plant week

The Best Cat- and Dog-Safe Plants, According to Experts

Photo: Neo Vision/Getty Images/amana images RM

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.”

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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.

Rachel Barrack, founder of concierge NYC-based practice, Animal Acupuncture, highlighted Swedish ivy as one of the best safe plants to have in your home. As did Pisegna, who also mentioned that “it’s a really vigorous grower and super easy to propagate.”

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.”