Wait—I Thought Cats Were Carnivores, So Why Is Mine Eating My Houseplants?

If you’re sitting around trying to figure out why your kitty does all the curious things he does, you may be sitting for a long time. Cats are enigmatic creatures whose behavior often bemuses their owners. Why is it that Luna insists on lightly tapping you on the tip of your nose every morning at 4:36 sharp, refusing to let you sleep in? How come Oliver goes from lying completely still in a Sunday window seat to suddenly zooming around the room 70 miles an hour for no apparent reason? Does Molly not realize those items she keeps pushing off your dresser to the floor are treasured keepsakes? Does she not even care that she’s already broken 3 this month? And why in the world, when cats are supposed to be strict meat-eaters, are they seemingly obsessed with your houseplants?

The truth is, like most cat behaviors, eating houseplants is a bit of a mystery even to the experts. Here are a few theories:

  • Your cat is bored, and engaging with wispy, wiggly houseplants is simply entertaining.
  • Cats use taste, smell, and touch to study their environment, and the fibrous textures of leaves might satisfy their curiosity.
  • When a cat is suffering from a tummy ache, he may instinctively eat plant matter in attempt to get relief by inducing vomiting.

Some plants are toxic to cats, so beware.

  • Your cat’s curiosity about your plants can lead to more than shredded leaves and toppled pots and soil all over your carpet. There are plants that are poisonous to cats that cause everything from drooling to vomiting to acute kidney failure and death.
  • As the pet owner, you must take precautions to reduce or eliminate your cat’s access to dangerous plants. That’s easier said than done given a cat’s proclivity to climb and explore. The safest policy for your indoor kitty is No Toxic Plants Allowed. Trying to keep them out of reach isn’t worth risking your cat’s health and safety. If kitty likes to play outdoors, familiarize yourself with the plants in your and your neighbors’ yards so if a problem should occur, you are armed with knowledge to help the vet treat your cat.
  • The ASPCA provides you with a helpful list of both toxic and harmless plants to keep in your home.

Fortunately, you can do some things to protect your cat.

  • Once you are familiar with some house plants that are safe for cats, you can include a few around your home. We love spider plants. They are pretty for you to look at, and fun for cats as well. Their long, dangly “spiderettes” are irresistible, and perfectly harmless for kitty.
  • Consider keeping a couple plants specifically targeted to cats. Grow a patch of wheatgrass. Cats love the stuff. Of course, you may occasionally step in an annoying little wet patch of it that they throw up, but it won’t actually harm them. All you need to grow your own wheatgrass is some wheat berries, a little potting soil, and a tray. Another option is to grow your own catnip! Your kitty will thank you for it, and you don’t even need a medical catnip card to grow your own!
  • Keep kitty engaged in other ways. The downside of a cat’s curiosity is that when the environment is under-stimulating, cats can quickly become bored. Provide plenty of appropriate cat toys around your home—and switch them out from time to time to keep things exciting. Hide treats in fun places in the rooms where you allow kitty to explore.

If you ever have reason to suspect that your cat has been poisoned by a toxic plant, act immediately. It is always wise to call the ASPCA Poison Control Center 888-426-HELP (888-426-4435) as soon as you notice symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or trouble breathing and walking.

Bring your cat to Ambassador Hospital ASAP—we provide emergency animal care services and are always happy to accept walk-ins. When possible, bring in the plant, or portion of the plant, you suspect your cat has eaten. The sooner we can treat your cat, the better her chances of full recovery.

Our pets are our family members, and as such, we want to do everything we can to provide a safe home environment for them. If you have any further questions about safe plants or other ways to cat-proof your house, call us today at 864-271-1112. We are here for you and your feline family.


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