Living With Plants and Pets

20160126_123421[4]Keeping pets safe around house plants has been on my mind with the adoption of Chance, a charming, spirited feline. His only plant-related indiscretions (so far) have been a few nibbled leaves, a toppled jade and a snatched spider plant baby. Then there’s the twinkle in his eyes when he gazes up at the six-foot tall ficus tree, which makes me think he’s plotting something.

Ivy sitting by plants

Many find discouraging dogs and cats from digging or eating plants can be accomplished by moving plants to less trafficked areas; lightly covering the soil line with rocks, shells, or screening; sprinkling cayenne pepper or bitter apple spray around the leaves or lending the plant to a friend until the pet matures. Some cat owners grow wheat grass as a treat and a distraction from other plants.

If ingested by dog or cats, house plants can be toxic and trigger reactions ranging from mild discomfort (such as vomiting or diarrhea to release the toxin) to more serious illnesses. Some to be aware of are:

Dieffenbachia– Dogs and cats can react to eating leaves with intense burning in the tongue and mouth, difficulty swallowing, drooling and vomiting.

Corn Plant – the leaves contain saponin, which ingested in large amounts causes dogs and cats to vomit, lose appetite, have increased salivation and even show signs of depression. Cat’s pupils may also dilate.

Lillies – Many varieties, including peace lilies, are toxic to dogs and cats, although cats have more severe reactions including kidney failure and death if not treated. Easter  lilies and common florist varieties are very toxic to cats.


Peace Lilly

Often cat owners prefer not to bring lilies into their  homes.

Cyclamen – The tuber  (the pod-like structure just under the soil) contains the poison, not the leaves or flowers. Reactions can include abnormal heart rhythm and seizures.




  • DSCN0546[1]








Jade – Dogs and cats react to eating the fleshy leaves by vomiting, or in more extreme cases by losing coordination and a lowered heart beat.

The ASPCA website contains a far more extensive list of toxic and nontoxic plants for both home and garden.

Should your pet become seriously ill from eating a plant, promptly contact your vet or the  ASPCA hotline,888-426-4435.

Pets frequently out grow their plant-loving stage as they mature, although avoiding the most toxic plants will give you peace of mind  and keep your friend from temptation.

Any suggestions for keeping pets safe around house plants? We’d love to hear from you.

Submitted by Linda McDonnell, Denver Master Gardener, with thanks to models Ivy and Chance.


Comments are closed.