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The Chlorophytum Comosum, better known as the Spider Plant, is popular among houseplant enthusiasts and new plant parents alike. They’re easy to look after and care for, are known for their ability to purify the air in our homes, and, despite the creepy name, look stunning with their trailing stems and long striped leaves.
Unfortunately, cats also love the greenery in our homes and can’t resist having a nibble on the leaves. While this is fine with some plants, others are poisonous and can have nasty effects on your feline! If you’re a cat owner and a houseplant addict, it’s essential you know the answer to this question: Are spider plants toxic to cats?
Thankfully, these are one of the plants that are non-toxic for felines and are a great option for any pet parent wanting to inject some greenery into their indoor space. However, cats seem to have a preference for spider plants and love their long grass-like leaves, so it’s still best to keep it out of reach.
Through this article, I’ll talk more about spider plant toxicity, how you can keep your cat safe from houseplants, and what to do if your cat does get poisoned by a plant in your home.
Are Spider Plants Safe for Cats?
According to the ASPCA website, spider plants are non-toxic for cats, and they are also not poisonous to dogs or people either! This includes all different varieties of this popular plant, including the Bonnie Spider Plant, Hawaiian Spider Plant, and the Zebra Grass Spider Plant.
However, that being said, that doesn’t mean they come 100% risk-free. Spider plants can still cause stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting in our furry friends if they eat a large quantity of the foliage. Cats seem to be drawn to these plants, and so eating large amounts isn’t all that uncommon.
On top of this, there are also several studies that report that spider plants have mild hallucinogenic properties and so they can cause your cat’s behavior to shift. They may become a little more wild, energetic, and jumpy. Besides, thanks to the long stems and leaves, spider plants can easily become a tripping hazard for cats!
Therefore, while not poisonous, it’s best to keep your spider plant out of reach from your feline to keep them safe and healthy. But these are still a great option for anyone looking to inject some greenery into their living space.
Why Do Cats Like Spider Plants?
If you have several houseplants in your home, you may have noticed that your cat seems to have a preference for your spider plant over the other piece of greenery on show. This can be problematic because as just mentioned, while non-toxic, ingesting large quantities of the Chlorophytum Comosum can cause a stomach upset.
But why do cats like spider plants so much? There are actually several theories behind this.
Resembles Blades of Grass
The most commonly acknowledged reason is the shape of the plant’s leaves, which are very similar to long, thick blades of grass. In the wild, cats eat grass to help promote good digestion. Wider blades are known for producing a mild laxative effect, whereas thin blades can settle an upset stomach. It is therefore possible that your cat is eating your spider plant for the same digestive benefits.
Seen as a Play Thing
Whereas baby spider plants are only small, these plants also grow to have lots of long dangling leaves and stems, with new babies branching off. As you’re probably already aware, cats seem to love to play with anything that dangles in the air, and they could see spider plants as a new and exciting toy for them to play with.
The way that cats play with toys is similar to how they hunt their prey in the wild. They will stalk, pound, bat, chew, and lick their toys. This could explain why your cat is nibbling the leaves of the spider plant as it plays with them, especially if your cat is bored and needs more enrichment in its life.
Releases Opimum-like Compounds
Spider plants are also known to produce a compound similar to opium and so they are mildly hallucinogenic to cats. This mild hallucinogenic effect is completely harmless to felines, but will give them a euphoric high similar to how catnip does that they keep coming back for! This explains why they seem to prefer this plant over others. These hallucinogenic compounds also cause your cat to become a little jumpy and excitable, so watching they don’t get too carried away!
How to Keep Your Cat Safe From Spider Plants
Although spider plants are non-toxic, not poisonous, and don’t pose a major health risk for felines, it is still advisable to keep the plant away from your cat. Eating too much can make them feel unwell, and because of how much cats like spider plants, this can happen more often than you think!
Here are some tips on keeping your feline away from your spider plant to ensure they stay healthy and feel well at all times.
