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Cats and House Plants

Cats and House Plants

You’ve taken all the right precautions to make sure your home is safe for your new cat. You’ve removed the little ornaments that Fluffy or Max might have knocked off the shelves and tried to swallow. All the power cords are secured into a hard rubber tube, so Daisy or Rex can’t chew on them and electrocute themselves. You’ve got sturdy, unbreakable dishes, healthy food, treats that will help keep plaque off the teeth, toys to provide lots of exercise – you’ve thought of everything. Or have you?

Got a couple of lilies in pots on that low table? How about that big potted schefflera in the corner? And that asparagus fern with its tendrils dangling long and airy from the top of that bookcase? Poisonous to cats. All of them. Those plants – and a couple hundred others, on a list compiled by the Cat Fanciers Association, Inc. (CFA), and available on their website.

Lilies, in fact, are among the most poisonous plants a cat can ingest. Every part of the plant is toxic, even in small amounts, and can lead quickly to kidney failure within 36 to 72 hours. Some Day Lilies may not be as bad for kitty, but when you consider all the lilies that are poisonous – Glory Lily, Tiger Lily, Stargazer Lily, Rubrum Lily, Asian Lilies – it’s probably better just to avoid the whole lot of them.

But even things that sound harmless – how could Baby’s Breath be poison? Foxglove? Ivy? Sweetpea? – all of these are toxic as well. The Dragon Tree or Corn Plant, both of which are such popular and decorative larger plants for big pots.

Does this mean that you have to make a choice between having a cat and having house plants to brighten up your rooms? Is it really an either/or proposition? Fortunately, no. Because the list of plants that are okay in a house with cats is just as long as the list of those that aren’t. For example, orchids seem to be absolutely safe. On the CFA list of non-toxic plants, orchids pop up all over the place. So orchid lovers can continue to plaster their homes with their beautiful, delicate, beloved plants. Of course, considering their delicacy, there will undoubtedly be other issues – the cat knocking them over or damaging them in other ways – but at least you know Fluffy won’t be sealing her own doom as she chews them to the roots. Another safe one is the African Violet. The Lipstick Plant. The Spider Plant. There are all sorts of house plants that can co-exist with your cat.

Surprisingly, despite so many dire warnings in the past, poinsettias are really not that bad. They can irritate the cat’s mouth, and maybe result in some mild nausea or even vomiting, but they’re not life-threatening. Holly is more toxic, so during the holidays you’d need to be careful about it. Even mistletoe is not as immediately life-threatening as other plants can be, but it’s still advisable to keep it out of the cat’s reach. During the winter holidays, as well as in the spring, again it’s the lilies which are really the most dangerous.

When it comes to house plants and cats, the important thing is to do your research and choose plants that are safe. Then you can make your home a literal jungle if you like, and spend your time worrying about how to protect the plants from your cat, rather than the other way around.

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