Cat-Friendly Plants List (and Plants to Avoid)

by Jazmin Murphy   April 22, 2021

Table of Contents

You may be one of those folks who enjoy loving and caring for plants and animals to fulfill your nurturing personality. If so, it's best to exercise discretion when you're doing your plant shopping. Careful choices ensure that you get your beautiful interior décor without compromising your cat's wellness.


Yet, there are so many houseplants in stores (and so many of them look so similar!) that it's hard to determine what's safe and what's a no-no. So, to make things easier for you, here's a partial list of plants that are non-toxic to cats, along with those you should avoid having anywhere near your cat. 

What Plants are Cat-Friendly? 

Numerous plants are safe to have, even if you own a cat, too many to list here. Still, be mindful about buying some of the plants listed down here. They may lead to environmental changes (like attracting bees) that can compromise your cat's health and safety, or appear very similar to related variants that are, indeed, toxic. 


Check out the list below to familiarize yourself with your cat-friendly shopping options for houseplants. 

American Rubber Plant

The American rubber plant is a very popular plant. If you're a cat owner and looking to spruce up your interior décor, this is an excellent choice for you. This is a tropical evergreen herbaceous shrub and can grow up to one foot tall. Not only will its beautiful foliage last throughout the year, but it doesn't require too much work from you, either. 


It can tolerate low indirect light for extended periods (up to several months) without displaying stress symptoms. However, keep in mind that it can't quite grow well in extreme soil conditions (either too wet or too dry). It doesn't like growing in really drafty areas either, so make sure to place it strategically far from windows or doors that are opened frequently. 

RISK TO YOUR CAT: LOW

This plant earned a designation of "Low" poison severity. Scientists have not yet found any specific side effects for humans if consumed. However, it may cause "low toxicity" symptoms if eaten by certain animals. All this said, it's generally safe for cats.


Its effects are due to alkaloids, and the portion of the plant of the most concern is the leaf. You won't have to worry about health hazards upon contact, as there is no contact dermatitis potential.


Note: There is a variant known as the "baby rubber plant." This is still considered non-toxic to dogs and cats, according to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). 

Areca Palm

Naturally, the areca palm (also known as the Golden Cane Palm or Yellow Bamboo Palm) plant can only be found in eastern Madagascar. Sadly, it is endangered in its natural habitat. That said, this pet-friendly species is much more prevalent as a domesticated landscape plant, often found in homes throughout the United States, especially Florida. 


It can grow up to 20-35 ft with a "crown spread" of 10-20 ft. Even its fronds are massive, as they can extend 6-8 ft long with roughly 2 ft leaflets, on average. You'll need to be a bit more attentive to these plants, but not too much. They do well in environments with full to partial indirect light. It can't survive in temperatures below 35◦Fs, if your area gets colder than that, you'll need to bring it inside for the winter. 

Risk to Your Cat: Mixed

The ASPCA has declared this plant non-toxic to cats (along with dogs and horses). However, there seems to be some disagreement on this. For example, a 2009 study discovered that the areca palm releases 16 types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be harmful to your cat's health. 


Microorganisms in the plant's soil might even release other VOCs, but so can plastic containers. With this in mind, the plant is still generally not a risk to your cat. However, since it releases VOCs, it's best to plant it outside. 

Bamboo Palm

The bamboo palm, nicknamed the "parlor palm" or "good luck palm," is aesthetically a mini-version of the areca palm. (The two are not significantly distinct in appearance, apart from their size differences.) These are best grown indoors. So, if you don't have any space to grow outdoors, this is the variant for you. 


The foliage is fine and delicate, making it a beautiful addition to your home décor. Fortunately, these are low maintenance and grow year-round. They're pretty versatile in adaptability, as you can put them in a container for indoor decoration or outside in-ground, in a raised bed, or a container. They're quite compact and only reach up to 4-12 ft tall with a 3-5 ft spread. 

Risk to Your Cat: None, but Check your Palms!

This plant is non-toxic to cats, as reported by the ASPCA. Please be sure to check the species name (Chamaedorea elegans) when you buy this plant, though, as not all palms are safe for pets. For example, the sago, grass, and Australian ivy varieties are toxic to some pets, as they contain cycasin, saponins, and terpenoids. 


