Pet owners, note: Many of the most popular indoor plants are toxic if ingested by cats or dogs. Philodendron, ficus, ZZ plants, and aloe can be problematic for your pet (a complete list of plant toxicity in cats and dogs can be found here). While you should keep your flourishing fiddle-leaf fig (part of the ficus family) out of your cat or dog’s reach, there are plenty of pet-safe options. “I generally tell people to prevent their pets access to houseplants, even just the fertilizer that the plant sits in can be a problem,” said Stephanie Liff of Pure Paws Veterinary. We spoke to plant experts and veterinarians to find out which plants are in fact safe for both cats and dogs, even if you’re dealing with a kitten who likes to chew.
ISA-certified arborist and environmental educator Ben Team of K9ofmine.com stressed the importance of shopping by scientific name when looking for pet safe plants. “Make sure that you identify plants properly before putting them in your home. Many plants go by several different common names, which can lead to serious problems.” For example the mint that we humans like to eat can be toxic to dogs and cats. But one common name for catnip (a safe and enjoyable plant for cats) is catmint, which is very different from peppermint or spearmint.
While some plants are safe for dogs and not cats (or vice versa), for simplicity’s sake, we’ve only included plants that are safe for both. And while it may seem obvious, Liff also stressed keeping your pets away from cacti or other spiny plants. “I recently saw a pug that ingested a cactus and had needles in his tongue and muzzle, so a plant may not necessarily be toxic but can be problematic.”
Just because something is safe for us humans to eat doesn’t mean it’s safe for animals (think about chocolate and dogs). So when it comes to the herbs your pet has access to, you want to choose wisely. “Most herbs are toxic to dogs and cats, except for basil,” said George Pisegna, deputy director chief of horticulture at the Horticultural Society of New York. “If your cat chews on basil it’s probably because they really like it. Not because it’s just something to chew on. It’s one of the few herbs that are safe for pets.”
At the top of every one of our experts’ lists of safe plants for pets was the spider plant. Joshua Woolsey, chief medical officer at the Humane Rescue Alliance, said, “A common houseplant that’s considered nontoxic to pets is the spider plant; however, it is important to remember that the ingestion of plant material and/or soil from nontoxic plants can cause gastrointestinal upset for animals and people.” So while chewing on the leaves a bit won’t hurt your pet, eating the entire plant (or any entire nontoxic plant) might give them some digestive issues.
Though many ferns are not safe for pets, the Boston fern is one of the exceptions. “There are many safe indoor plants that you can get,” said Sara Redding Ochoa, veterinary adviser for doglab.com. “Some ferns — such as Boston fern, bird’s-nest fern, and staghorn fern — are safe for pets.” And because it makes such a nice hanging plant, it’s easy to keep out of your pet’s reach.
Another favorite of Pisegna is the entire echeveria family of succulents. “Echeverias, which we call hens and chickens, are all safe for pets,” he points out. “They come in a huge variety of colors shapes and sizes.”
Hoyas are defined as semi-succulents, making them easy to care for and slow to wilt. They come in a ton of shapes and sizes all of which are safe to have around pets. “All the Hoyas are pet and human safe,” said Jesse Waldman of Pistils Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
You have to be really careful about certain flowering plants in your home like lilies, daffodils, tulips, and paperwhites (again check the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants before buying anything new). But one flower you can definitely keep around, according to our experts, is the African violet. “African violets are easy to grow and they’re a really safe plant — some cultures even eat the blooms,” said Pisegna.
The prayer plant was mentioned by both Team and Pisegna as a plant that’s safe for cats and dogs. It’s also very tolerant of low light — because of its origins on the floor of the Amazon rain forest — making it great for NYC apartments.
“The parlor palm, which is from Central America, and the butterfly palm, which is from Madagascar, are two safe palms,” said Pisegna, who told us that in general palms can be very iffy. And a few of our other experts recommended putting your palm in a big, tall, heavy pot to keep your pets from digging in it.
Lastly, if your cat just won’t stop chewing your plants, Waldman recommends putting them up high or in a room that’s off-limits. You could also get them a plant distraction. Pisegna said, “If a cat’s looking out the window and there’s a plant there, the cat will chew that plant. By getting some wheatgrass, catnip, or catmint, you encourage the cat to go there so they won’t go for other plants.”
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