11 Cat-Safe House Plants (and 5 Plants to Avoid) | Catzio

11 Cat-Safe House Plants (and 5 Plants to Avoid)

Are you one of those people who enjoy caring for animals and plants? Your nurturing side is fulfilled by looking after your pets and plant babies, so they must get along well together to cohabitate safely. That said, it’s best to exercise discretion when you go plant shopping. Careful choices ensure that you can bring nature indoors without comprising your cat’s wellness. 

Yet, there are so many houseplants in stores that it’s hard to determine what’s safe and what’s a no-no. Not to mention, several houseplants are difficult to distinguish! To make things easier for you, here’s a partial list of pet-friendly houseplant species you can bring home, along with those you should avoid. 

11 Popular Choices for a Pet-Friendly Plant

Numerous plant species are safe to have, even if you own a cat (too many to list here). Still, this doesn’t mean that all pet-safe indoor plants are entirely risk-free. 

For instance, some may cause environmental changes, such as attracting bees, that can compromise your cat’s health and safety. In other cases, a plant may be generally safe, but harmful when consumed in high quantities or with exposure to certain parts of it. Further still, scientists disagree about the safety of certain plants, like the areca palm. 

Check out the list of (mostly) non-toxic houseplants below to familiarize yourself with your options and prevent plant shopping mistakes that could endanger your cat’s health. 

The American rubber plant is safe for cats and can grow healthily in bright light or bright indirect light.

 

1. American Rubber Plant

The American rubber plant is a popular choice for green thumbs. If you’re a cat owner and looking to spruce up your interior décor, this is a great 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 may cause “low toxicity” symptoms if eaten by certain animals. That said, you might consider this mostly safe for cats.

Note 

A related variant, the “baby rubber plant,” is still considered non-toxic to cats and dogs, according to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). 

 

The Areca palm is safe for cats and thrives in direct sunlight.

 

2. 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 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 conditions including full sun, bright indirect light, and partial shade. It can’t survive in temperatures below 35◦F, 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. 

 

The bamboo palm is a fun plant to keep indoors in households with cats.

 

3. Bamboo Palm

The bamboo palm, nicknamed the “parlor palm” or “good luck palm,” looks like a mini-version of the areca palm. They look the same for the most part, besides the size difference. These are best grown indoors so if you don’t have much outdoor space, this is the plant for you. 

The foliage is fine and delicate, making it a beautiful addition to your home interior. Fortunately, these are easy to care for and grow year-round. They’re quite versatile, thriving in indoor gardens or outside in-ground, in a raised bed, or in a container. They’re quite compact and only reach up to 4-12 feet tall with a 3-5 ft spread. 

Risk to Your Cat: None

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.

Note 

Watch out for look-alikes! Mistakenly selecting the wrong palm variety can expose your cat to these effects: 

  • 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 heightened 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. 

 

Ferns are generally a family of plants safe for cats. Still, don't mix species up to protect your cat's health.

 

4. Boston Fern

The Boston fern is a wonderful 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 levels of humidity to stay beautiful and green. 

Boston ferns are 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 they grow seasonally as outdoor plants as well. 

Risk to Your Cat: None

The ASPCA stated that this species is non-toxic to cats.

Note 

Although it doesn’t quite look similar to the asparagus fern, you still want to make sure that the species name is Nphrolepis 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, found in the berries. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain.

 

Rattlesnake plants are great for homes with cats, easily grown in natural light with high humidity.

 

5. Calathea Lancifolia

These are uniquely breathtaking houseplants.  Most notably, the leaves’ undersides are a beautiful shade of purple. And when you look at the top, you’ll see why it earned the nickname, “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 keep it hydrated, 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 plants that are safe for cats.

 

This species is always a fun plant to have in the home since its carnivorous unlike most other plant life.

 

6. California Pitcher Plant

This plant has piqued humans curiosity for years. It defies our understanding of the line between plants and animals. This California pitcher plant is one of the world’s 860 types of flora (meaning plant life) categorized as “carnivorous.” This means that, instead of relying solely on photosynthesis for nourishment, the pitcher plant  eats insects after luring them into its bulb with bright colors and nectar. 

You might find these for sale in department stores, but their popularity among houseplant keepers is can be deceiving. They’re tough to care for, mainly because of their environmental needs. They’re 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 lilies are great plants that thrive in outdoor gardens bathed in bright light.

 

7. Canna Lily

These are typically used for outdoor landscaping and not so much indoor houseplants where they’d be more accessible to your cat (depending on your cat’s outdoor access). 

As you might assume from their strikingly colorful appearance, these flowering houseplants 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 canna lilies to your garden to attract such critters.

Risk to Your Cat: None/Circumstantial

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. 

 

How to Protect Your Cat from Bee Stings 

Just like their human companions, cats can be allergic to bees, and can experience severe reactions. 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: 

1. Verify if and where your cat was stung. Look for these signs and symptoms:
  • 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. 
2. Confirm that the sting was from a bee. Sometimes, cats and other pets can get a little too curious for their own good. They may paw at and nibble on insects, unaware of their potential harm. If this is the case, the bug might be dead on the ground nearby. Look around near the cat to see if there’s a wriggling bee. 
Note: If you can’t find one, it’s best to assume that the sting was from a bee or wasp based on the above symptoms. This ensures that you’ll get your cat proper care as soon as possible, whether you’re wrong or right about the source.

 

3. Soothe your cat’s pain at the sting site. A simple homemade ointment can help calm minimal symptoms, such as inflammation and itching. You can either apply a mixture of baking soda and water to the site of the sting or soak your cat in an oatmeal bath in case of several bites. 

