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A Nibble-Proof Guide to Houseplants

A Nibble-Proof Guide to Houseplants
Having had both cats and houseplants for most of my adult life, it was never an issue before…until Cookie arrived on the scene.

Pets and plants have a lot in common, water and feed as needed and they will give you so much in return! Both have proven benefits for wellbeing and mental health and look great in any home décor. A room with some added houseplants and a snoozing feline or pup in a corner just feels that little bit more cosy and complete. 

It can be challenging to protect your precious plants from unwanted nibbling, and more importantly to ensure that your pets don’t get an upset tummy or worse. Some cats and dogs are just not interested in plants, and happily co-exist looking mighty photogenic next to your Monstera Deliciosa. I always assume that it’s these pets we see in those swoon worthy Instagram posts with their picture purrfect interiors. Or maybe they get whisked away from the plants as soon as the meowdeling session has finished?

Having had both cats and houseplants for most of my adult life, it was never an issue before…until Cookie arrived on the scene. Perhaps it’s her time as a street cat that’s made her think of plants as a potential food source (nibbling incidents usually happened when breakfast or dinner was slightly overdue). It was clear who the culprit was, when she threw up some green bits about half an hour later. For other cats and dogs, it can be curiosity or playfulness that motivates them to chew the greenery. It’s said that Spider plants contain a hallucinogenic that affects cats in as similar way to catnip, so maybe your kitty is chasing a natural high when they chew on those long, grass-like leaves?

 

The nibbler in question, Cookie

The Nibbler in question, Cookie.

 

Plants in the Aroid family (which includes all Monstera and Philodendron species) contain calcium oxalate, which can cause painful irritation and swelling when chewed or ingested. Another plant family to avoid are Lilies, which can even cause kidney failure in cats. As the pollen can become air born, I never have them in the house at all, better safe than sorry. If your cat ever ingests part of a Lily, get them to the vet as soon as possible. With any worrying situations, it’s a good idea to take a picture of the plant or flower your pet has chewed, to show your vet and help them decide whether any treatment is needed. Or if you’re in a hurry, just grab the whole plant and bring it along! 

There are too many problematic plants to list here, but you can use this factsheet from the DogsTrust for reference, and Cats Protection has very helpful information here.

Plenty of creative solutions exist to display plants out of reach, such as terrariums or high shelving. Keep an eye on vining houseplants, as they can quickly grow to be accessible again. 

Are there any plants that are 100% safe to have around your cat or dog? Yes, there are! Calathea, Banana plants, Peperomia and Fittonia to name but a few, and my personal favourite Pilea Peperomioides aka the Chinese Money Plant. This one has the added benefit of being very resilient. If you end up with some damage, just wait for a few new leaves to grow from the middle of the plant, and then remove the offending ones. 

For now, my variegated Monstera and other potentially hazardous plants have been confined to the home office, where they are safe from small teeth. It’s like a mini jungle in there, and the other cats are welcome to hang out with me and help reply to our Aardvark customer queries. The little Cookie monster has a cat bed just outside the office door, sadly she just can’t be trusted. (Don’t worry, she doesn’t miss out on cuddles, as she’s glued to my lap most evenings!)

by Bonnie van den Bremer