Houseplants & Cats: 5 hacks for a stress free indoor jungle

Houseplants and pets don`t always go together, for many reasons: from curiosity to playfulness and even boredom, sometimes our fur babies can consider our plants fun toys that enrich their interest.  This is especially true when it comes to cats. Being natural-born predators, frisky playful cats that hunt down everything that wiggles indulge in their favorite activity of playful pouncing, or in this case, chew or scratch our indoor plants.

This is not always a good idea since some of the common plants found on the market today can cause anything from irritation of the mouth and throat to abdominal pain, cardiac arrhythmia, respiratory depression, and even death, ouch! For this reason, pet proofing our apartments is important not only to keep our potted plants safe from our pets but vice versa.

As a disclaimer, the concept of pet-proofing in my opinion only applies to the following:

  • Non-toxic plants that do not possess a threat to your pet but are at risk of being chewed or scratched.
  • Plants with mild toxic elements.

And I do mean MILD! Lilies might be pretty but they will cause severe kidney problems in cats, even if they ingest very small amounts. Ergo, plants that include life-threatening toxic principles such as :

  • Autumn Crocus
  • Azalea
  • Cyclamen
  • Lilies
  • Oleander
  • Daffodil
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Sago Palm
  • Tulips and Hyacinths

That posses life-threatening toxins have no place in our homes, they are just not worth the risk. Furthermore, it’s probably not a good idea to allow your cat to eat any of your house plants, keep in mind that even non-toxic plants can give your pet an upset stomach.  They can cause drooling, vomiting or diarrhea if they eat too much of it since they are carnivores and their digestive system can’t take one that much fiber. For more info on the matter, I encourage you to check out the ASPCA (n.d) –“Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List”, the PET POISON HELPLINE, and always your local veterinary for assistance if you suspect something serious.

And I can’t stress this enough, research any individual plant before you purchase. This is important because not only do we need to identify if a plant is toxic or not but also to determine what type of toxin we are dealing with. For example, a mild toxin such as insoluble calcium oxalates ( IO), that consist of sharp crystal-like formations found in many houseplants today can vary in type and amount present in specific plants.

Alocasia, Spathiphyllum, Epipremnum, Philodendron, just to name a few, contain a type of IO (insoluble calcium oxalates) crystal formations called raphides (needle-shaped crystals). In the lack of a better phrase, these plants are cacti in disguise as lush foliage. And if your cat were to chew on such a plant, an immediate painful oral reaction would occur, depending on the quantities ingested and type of plant (some can have a higher concentration of crystals than others). Following the cacti analogy, depending on how many sharp needles were ingested through the plant foliage the more severe the clinical signs, hence why when you first google these babies you find out that ingesting them causes: “Oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing”- ASPCA(n.d) – “Alocasia”Because they were not meant to be pricked with, pardon my pun.. hehe! So better display them out of reach of our feline royalty, just in case they might feel a bit peckish. Onward to the tips and tricks.

1. Detective Work

Nothing your cat does is without a reason and understating their perspective is key to pet-proofing. There are a number of reasons why cats choose to chow down on houseplants and the first step is to exclude medical reasons such as intestinal parasites, a dietary deficiency, constipation, and even a stressful environment. After this, the next thing to consider is quite simple, behavior, boredom to be more exact. Yes, cats get bored too. Never underestimate the importance of playtime and getting out all that energy in a constructive way. That includes plenty of exercises and play with your feline companions. This is not only an important bonding exercise for you and your pet but it also drains them of the energy that they would normally spend chewing on your plants. A happy and content cat cannot exist without playtime; not only it is beneficial for their physical and emotional health but also for you and your plants. It’s like this: NO chewing on the plants, YES chasing and chewing on their favorite toy.

Remember, cats are motivated by their primal instincts to hunt, catch, kill, and eat. They need to release this energy, and if they don’t, that’s when some pesky behavior can start (scratching furniture or your legs, knocking things off the shelves, etc.).- Jackson Galaxy ( Jan 10th 2018) –RESOLUTIONS FOR A HEALTHY CAT: PLAY THERAPY

Understanding the concept of “Play Therapy” (Jackson Galaxy ) is very important since you cannot have a happy jungle without a happy cat.

 

Being in tune with your cat’s behavior and knowing where their interests lie, is one of the most important pet proofing skills and hacks that one can possess. It ensures that we know exactly how they interact with their environment and our houseplants. Of course, if you are not 100% sure if your cat is going to chew on a plant that can cause mild irritation of the mouth of GI distress, then these tips should help.

2. Vertical perspective

Nothing says jungolow style more than decorating your wall space with plants.

From decorating your high shelving with beautiful hanging foliage to break that vertical line, to actual mounting plants on your walls and adding some hanging planters for that tropical feel, these are just some tips to ensure that the plants and your pet never come into contact with each other. I own two beautiful Ceropegia Woodii plants and while they are considered non-toxic for pets, my boy loves to play with anything that looks like string and string of hearts falls under that category. So up they go on to our DIY shelves where they can enjoy some peace and produce chlorophyll without fear of being pounced on by our very energetic boy.

3. Enclosed terrariums & Bio-active vivariums

Terrariums are a versatile and stylish way to display our prized plants, from glass domes to mini greenhouses and display cases, they not only provide some much-needed humidity for our plants but also provide a barrier between cat and plant with no worries that our pets can get into trouble. 

Taking the concept of terrariums to another level, bio-active vivariums are, in my opinion, engineering works of art. With more tutorials nowadays, on the world wide web, than ever before, vivariums are small or large scale replicas of fully functional ecosystems.

4. Display cases

Display cases are not only great design pieces,  depending on your home aesthetic but they also give us the ability to show off, as well as protect our plants without fear that they might come in contact with our pets.

5. Bonsai (keep them small and manageable)

In short, the art of bonsai is an ancient practice that aims to mimic the grand majesty of mature established trees in miniature form, through various cultivation techniques. This concept can be adapted to pretty much most plants, and I believe that it can be of use for pet-proofing by pruning and shaping our mild toxic plants so they keep their lush shape while being manageable in size and easier to display using the tips discussed above.

REFERENCES

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10 Houseplants that love water – Of Greens And Fluffreply
March 26, 2019 at 23:38

[…] calcium oxalate (mild toxicity), keep out of reach of pets and children. Check out our article HOUSEPLANTS & CATS: 5 HACKS FOR A STRESS-FREE INDOOR JUNGLE for some pet proofing […]

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