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

5. 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. But be warned: Never administer over-the-counter medications without talking to your vet first. This will ensure that you give the correct dose without inadvertently harming your cat further. 

6. 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 and prevent more discomfort. 

 

Pilea peperomoides, also known as the "friendship plant" or "Chinese money plant," is an easy species to propagate and give to friends.

 

8. Friendship Plant 

The “friendship plant” earned its name from its growth patterns. When cuttings are separated from the main plant, they root rapidly, helping to establish the new plant relatively quickly in a new garden. 

This also makes it easy to propagate the plant for gifting to friends and family, hence the name. Plus, they’ll grow with little effort, even if your loved ones don’t have green thumbs. 

This rapid growth is part of why these plants are so easy to care for, even for beginners. Although it does need several hours of daylight, it grows quite well in low-light conditions. So, you can place it in nearly any spot in your house and it’ll do just fine. And 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 plants are shareable succulents.

 

9. 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 at home, including cat owners.

Unlike the plants mentioned thus far, these plants are succulents. This means they reserve a significant water supply in the leaf tissue, making them exceptionally drought-tolerant, which enables them to withstand 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, mainly because they rarely need watering. (Just make sure the soil is well-draining, so you don’t accidentally drown it.) Plus, they don’t even need much sun—just three to four 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 plants are best stored in hanging baskets, but this one is just fine in a white pot.

 

10. Hindu Rope

This gorgeous flowering plant seems to have a deliberate artistic design. It’s part of a family of plants that are widely beloved by many houseplant keepers, due primarily to their thick, waxy, shiny leaves. 

In the case of the Hindu rope, the leaves’ arrangement gives the appearance of a soft rope falling gracefully down from wherever the plant sits. 

Occasionally, the long, woody vines might sprout dainty pink flowers, enhancing the plant’s beauty. These are very easy to care for. Just place it somewhere in the house that gets lots of sunlight, and it’ll grow beautifully. But 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 or cause root rot it in excessively moist soil. 

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!

Note 

You should probably keep your Hindu rope plant somewhere that you can easily supervise your cat. Your cat may be attracted to the dangling leaves and accidentally rip the plant down from wherever you have it placed. For this reason, it’s best to keep the Hindu rope in a hanging basket.

Spider plants are easy-care species for households with cats.

 

11. Spider Plant

Spider plants are some of the easiest houseplants for beginners. Hailing from coastal South Africa, this pet-friendly houseplant can grow in all sorts of conditions, and will survive even if you forget to water it for a while. 

Its habit of producing small “plantlets” resembling spiders at the ends of its long stems is the inspiration for its name. This trait is also why it's so easy to propagate, so you can give them away to loved ones or fill your home with as many spider plants as you can dream of in no time. 

Generally, these can grow to about 12-15” tall and sprout beautiful, star-shaped flowers. As a bonus, it’s famous for helping clean indoor air, so it’s great to have around for all members of the family. 

Risk to Your Cat: None

The ASPCA qualifies the spider plant as non-toxic to cats and dogs

 

What Makes Plants Toxic to Cats?

A plant’s toxicity to cats depends on the species. In general, medical experts advise pet owners to assume that all parts of the plant are poisonous. This is the safest thing to do.  Otherwise, you risk exposing your cat to harmful plant materials. 

That being said, some parts of a plant can be more toxic than others. For example, 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 reproductive components may have high concentrations of an irritant that can affect your cat’s eyes or skin. 

Additionally, “toxic” isn’t always deadly. Some species only have small amounts of chemical compounds, causing only minor symptoms like swelling and itching. However, in other cases, consuming the plant material can lead to more severe effects, such as gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea. 

5 Plants that Are Dangerous to Cats

Not all houseplants are cat-friendly. In fact, there are lots you should avoid—probably more than you realize. Here are five examples of plants that are dangerous to cats and why.

An infographic listing five plants that are toxic for cats.

In short, the plant species’ chemical makeup determines its toxicity to your cat. 

Most of the time, it’s best to assume that all parts of the plant are hazardous. But pay special attention to parts with higher toxin concentrations to maintain your cat’s safety. 

For more information on what plants to keep away from your cat, check out these resources:

What Kinds of Plants Can Cats Eat? 

Since cats are obligate carnivores, they won’t usually have a strong desire to eat plants. If a cat goes out of its way to eat a plant, it’s most likely just curious or soothing a belly ache. In these cases, your cat will most likely settle for grass. So, you don’t need to worry about buying edible plants. 

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. And in case you’ve ever doubted it: Yes, catnip can make your cat high. 

This perennial herb contains a chemical known as “nepetalactone,” which has a psychoactive effect that lasts for 15-30 minutes. Although your cat can snack on it safely, too much can cause nausea and vomiting, so just be careful. 

But if you let your cat stick to munching on grass, you don’t have to worry about it getting sick, according to 91% cat owners’ experiences. Eating grass isa natural wayfor cats to clean out their digestive systems, get rid of internal parasites, and exercise their digestive tract. 

 

When you have a cat, you must be extra careful of the types of plants you bring into the 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. For example, catnip toys are ideal for inquisitive kitties. Check out the Catzio store now to find the perfect accessories that’ll divert your cat’s attention from your brand-new, lush houseplants. 


About the Author

My name is Jazmin "Sunny" Murphy, and I am a science communicator and web content writer. Since 2015, I've been producing scientific content that is written in plain English. My love for life science has influenced my professional and academic aspirations since I was a kid. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and 21 units of a Master's education in Environmental Policy & Management (concentration: Fish and Wildlife Management). You can learn more about me and my science writing and reporting work at my website, Black Flower Writing Services.

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