If you mistakenly select the wrong palm variety, these compounds can affect your cat in the following ways:

  • Cycasin: This toxin causes various symptoms, primarily related to the liver. Liver failure can occur, but the severity may change between cats. Your cat might also struggle with gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and diarrhea. Drooling is also a sign of toxicity. 

  • Saponins: Cats that have ingested saponins will begin vomiting (maybe with blood), may lose their appetite, and can even become depressed. You'll also notice increased salivation and dilated pupils. 

  • Australian ivy: If your cat gets a hold of parts from this type of palm, it'll experience irritation in its mouth, specifically pain and swelling. Apart from the whole mouth, this will specifically affect the tongue and lips. The cat might also drool, vomit, and have difficulty swallowing. 

Boston Fern

The Boston fern is a beautiful addition to any household. However, they can subject you to a love-hate relationship. Ferns of almost any kind can be extremely finicky, as they require certain humidity levels to stay beautiful and green. 


This is most popularly grown indoors in homes located in cold climates, although it's native to warm, tropical areas, ranging from South America up to Mexico, Florida, and the West Indies. The Boston fern is a pretty big plant, as its fronds can grow up to 4 ft long by 6 in wide. You can pretty much keep it year-round as an indoor plant; but, if you want to plant it outside, you can only grow it seasonally. 

Risk to Your Cat: None, but Check your Ferns!

The ASPCA stated that this species is non-toxic to cats. Although it doesn't quite look similar to the asparagus fern, you still want to make sure that the species name is Nephrolepis exalta bostoniensis, so you don't mix it up with another fern type. The asparagus fern is toxic to pets due to its concentration of sapogenin in the berries. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain. 

Calathea Lancifolia

These are breathtaking houseplants belonging to the "prayer plant" family because of how they open close throughout the day and night. The foliage is decorated with several features that distinguish it from many other plant varieties. For one, the leaves' undersides are a beautiful shade of purple. When you flip the leaf over to view the top, you'll see why it earned the alternative name, "rattlesnake plant."


Its dark spots mimic the patterning on many rattlesnake species' backs and the shape of the "rattles" on their tails. This is another plant variety that requires consistent humidity, so you may have trouble if you live in a dry climate. However, as long as you're attentive to its watering needs, you should be fine, as it grows quite well indoors in temperatures from 65-75◦F. 

Risk to Your Cat: None

The ASPCA has deemed several variants of the Calathea lancifolia as non-toxic to cats. 

California PItcher Plant

This is a plant that has piqued humans' imaginations for years, as it seems to defy our understanding of the line between plants and animals. This plant species is one of the world's 860 types of flora categorized as "carnivorous." This means that, instead of being restricted to photosynthetic processes to nourish itself, the pitcher plant instead consumes insects after luring them into the bulb with its bright colors and nectar.


Although you might often find these for sale in department stores, their popularity among houseplant keepers is in no way reflective of the difficulty level in maintaining them. These are tricky plants to deal with due to their environmental requirements. These are native to California's bogs, so you'll need to provide lots of humidity to keep it happy and healthy.

Risk to Your Cat: None

Interestingly, even though this plant contains a liquid substance that dissolves organisms as they fall to the bottom of the bulb, it has been reported to be non-toxic to cats.

Canna Lily

These are typically used for outdoor landscaping and not so much indoor houseplants where they'd be more accessible to your cat (unless you take it outside from time to time). As you might assume from their strikingly colorful appearance, these flowers are native to tropical and subtropical climates. They're available in many colors, including bronze, purple, and even multicolored. (They don't even need flowers to achieve this vibrancy.)


Another reason why they're more suited to outdoor gardening is their potential size. These can grow anywhere from a mere 1.5 ft up to 5 ft or taller, depending on the specific variety you buy. Canna lilies make for a great addition to backyard pollinator gardens, as they can attract bees and hummingbirds. If your cat loves nature-watching from inside or its catio, consider adding these to attract critters like this.

Risk to Your Cat: Watch for Bees!

The ASPCA reports that this species is non-toxic to cats. However, you should still exercise caution with this one. Since they are so effective at attracting bees and other pollinating insects, you'll need to supervise your cat closely when it's outside.


This way, there's less of a chance of your cat getting stung by a bee due to haphazard playing with insects. Or, you can react in time to potentially save your cats life. Cats can be allergic to bees too, and can experience severe reactions just like humans. If your cat is stung by a bee or wasp after you plant your canna lilies, here are a few steps you can take after the incident:

  • Take note of signs and symptoms to verify whether your cat was stung. The primary signs to lookout for are as follows: 

    • Your cat will excessively paw at its face.

