are green and streaked with white – quite the eye-catcher, in fact. Because they do not need a lot of sunlight to grow well, a lot of people keep their spider plants indoors, and if cats get anywhere near the plants, they’re naturally going to be very curious about them.
Many cats also have a natural tendency to chew on the leaves of plants they’re attracted to, which is why you have to be careful when cats and spider plants are close to one another.
Since the leaves of the spider plant can grow up to 18 inches in length, they are typically easy for the cats to get to, making them even more attractive to felines. In fact, the spider plant is known by several other names, including “cat’s whiskers,” which is ironic to say the least.
Safer Plants for You to Choose
Again, the ASPCA has a very long list of plants that are both toxic and nontoxic to cats, and below are just a handful of the many plants that are safe to have in your home when you also have cats living there.
- Acorn squash
- African daisy
- African violet
- Australian (Norfolk) pine
- Baby’s breath
- Buttercup squash
- Casaba melon
- Common snapdragon
- Crepe myrtle
- Eastern cactus (Christmas cactus)
- Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon)
- Honeydew melon
- Impatiens plant
- Jacob’s Ladder (Carrion flower)
- Lady Slipper (giant touch-me-not)
- Lemon balm
- Leopard lily
- Mulberry tree
- Persian violet
- Poison oak/ivy
- Red African violet
- Red maple
- Venus fly trap
- Wild hyacinth
- Zucchini squash
Cats Love Spider Plants!
In addition to the hallucinogenic effect of spider plants, your cats may also like them because of their shape, because they like to swat at things with their paws, or even because they are bored.
Although cats also like to eat plants and grass because it helps them regurgitate hairballs, and because spider plants aren’t toxic per se, it is tempting to let your cats eat the spider plants you have in your home, but that is not a good idea. Once again, you never know how your particular cat is going to react to eating a spider plant, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Even if your cat is one that doesn’t react negatively to eating just a small amount of spider plants, you can’t be certain that your cat will stick with that amount every time. Keeping these plants out of the way of your cats is always the smartest thing to do because even if they do not kill your cat, they can make your cat awfully sick and miserable, and no pet parent wants that.
Spider plants are popular houseplants because they are inexpensive, easy to grow, and very attractive. They are not toxic to cats per se, but if eaten in large amounts they can make your cat awfully sick, to the point where your cat may even need a veterinarian to make it feel better.
Unfortunately, cats have a natural tendency to eat fresh, green living things, which includes grass and plants. If you keep potentially dangerous plants in your home, the temptation is always going to be there, which is why keeping your household plants out of reach of your furry family members is usually the best remedy.
Once again, the ASPCA can provide invaluable information in case you want to learn which plants to avoid and which ones are safe for your cat. If your cat is an outdoor cat, it will be much harder to make certain it is never around potentially dangerous plants.
If your cat stays indoors, however, you’ll have a little more control over which plants it has access to.