Friday, May 13, 2011

Cats eating houseplants: Why do they do it?

This plant has clearly been a snack for my cats
In addition to having three indoor cats, three outdoor cats and a dog, I have several houseplants. I don't claim to be an expert at houseplant maintenance, by any means, but I have managed to keep several plants alive for 15 years or more. That's no small feat!

I have discovered, however, that one of my ferns has been suffering lately and dropping small leaves all over the table. I was about to pull out the big guns and repot the plant, when I noticed that all of the leaf destruction was occurring on only one side of the plant.

Next, I noticed Eamon up there, happily gnawing on fern salad when I was a few minutes late with his dinner.

Grrr.

Cats and houseplants often don't mix. Cats like to play with plant fronds that bend and weave in the wind, and they like to eat plants when their stomachs are upset. Mine like to stand in mine and romp around, which is why I only have spiky, tall plants.

The solution to the gnawing, for me, is this Bitter Apple spray. It's nontoxic, so it's safe for cats to eat if they choose to, but it really tastes terrible and most cats will avoid it at all costs. My fern also appreciates a good misting, so everyone wins.

I reapply every few days until the cats have broken the chewing habit, and then I put the spray away until it crops up again.

Many common houseplants are poisonous to cats and dogs. If your pets are gnawers, it's useful to review this list at least once per year and give away any plants you find on here to your non-pet-loving friends. Skip the spray and just give the plants away. Nothing is worth a trip to the ER for poisoning.