7 Most Common Indoor Plants That Are Safe For Cats

* Image sources: All images used in this post are from the author

Indoor plants brighten up any room and make it feel more lively. However, if you have cats or any other pets, you want to make sure the plants in your household are pet-safe.

Many houseplants contain toxic constituents or spines, posing hazards to cats and other pets. Botanic families such as Peperomias, Calatheas, ferns, and cacti offer numerous pet-safe species. Nonetheless, verifying plant types remains crucial to ensure pet safety.

In this post, I present 7 common indoor plants that are safe for cats. These plants are easy to find in stores, so I figured it is more helpful to know 7 plants that you can procure at almost any nursery rather than knowing about 20 plants that are rare and hard to find anywhere.

Tip: Any plant that is safe for cats is also safe for dogs or other pets as most pets react to the same toxins. Hence you can consider the plant examples given here as generally pet-safe.

What Makes Indoor Plants Dangerous to Cats and Other Pets?

Apart from rabbits or other rodent pets (that are usually safe from houseplants because they are mainly kept in a cage or run around under the supervision of a human), cats are probably more prone to test out nibbling a plant’s leaf than dogs are. This is because cats like to eat grass as a digestive. Especially cats living indoors might therefore try to nibble at your green housemates.

What is it about plants that can be dangerous for cats and other pets?

  • Toxins: Toxic constituents in the leaves or other parts of the plant can cause irritations and gastrointestinal issues, leading to sickness, rarely death of pets.
  • Spines: Plants such as cacti with long spines may cause a problem, too. Young animals play around and might end up hurting themselves – the same goes for kids playing around!

The spines are usually only a secondary problem. The main issue for pet-safety is if a houseplant contains a lot of toxins.

Do Cats Know to Avoid Toxic Plants?

A wild cat’s instinct, sense of smell, and learned habit from their feline parents usually tell it if a plant is harmful to them or not. The same doesn’t necessarily account for housecats, especially if the cat is held only indoors and was raised by humans.

My childhood family cat was outdoors most of the time, and she never showed any interest in our indoor plants. However, cats kept indoors haven’t had any experience with any sort of plants and are also often a little bored inside the house. Not every cat is endowed with great instincts (kind of like humans) and sometimes curiosity takes over and the cat will try out any plant standing around.

To answer the question, some cats may know to avoid toxic plants while others don’t. I wouldn’t completely trust the cat’s instincts but instead, make sure that toxic plants are either not present in your household or put in spots your cat can’t reach.

Most Toxic Indoor Plants For Cats: Lilies, Ivy, Philodendron

Most houseplants are not as toxic that the cat dies from a little nibble at it. Still, some indoor plants are too toxic for cats and other pets to run that risk. This is why it is important to know the most toxic plant types to make sure you avoid these:

  • Lilies
  • Ivy
  • Philodendron

The number one toxic plant for cats is true lilies. Lilies contain a high amount of calcium oxalate crystals which even in very small doses cause irritations, vomiting, diarrhea, or hyperventilation. If you have pets, it is best not to have any lilies in your household at all.

The next biggest enemies of your cats are ivies as well as Philodendrons. Among other toxic plants are Aloe Vera, Oleander, and the Sago Palm. Aloe Vera is not specifically prone to cat nibbles because its stems are rather thick and spikey. As for Oleander and Sago Palm, these are not very common indoor plants, hence I doubt that many people actually have these inside their homes as houseplants.

That said, let’s leave the toxic plants on the side for now and get into what plants pose no threat to cats.

Cat-Safe Plants: 7 Common Indoor Plant Types

Some botanical plant families have numerous pet-safe members:

  • Peperomias
  • Calatheas
  • Ferns

Peperomias and Calatheas are your best bet to buy a pet-friendly plant without having to look up its toxicity. Plenty of common indoor ferns are also pet-safe. Still, not all of them are. Always check the exact fern type before you put it in reach of your cats. But with ferns, chances are much higher that it is non-toxic than for example with tropical climbing plants which are very often toxic.

Also, a lot of cacti may be toxic by their components but due to their spines, the cat doesn’t get to nibble at it. Hence, a lot of cacti can be fine to keep with pets as they won’t be munched on.

Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides)

As its common name suggests, the Chinese Money Plant stems from mountainous regions in Southwestern China. It prefers bright indirect light and is an eye-catching and undemanding addition to your indoor jungle.

Pilea peperomioides plants are completely pet-safe. If your cats nibble at the pancake-shaped leaves, nothing will happen at all.

Learn more about how to care for the Chinese Money Plant in my plant sheet through this link.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata)

The Boston Fern is another common guest among our houseplants.