Keep Your Plants Out of Reach
This can be easier said than done, but keeping your spider plant out of reach is the most effective way to prevent our cat from eating it. One way to do this is to keep the plant in a room your cat doesn’t have access to. Alternatively, you could place is on a ledge they rarely climb, yet this is less effective; cats love climbing and there is nowhere they can’t reach with a little determination!
Hanging planters are also another great and equally effective idea. Plus, thanks to the way the leaves and stems fall and droop outwards and downwards, this is one of the most beautiful and aesthetically pleasing ways to display your spider plant anyway. Win-win!
Provide Plenty of Toys
One of the reasons cats are drawn to spider plants is because they dangle down and are enticing for cats to play with. It follows that an easy way to stop your cat from eating your spider plant is to provide them with plenty of toys that are much more exciting and entertaining than your plants!
The more variety you can provide your kitty, the better. Try to get some toys you can play with together, such as feather wands, toy mice, and cat kicker toys, which will help to keep your cat entertained while strengthening your bond. Aim for at least 15 minutes of play per day or more if you have an active kitten and you should see them less attracted to your spider plant.
For busy cat owners who are frequently out of the house, automatic toys for cats are a lifesaver! These will be electrically charged and run on their own accord, helping your cat to get the mental and physical exertion they need even when you’re busy.
Use Cat Deterrents
You can also use either physical deterrents or spray deterrents to try to put off your cat from eating your spider plant.
Physical deterrents are things like spike mats or double-sided sticky tape. These can be placed on the surface where you keep the plant pot. They won’t cause your cat any harm when they step on it, but it won’t feel nice on their paw pads. This can be enough to convince your cat to stay away!
Spray deterrents are exactly as they sound; liquids that you spray on or around the plant which repel your cat. Vinegar is a popular DIY option that cats are known to hate. Try mixing one part of white vinegar with two parts water and using this solution to spritz your spider plant. You can also try using water mixed with a few drops of citrus or lavender essential oils instead, both of which will also make sure your cat keeps its distance.
Alternatively, you can purchase deterrent sprays from pet stores. These are typically designed for preventing cats from scratching your carpet or furniture, but can also be used to keep them away from plants. I’d recommend misting the surface beneath the plant pot rather than the spider plant itself as the chemicals inside the spray may not be great for your plant.
Repel Them With Scent
Cats have an extremely good sense of smell and you can use this to repel them from specific areas or objects in your home – such as your spider plant! As their sense of smell is enhanced, strong and powerful smells can be extremely overwhelming and offputting. Examples of smells that cats hate include citrus, coffee, lavender, chili, mustard, mint, and rosemary.
With this in mind, try placing orange peel in the flower pot or on the shelf where you are keeping your plant. This will release a citrus scent that your cat will hate, helping to encourage them to keep their distance. Placing old coffee grinds in the soil is another effective solution.
Keep Your Spider Plant Pruned
As cats often enjoy playing with the abundance of foliage hanging from a spider plant, another way to prevent your cats from eating it is by keeping it pruned. Not only will this benefit your cat, but your plant will also benefit from regular pruning too. It helps to rejuvenate the plant and can keep the entire plant looking healthy.
When you are trimming your spider plant, always cut the leaves from the base using sharp scissors to avoid causing any damage. You should target the discolored, limp, dried, or damaged leaves first, leaving the healthy parts of the plant to flourish. You can then cut off the long or overgrown parts next. Try not to cut off more than 50% of the leaves at once though as this can be bad for your plant.
You may notice baby spider plants called spiderettes growing off the hanging leaves, too. These should also be removed by cutting the baby plant away from the mother at the base. The babies can then be repotted into smaller pots and, if well cared for, will grow into more healthy spider plants!
Signs Your Cat Has Eaten Your Spider Plant
Even if you try your best to keep your cat away from your spider plants, sometimes they persist and manage to take a bite. As spider plant toxicity is not possible, this isn’t the end of the world. Your cat may have an upset stomach or seem a little more excitable, but it is nothing to worry about as they are not poisonous.
