We’re in week three of Happy Cat Month, created by the Catalyst Council to promote cats wellbeing and this week we focus on the Happy Safe Cat. There are many ways in which you can keep us kitties safe but we would like to talk about cat safe plants. Yes, we’re obligate carnivores but there’s not a cat in town that doesn’t like to graze on greens. It’s also officially the start of Autumn and we’re excited because the humans have begun setting up our watering hole/salad bar for winter. Essentially, this is when they bring the outdoors, indoors for the duration of the winter, during which time our catio is a blanket of white. The kitty salad bar is an area in the house where we like to lounge, groom, drink, share sun puddles and snack on our greens. There are many plants that appear on the toxic list and it seems that there are no safe alternatives for us cats. Cat grass and catnip are the most popular snacks on the menu, but I’m here to tell you that you can broaden your tastes, and that there are indeed many other safe varieties of plants that us Chirpy Cats have tried and tested. Of course, our plant-eating habit comes with leaving a few recycled remnants of regurgitation on the carpet, but fret not humans. Cleaning it all up is a very small price to pay for the precious purr therapy we provide to soothe your stressful living. By creating these little kitty garden watering holes around the house, you’re stepping up your cat environment enrichment game. Below, our big lady cat explains further on greening up our living spaces and tips on keeping us out of your plants. (as if!)
The kitty Salad bar and Watering hole
Providing cats with their very own lounging area with a variety of cat safe plants to chew on, is a great way to mimic the natural setting of what cats would normally encounter in an outdoor garden. A little nibble here, a sip there, perhaps a catnap for the afternoon? Your indoor cat will welcome it.
Where to set up the kitty salad bar
The ideal spot for the cats’ salad bar is somewhere near a South-facing window that gets a good sprinkling of sun puddles throughout the day. This is ideal in a multi-cat household where different cats will be time-sharing the same spot throughout the day. Even if your cat is not a lap cat, they still like to be in close proximity to their humans. So make sure the location is not hidden in some secluded spot where there is no human activity. The Chirpy Cats’ watering hole consists of a two tiered kitty bar stool with cat safe plants on either end. It is situated in the kitchen, next to a sunny south-east facing window in a high traffic area. It’s also the male human’s office during the day, so he’s in good company.
Things to consider when setting up the kitty salad bar:
- Arrange your plants on sturdy platforms so that there is little risk of being knocked over by over-zealous zoomies sessions. Multi-tiered plant stands are ideal, but ensure that they are secure and do not tip over easily.
- A pet water fountain in between the plants is a great feature to add to your kitty’s watering hole and also encourages drinking. I always notice my cats immediately heading towards the water after a catnap or grazing session. During winter most heated indoor environments are dry in winter and the fountain also acts as a mild humidifier for the plants around it. Ensure that the water is always fresh and change filters regularly.
- If you have space for more plants, double up on a kitty favourite. I know that our cats go for the Carex grasses and spider plants, so I have these in abundance which I bring inside for the winter. I place them at various levels so that it’s easily accessible to multiple cats.
- Spider plants can be placed directly overhead the watering hole in hanging baskets as well as on lower levels in pots. This plant has a two-fold function. With its attractive variegated foliage, the spider plant is known for its air purifying qualities, a fantastic choice for the indoor environment (see NASA’s study on plants for indoor air pollution). The cats like the taste of the spider plant and the long dangling spiderettes (spider plant babies) which grow outwards, provide a little amusement for kitties. Spider plants are said to have a subtle hallucinogenic effect on cats, similar to catnip, but this effect is completely harmless.
- Very important: Even though a plant may be listed as non-toxic, always watch for over-indulgence. Any plant eaten in excess may cause upset stomach and diarrhea, and if your cat seems to gravitate towards one particular plant a little too often, perhaps it’s best to elevate the offending plant or remove it from the snack menu altogether.
Plants Toxic to cats
Plants and herbs that are safe include:
- Spider Plant
- Polka Dot Plant (does not mind shade but keep away from heat)
- Catnip (best grown outdoors in full sun, but still worth a try indoors)
- Oat Grass
- Wheat Grass
- German Chamomile ((Matricaria chamomilla) NOTE: English Chamomile is toxic to cats
- Boston Ferns
- Money Tree
- Lemon grass
- Iresine Purple Lady
- Swedish Ivy
- Ming Aralia
How to keep your cats from eating your house plants
We have a money tree and a Cordyline plant next to their watering hole and Jimmy likes to test the waters and tries his luck at chewing the leaves. The kitty salad bar should keep your cat from munching on your other household plants, but if you have a persistent little grazer on your hands, like our Jimmy, here’s what you can do:
- Spray some bitter apple on the foliage of your plant where little paws can reach. Test on a small piece first, especially for sensitive plants.
- Mix water and lemon juice in a spray bottle and spray the foliage. You can also try a few drops of citronella oil mixed in water and use this to spray the plant – cats don’t like citrus and will literally turn up their noses if you flash a lemon under their noses – a good deterrent. Sometimes I leave a few pieces of sliced lemon in the pot plant and this has worked wonders.
- If all else fails, simply elevate your plants on higher plant stands or put them in hanging baskets. I have a mother-in-law’s tongue, also know as the Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) and this plant could cause upset stomach and diarrhea in cats and dogs, so it’s completely off-limits to our cats. I keep this plant in our bedroom as it is one of the top air purifying plants which give off oxygen at night and aids a good night’s sleep.
- Lastly, let’s not forget that we can always rely on our trusted cat herb, the good ‘ol nip. Sprinkle catnip on the plants at their watering hole and this is sure to make them keep coming back for more.
- Keep a can of coins handy and shake it whenever you see a grazer at your plants. What was that noise, let’s keep away!
Have you set up your indoor kitty watering hole for winter? If you know of any other plants or herbs that can be included on the safe list please let us know in the comments below.
I leave you with a video of one of our first kitty salad bars, I hope you enjoy it!
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