Like all ferns, it loves half-shady spots and humidity. If the humidity levels vary a lot, such as during winter, they might lose a lot of their leaves. Ferns can therefore be a bit picky as houseplants but are stunning to look at. Last but not least, the Boston Fern is pet-friendly and will not harm your cats or any other pets.

Freddie Prayer Plant (Calathea Concinna)

The Freddie Prayer Plant, Calathea Concinna, is another common houseplant safe for pets. Its common name stems from the fact that it folds up its leaves at night – just like hands folded in prayer.

There are different cultivars of this plant, some with more accentuated stripes, others with plain leaves.

Calatheas like bright but indirect light – direct midday sun will burn its leaves. Make sure to use well-draining soil for these plants as they do not like to sit in water at all. Learn how to mix your own well-draining soil with only a few common ingredients in my post linked here.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Even though in some translations, the Spider Plant is also called the Green Lily, it is not a true Lily (remember: True Lilies are the most toxic plants for cats!). It is a member of the Chlorophytum family and is non-toxic to pets.

Interesting fact: On a few forums, it is mentioned that the Spider Plant is slightly hallucinogenic, and funnily enough it seems to attract cats a lot.

With its grass-like appearance and beautiful small, white flowers, it gives a calm lushness to any space you put it in. Place it on a shelf or in a hanging basket to make any room feel brighter and lighter.

It is very easy to care for. With some indirect light and regular watering whenever the top inches of soil have dried, the Spider Plant will be happily growing anywhere.

Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis)

The Moth Orchid, also called the Moon Orchid, is another low-maintenance indoor plant that won’t harm your cats and other pets.

These Orchids produce beautiful big flowers that can last for months. However, in between flowerings, they can remain dormant for several months as well which is why many people find these plants a bit ‘boring’.

Personally, I find this growing pattern intriguing. After months of caring for it and not seeing any change, suddenly one or two branches of beautiful huge flowers appear that seem to last forever. Watching the buds grow and open one after the other is incredibly rewarding.

One major care tip for orchids: they prefer to be bathed instead of watered. Every 1-2 weeks, bathe them in water for at least 2 hours (I sometimes forget them and let them bathe a whole afternoon or evening). After bathing, let all water flow out of the pot and place them back in their spot.

Tip: Orchids are also well-suited for bedrooms. Do you want to know why and what other plant types are good for bedrooms? Then click through my post about this topic right here!

Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)

The Parlour Palm makes for an elegant, tree-like plant for your household. It is pet-friendly and best placed out of direct sunlight. Water it only when the top inches of soil have dried and make sure it never sits in water.

Also, try to keep this palm out of ventilated areas near doors or windows as it doesn’t appreciate temperature changes.

Tip: No houseplant likes to sit in water. Learn to avoid overwatering and root rot with a few simple but essential watering tips in my complete watering guide.

Mexican Gem (Echeveria elegans)

To give you a pet-safe example of the succulent field, the Mexican Gem is a good choice. These succulents, often commonly also just called Echeveria, add to a calm aesthetic of any room and fit perfectly in bedrooms.

As succulents from arid regions, the Echeveria does not do well with a lot of humidity or water and it prefers bright direct or indirect light to thrive.

Another care tip is to avoid brushing over their leaves as these are covered with a fine protection powder. The more you touch them with your fingers, the more this protection layer is destroyed and its leaves are prone to be scorched by the sun.

How Do I Keep My Cat From Eating My Houseplants?

A lot of the beautiful and striking tropical indoor plants such as Philodendrons, Monsteras, or Pothos are toxic to pets. Now, if you don’t want to do without these plants, or you already had them before you got pets, here are some tips for you on how to get them out of your pets’ reach.

It is pretty simple: Your cat shouldn’t reach the plants. This is best done by placing the plants as high up as possible or in a different room that your cats are not allowed in. You as the pet owner know your cats behavior best – if your cats are great climbers and can reach almost any shelf in your household, then placing toxic plants in a separate room may be the better option.

Another option for smaller plant pots can be to place them in a greenhouse. Nowadays, you can find plenty of beautiful vitrines made of glass of various sizes.

What Plants Do Cats Love?

(Image source: author photo)

If you want to make your housecat happy, buy it some cat grass. Cats naturally eat some grass as a digestive. If your cat can’t go outside, then giving it some cat grass indoors is a nice gesture it will appreciate.

Another plant that is often said to make cats happy is a herb called catnip. Cats go crazy for this herb, rubbing and rolling around on it. Scientists assume that the so-called nepetalactone components of the herb cause a euphoric reaction in the cat’s brain – similar to serotonin in the human brain.

I would recommend not having catnip around permanently but rather putting it in a room that your cat can’t get to now and then. Cats can’t get addicted to it but if they eat too much of it, it may cause irritations and nausea.

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