    • Your cat will chew at its foot.

    • The bite area (and surrounding skin or parts of the body) will begin to swell.

  • Verify that the sting was from a bee. Cats and other pets can get a little too curious for their own good sometimes. Typically, this might entail pawing at the insect or even trying to eat it. The only good thing about this is that there's a fair chance that the bug will be nearby, perhaps dead on the ground somewhere. Look around near the cat to see if there's a wriggling bee.

    • Note: If you can't find one, it may be safest to assume it was a bee or wasp to avoid any worsening symptoms.

  • Soothe your cat's discomfort at the sting site. A simple homemade ointment can help calm minimal symptoms, such as inflammation and itching. You can either mix baking soda and water to apply to the sting site or soak your cat in an oatmeal bath if there were several bites. 

  • Continue to mitigate swelling. Applying ice is the simplest method you have to reduce swelling after your cat is stung by a bee.

  • Seek veterinary care if your cat has an allergic response. Your first line of defense against an allergic response is to provide a basic anti-histamine like Benadryl. However, you should never administer such over-the-counter (OTC) medications without first consulting with your veterinarian. Talking with your vet will first ensure that you give the correct dose without inadvertently subjecting your cat to further health complications.

  • Keep your cat fed and hydrated. Even if your cat seems just fine after getting stung, make sure to give it plenty of water and food. This will help improve its recovery experience and prevent excess discomfort.

Friendship Plant

The "friendship plant" earned its name due to its growth patterns. When cuttings are separated from the main plant, they root quite rapidly, which helps establish the new plant relatively quickly in a new pot or in-ground garden. This makes it very easy to propagate the plant to distribute as gifts to your friends and family. They'll grow very easily, even if your loved ones don't necessarily have green thumbs.


This rapid growth partially contributes to why these plants are so low maintenance. Although it does require several hours of daylight, it grows quite well in low indirect light. So, you can place it in nearly any spot in your house, and it'll do just fine. Like many houseplants, it requires a good amount of humidity and temperatures between 65-75◦F to remain healthy.

Risk to Your Cat: None

This plant is non-toxic to cats, according to the ASPCA.

Hens and Chicks

The hens-and-chicks plant (also known as Sempervivum or Sedum) is another highly shareable plant that lots of people love to grow in their homes, including cat owners. Unlike the plants mentioned thus far, these plants are succulents, meaning they reserve a significant water supply in the leaf tissue. This makes them exceptionally drought-tolerant, enabling them to survive through harsh environmental conditions.


These are great for laid-back cat owners who want some greenery around the house without having to work too hard to keep the plants healthy. Succulents don't require much attention at all, as they rarely need to be watered. Just make sure the soil is well-draining so you don't accidentally drown it. They don't even need much sun – just 3-4 hours daily, minimum.

Risk to Your Cat: None

These are non-toxic to cats, so feel free to plant them inside or outside the house.

Hindu Rope

These are gorgeous plants, seeming to have a very deliberate artistic design. It's part of a family of widely beloved plants by many houseplant keepers due primarily to their thick, waxy, shiny leaves. In the case of the Hindu rope, the leaves are arranged to look like a soft rope (duh) that falls gracefully down from whatever stand you decide to hang or set it on.


Occasionally, the long, woody vines might sprout dainty pink flowers that boost the plant's beauty that much more. These are very easy to care for. Just position it somewhere in the house where it'll get lots of sunlight, and it'll grow beautifully. Be careful when watering it: It's best to allow the top third of the soil to dry out entirely, so you don't accidentally drown the root system.

Risk to Your Cat: None

Like most Hoya plants, the Hindu rope is not considered toxic to cats and other pets. So, you can let those tendrils hang without a worry! (You should probably keep it somewhere that you can easily supervise your cat. It may become attracted to the dangling leaves and accidentally rip the plant down from wherever you have it placed.)

What Makes Plants Toxic to Cats?

The factor that makes a plant toxic to cats depends on the species you're referring to. In general, medical experts advise pet owners to assume that all parts of the plant are poisonous. This is the safest way to think about it; otherwise, you risk exposing your cat to plant materials that you mistook as harmless.


