A Pet Parent's Guide to House Plants

As temperatures rise, sprawling arrangements of fresh flowers and inviting plants begin to decorate local storefronts and garden centers. Outdoor gardening is underway and people are bringing the sights of spring into their homes. As a pet parent, you may have some questions about what types of plants are animal-safe or potentially hazardous. To shine some light on the topic, Kate joins us for a Q & A. Kate is a longtime plant enthusiast and Animal Resource Counselor at Dakin. Here are her tips for success as a plant (and animal) caregiver.

Are there any common houseplants that should never be in reach of pets due to their toxicity?

There are several plants with varying levels of toxicity to pets. Before selecting a new plant for your home, visit the Pet Poison Prevention Line website for a comprehensive list of common plants. Plants within the lily family are extremely toxic to cats. This includes Peace lilies and the popular Easter lilies. Simply biting into a lily leaf or licking pollen off their fur can cause kidney failure. Plants in the Aroid family are especially popular right now and they include monsteras, anthuriums, and philodendrons. These plants are also toxic to cats due to the calcium oxalate crystals found in their leaves. For peace of mind, it’s best to keep plants out of the reach of curious pets.

What types of pet-safe houseplants would you recommend to someone just starting out in plant care?

Tillandsias, also known as Air Plants are straightforward to care for. They are very agreeable plants and do well with a simple, light misting. Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are also popular among beginners. While they are considered non-toxic, mixed reports show that cats can become ill if they’ve ingested a considerable amount. Spider plants grow fast and their cuttings root very quickly, making it a fun starter plant. African Violets and Hawthorias are also considered easy to care for. Keep in mind, the ease of care depends on the environment of your home. Different levels of light, temperature, and humidity require unique levels of care to maintain a plant successfully. If it doesn’t work out the first time, don’t feel bad!

What about things like "cat grass" and catnip plants sold in pet stores that are marked as pet safe and encouraged?

Although these items are non-toxic, they encourage a cat to interact with and nibble on plants. Reinforcing this curious behavior could lead the cat to interact with other plants they may come across in the home that are not safe for them to be around. When you care for many plants around your home, err on the side of caution when it comes to your pet developing habits around plants.

Kate has been caring for plants for around eight years and earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture. Her first plant was a small ficus that is now five feet tall and thriving. She enjoys the way plants can transform a space and said, ”I love knowing how much is going on inside a leaf. There are so many little cells scooting around, making things happen while the plant remains relatively stationary.”

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