Q&A: Can cats and houseplants coexist?

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Q: Help! I love having houseplants and I love having cats, but my cats won’t stop eating the plants. None of them are poisonous (I checked) but my cats are killing the plants and then throwing up. Any suggestions for how to deter them? Thanks! — Jamie H.

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Mychelle Blake, CDBC, pet trainer and deputy director of APDT in Las Vegas, writes: Is it possible to block access to the plants? If not, here are some other tactics that may deter your cat: [Editor's Note: It's important to check whether your houseplants are poisonous to your pets. To find out whether yours are check out our article Plants Toxic to Cats and Dogs.]

  • Make the area near your plants unpleasant when your cat approaches. You can do this with a motion-activated environmental deterrent (such as SSSCAT) which makes a noise or sprays a sudden burst of air when your cat gets near it.

  • Change the area around the plants to something your cat won’t want to walk on. Take a plastic carpet runner (like this one) and cut sections of it up — you’ll want it large enough so that your cat will have to step on it to reach the center. Place the plant pots on top of it in the center with the nub sides up — cats hate walking on that surface so this may deter them from moving toward the plants.
  • Provide alternative plants that your cat can chew. Placing plants that are ok for your cat to chew somewhere easily accessible to your cat makes it less likely he’ll go out of his way to reach — and eat — your other plants. You can buy fresh catnip and other cat grasses at most pet stores.
  • Make the plants smell bad. Cats hate the smell of citrus and they will often avoid plants if they notice the odor. Many pet stores sell citrus spray that you can buy to spray on the plants. (You can also make your own.)

Learn more about Petfinder’s Train FurKeeps program.

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