When it's cat versus houseplant, even the hardiest stems can fall prey to curious—and overly playful—felines. But plants can do plenty of harm, too. There is a long list of highly toxic plants to cats, including fruits such as grapes, herbs like chamomile, and flowers such as lilies, daffodils, and bird of paradise. March is National Animal Poison Prevention Month and is the perfect time to consider safer, pet-friendly houseplants: In 2021, plant poisoning was one of top five reasons that pet parents called the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' poison control hotline.
While catnip is probably the most well-known herbal stimulant for felines, there are many plants that can spruce up your decor without harm to your four-legged friends—though they may not have the same stimulating effect. Catnip's active ingredient is nepetalactone, which can cause your cat to drool, roll around, meow, rub, and act playful when inhaled. In others, it can cause the opposite effect and make a cat mellow and sleepy. However, catnip has no effect on about 20-30% of cats. Interestingly enough, the response is hereditary.
There are some plants that may come close to eliciting a similar response, and many are simply pleasurable for cats to bat at, chew, or smell. But before getting a cat-friendly houseplant, keep in mind that excessive playing or chewing can severely damage plants. Limiting how much cats eat and nibble is also a good idea for your enthusiastic pet—even when plants are nontoxic, ingesting any vegetation in large amounts can cause a cat to vomit.
To help you create a cat-friendly home environment, Wag! compiled a list of seven nontoxic plants that are fun for cats to play with and chew.