That being said, it is sometimes good to know that your cat has ingested some of the spider plant to give you peace of mind that their sickness or changes in behavior are not down to anything more serious. Here are the signs and symptoms that you can look out for:
- Diarrhea or more watery stools in their litter box
- Vomiting if an excess of the plant has been ingested
- Jumpy and excitable behavior immediately after eating it
- Signs of stomach discomfort, such as lethargy or loss of appetite
- Bite marks on the leaves of the spider plant
Houseplants That Are Toxic to Cats
Although spider plants are safe to keep in your home if you have cats, the list of toxic houseplants is extensive, so long I cannot possibly list them all here! However, here are some of the most popular houseplants that could cause harm to your feline.
Ideally, you should not keep these plants if you have cats. However, if you must, it is advisable you keep your plants away from your cat, either in a different room, on a high shelf, or in a hanging planter. You can also use the deterrent methods mentioned above, and provide a lot of other stimulation for your cat, especially if they’re an indoor cat.
Otherwise known as the Zamioculas Zamifolia, the ZZ Plant is an extremely popular choice for many homeowners. It thrives even in poor conditions and is extremely forgiving if you accidentally forget to water it for a while or keep it tucked away in a shady corner. But, are ZZ Plants safe for cats?
Unfortunately, no! These hardy houseplants are poisonous to cats, alongside being poisonous to dogs and people too, and can cause toxicity when large quantities are ingested. The plant is also an irritant and can cause skin rashes and irritation, as well as a burning sensation in the mouth when bitten and chewed!
Of all flowering houseplants, Peace Lilys are one of the most popular. They are easy to care for but look absolutely beautiful, with dark leaves and unique flowers. However, they are also toxic to cats. They contain the same toxic compound as ZZ Plants – calcium oxalate – which causes similar sickness and irritation of the mouth when eaten.
Unlike ZZ Plants though, Peace Lilies are entirely safe to touch, but you should still be mindful if you have a cat. The pollen from the flowers can easily transfer onto your cat’s fur coat, and particles could be ingested when they are self-grooming. That being said, these are one of the safest lilies to keep with cats, as other varieties can cause kidney failure and death, making them a major threat.
For anyone wanting to inject a taste of the tropics into their home, Monsteras are an all-time favorite. This is again down to them being hardy and low maintenance, and their unique leaves with holes in – hence the nickname Swiss Cheese Plant – are loved by many. However, they are also not safe for cats. The calcium oxalates found in the leaves can cause sickness, diarrhea, and mouth irritation.
Although only mildly toxic to cats and dogs, Snake Plants need to be mentioned as they are extremely popular. They are loved for their ability to purify the air and the striking yellow edges of their long grass-like leaves.
Unlike the other plants I have mentioned so far, the toxic compound in this plant is saponin rather than calcium oxalate, but the effects it has on our felines are similar: nausea, vomiting, and sickness when ingested. If large amounts are eaten, there is also a risk that your cat’s throat can swell, making it more difficult for them to breathe.
The Sago Palm is a palm variety that has become popular at home. It is slow-growing and so many plant fanatics love seeing this houseplant grow from small to large over several years. However, all parts of this plant are toxic to cats and can be lethal, with the seeds being the most poisonous. It contains the compound cycasin which causes liver failure in felines when eaten.
Signs of Poisoning in Cats
It is important you know the signs of poisoning in cats so that you can get the medical attention needed and ensure your cat returns to good health. Different plants pose different health risks and affect different areas, but all will manifest in a similar way. Here are the symptoms to watch out for:
- Drooling or excessive salivation if the mouth and throat are affected
- Vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea if the gastrointestinal tract is affected
- Difficulty breathing if the airways swell
- Loss of appetite or difficulty swallowing if the throat becomes swollen
- Increased thirst and excessive urination when the kidneys are affected
Even if you don’t keep any toxic plants in your home, it is essential you’re aware of these signs. Outdoor cats can easily nibble on plants they come across on their adventures. Plus, you may be blissfully unaware that one of your houseplants is toxic – as I said, the plants I just mentioned are not a complete list, so it’s advised to check how poisonous each plant is before purchasing.