That being said, some parts of a plant can be more toxic than others. For instance, there might be more poisonous chemical compounds in a plant's leaves than the stem. In some cases, the flower petals may be harmless, but the flower's reproductive components have high concentrations of an irritant that may harm your cat's eyes, skin, or other body parts.


Additionally, toxic does not always equate to deadly. Some species only have small amounts of chemical compounds, which will only cause minor symptoms like swelling and itching. However, the cat's condition can grow a bit more severe if it happens to consume the plant material. This sort of incident can lead to gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea.

Plants that are Dangerous to Cats

Here are five examples of plants that are dangerous to cats and why:

Daffodil

Toxin of Concern:

Lycorine

Parts of the Plant to Avoid:

All parts, especially the bulb

Effects:

Your cat might experience diarrhea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, problems with the heartbeat, trouble breathing.

Tulip and Hyacinth

Toxin of Concern:

Lactones; Alkaloids

Parts of the Plant to Avoid:

All parts, especially the flower bulbs

Effects:

The severity of the symptoms depends on the part of the plant consumed. Generally, consuming the plant will cause your cat to start drooling excessively and experience digestive problems like vomiting and diarrhea. However, eating the bulbs will lead to more severe issues, including a heightened heart rate and breathing problems.

Lily

Toxin of Concern:

Oxalate crystals

Parts of the Plant to Avoid:

All parts, including the pollen

Effects:

Peace, Peruvian, and Calla cause minor symptoms, but "true" variants like Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter, and Japanese Show are potentially fatal. Your cat can experience complete kidney failure 36-72 hours after consuming any of this species' plant material. Specific symptoms before then include a poor appetite, lethargy, and vomiting.

Lily of the Valley

Toxin of Concern:

Glycosides

Parts of the Plant to Avoid:

All parts, including the berries

Effects:

The main toxic chemical compound can disrupt normal cardiac contractions, leading to a lower heart rate and other cardiac abnormalities, seizures, and gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea.

CROCUS (both spring and fall varieties)

Toxin of Concern:

Colchicine and several other alkaloids

Parts of the Plant to Avoid:

Effects:

These flowers are other species that can be potentially fatal to your cat.

As you can see, the plant species and its chemical makeup determines precisely how and why the plant is toxic to your cat. In most cases, all parts of the plant are hazardous, but there are specific components that contain high concentrations of a compound that could potentially be lethal to your cat.


With all this in mind, it's best to avoid bringing the above species into your home and keep any potentially risky plants out of your household entirely. For more information on what plants to keep away from your cat, see the resources below:

What Kind of Plants Can Cats Eat?

Since cats are obligate carnivores, you won't really find them chomping at the bit to eat any particular plant species. If a cat goes out of its way to eat a plant, it's most likely out of curiosity or to soothe an aching belly. That said, you probably shouldn't buy plants with the intention of feeding them to your cat.


However, if you know your cat is inclined to nibble on new things you bring into the house, you may want to consider planting catnip. In case you've ever doubted it: Yes, catnip does, in a sense, make your cat high. This perennial herb contains a chemical known as "nepetalactone," which has a psychoactive effect that can last for 15-30 minutes. Although your cat can nibble on it, too much can cause nausea and vomiting, so just be careful.


Grass, of course, is another plant that's okay for cats to eat. You don't have to worry about your kitty if it starts munching on the ground cover in the backyard, according to 91% cat owners' experiences with their pets eating it. It's a natural method that these animals use to clean out their digestive system and get rid of internal parasites and exercise their digestive tract.


When you have a cat, you must be extra careful of what plants and other things you bring into your home. With careful choices in houseplants (or outdoor landscaping), you can be confident that your cat will not get sick due to curious nibbling.


Another great way to ensure your cat's not drawn to snack on your precious plants is to get it an appropriate treat. Catnip toys like those available in the Purrty Presents store are ideal for those inquisitive kitties.


About the Author

Jazmin “Sunny” Murphy began writing informal scientific content on nature and animals in 2015. Four years later, she launched her freelance career as a digital content and copywriter. This work merges her academic perspective, rooted in her B.S. Zoology, and professional experience as a veterinary tech, university research assistant, and more with relevant marketing, SEO, and engagement techniques across various industries. Jazmin now covers pet care, pest control, cannabis, outdoor recreation, STEM research and news, and product reviews across several niches.

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