Cat-safe Plants

There is a tree that peers in on us from the kitchen window while we do the dishes. It is a swaying flotilla of leaves and branches – something of a pirate ship skippered by a crew of brawling mynahs – a constant source of entertainment for Cas.

Our new apartment will be above the tree line so as compensation for keeping her in captivity, I’ll be using the extra space we’re gaining to bring more of the outside in for the cat to play in. Here are a few cat-safe indoor plants, basic care instructions and decor inspirations.

Cat-safe, air-purifying plants

Other than being entertaining, plants help purify the air – this is especially useful if you keep the windows closed to prevent the cat from falling out of one (note: it’s not advisable to have plants in bedrooms as they do release more carbon dioxide at night).


African violets – Description: Furry-leaves; flowers vary from white to dark purple. Care: Humidity encourages flowering. Avoid pouring water on leaves. Place: Ideal for bathrooms and kitchens.

Wax begonias (Begonia semperflorens) – Description: Perennial plants with flowers coming in red, pink and white. Care: Prefer bright shade; keep soil evenly moist Place: Great in flower beds or pots.

BromeliadDescription: Exotic looking single flower plants. Care: Thrive on neglect. But metal can be toxic to them. Blooms only once, but each flower lasts 2-3 months. After flowering, the plant stops producing leaves but will grow baby plants that will grow and flower in 2-3 years. Place: Anywhere

Boston FernDescription: Brushy green fronds. Care: Likes consistency; not too wet or dry; Medium or bright indirect light. Place: Well-lit area indoors, good pollution-fighting variety.

Fig (ficus benjamina) – Description: Quirky tree with large characteristic leaves Care: Best to re-pot to one at least 2-inches larger every 2 years; sensitive to changes in position; keep soil moist, use fertiliser every 3 weeks or so Place: Needs bright sun about 3-4 hours a day; best to be in the center of the room, not by a large window.

OrchidsDescription: Simple large waxy leaves and characteristic flower. Care: Moth or butterfly orchids (Phalaenopsis) and Dendrobiums prefer indirect light. Ideally, water every three weeks if the orchid is planted in moss, every other week if planted in bark. Don’t let pots stand in water; roots can rot. Pansy orchids (Miltonias) like their roots constantly damp but never soggy. Place: Dining or seating areas within the home.

PalmsDescription: Spikey plant with multiple long thin leaves e.g. kentia palm (Howea forsteriana), lady palm (Rhapis excelsa) and robellini palm Care: Regular weekly watering schedule. Prefer distilled or filtered water and occasional misting. Place: Need space as well as indirect light.

Other recommended indoor plants that are non-toxic to cats include:

  • Prayer plant (Maranta) 
  • Ribbon Plant (Anthericum Comosum)
  • Miniature Roses
  • Spider plant (Chlorophytum)
  • Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus)
  • Wandering Jew (Zebrina)

Tips

– If your cat enjoys nibbling your plants, you might try a natural non-toxic repellent spray such as Bitter Apple or Bitter Orange from a petstore (great for preventing wire-chewing and furniture scratching too). Some people have also suggested chili powder and pepper.

– Don’t use mulch in the pots as your cat may use your plant as a litter box. If this has already happened, you could try placing aluminum foil or large flat stones in the pot or using a deterrent scent such as lavender, mint, or citrus (or mothballs in a jar with small holes poked in its lid – BEWARE as mothballs are toxic to cats).

– If all else fails, go for hanging plants instead.

Fern at Life on the Balcony offers a host of great apartment gardening tips.

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