What to do if Your Cat Eats a Poisonous Houseplant
If you think your cat has eaten a toxic and poisonous plant, you need to react quickly to prevent complications. These are the following steps you should take:
- Stop your cat from eating any more: If you see your cat eating a toxic plant, stop them eating it and prevent them from gaining access to it again. Depending on the size of the plant, you may be able to pick the plant up and remove it from the room. On the other hand, for larger and heavier plants it will be easier to shut your cat out of the room in which the poisonous plant is located.
- Contact your veterinarian for professional advice immediately: Even if your cat seems to be reacting okay after eating a toxic plant, you should still call your vet immediately to ask for advice. They may tell you to not worry unless they start showing specific symptoms, advise over the phone, or ask you to bring your cat in for a check-up.
- Observe and write down symptoms: You need to document any symptoms that your cat has and the time you notice them. This will help your veterinarian offer treatment if needed. Although a little gross, if your cat is sick or has diarrhea then keeping a small sample to take to your vet can also help them with diagnosis and effective treatment.
Whether or not cats will recover from toxic poisoning depends on how quickly you act. The longer you leave it before getting medical advice, the further around the body the toxic compounds will have traveled, causing more damage the more areas it reaches. Most cats that receive prompt treatment will be fit and healthy again in no time.
Cat-Friendly Houseplant Alternatives
Opting for cat-friendly houseplants is one of the best ways to prevent plant toxicity in cats. It is great news that spider plants are not toxic to cats and that both the Chlorophytum Comosum and cats can live together in harmony. However, it isn’t your only option!
Here are some other great houseplants that are safe for cats and a fantastic option for pet parents.
Baby Rubber Plants
The Peperomia Obtusifolia, better known as the Baby Rubber Plant, is a great alternative to the spider plant. It is also easy to maintain so an excellent choice for beginner gardeners or busy plant parents, and it is also safe for cats. However, don’t confuse this plant with the Rubber Plant – this is toxic to both pets and humans!
If you’re looking to get some beautiful flowers into your home alongside some greenery, a Moth Orchid is a welcome addition and a safe option for anyone with cats. These are the most common type of orchid and have fresh blooms nearly all year round. They are not poisonous to cats when eaten, but excessive munching can cause stomach ache and vomiting.
While not all palm plant varieties are safe for cats, the Parlor Palm is one you can keep in your home with confidence. This is one of the best-selling houseplants across the globe and is non-toxic for cats, making it a great option for anyone with pets. An alternative would be the Areca Palm or the Ponytail Palm, both of which are also safe for felines.
Is a fern toxic to cats? Depending on the variety, they can be. This includes ferns such as the Asparagus Fern and the Fern Palm. However, the Boston Fern is the exception and a wonderful addition to any cat-friendly home. Other safe and non-toxic fern varieties include the Bird’s Nest Fern and the Stag Horn Fern.
Because ferns are excellent hanging plants, they are also easy to keep out of reach from your kitty by putting the plant in a hanging basket. Plus, as with spider plants, this is one of the most attractive ways to showcase your lush ferns!
The Maranta Leuconeura, also known as the Prayer Plant, is another wonderful option for anyone with pets. These are extremely attractive houseplants and never grow too large, making them ideal for going on your desk or a small shelf in your home. Besides, eating this plant won’t cause your curious cat any issues.
To summarize, are spider plants toxic for cats? No, they don’t contain any poisonous compounds and will not make your cat seriously ill, making them a great choice of houseplant for cat owners! So, are spider plants safe for cats? Well, not necessarily! While they don’t cause toxicity, they can make your feline feel a little sick if large quantities are eaten and the long leaves can act as a tripping hazard.
Unfortunately, cats seem to be drawn towards spider plants, so it is key you keep them out of reach from your feline wherever possible. There are also a whole host of other non-toxic houseplants to choose from that your cat may not show as much interest towards.
Before you purchase any houseplant check its toxicity and be sure you’re aware of the symptoms of poisoning and what to do in case of an emergency. Cats and houseplants can live together in harmony, you’ve just got to choose the right ones!