Written by Rita Reimers, Multi Cat Behavior Expert
You’ve adopted a furry feline friend, he is a wonderful companion and all is going well. It’s all cuddles, purrs, and playtime. That is, until you begin to notice little chew marks on your plants or evidence that your cat has been digging in the planter!
Now you’re wondering if there is a way to have plants in your home without seeing them become your cat’s favorite snack food and/or play toy. You’ll be happy to know that with a little planning and some strategies designed to keep kitty away, you can have your plants and kitty, too.
It’s About Placement
Where you place your plants is an important part of the strategy for keeping kitty away. But where can you put them to keep them safely away from teeth and claws? After all, cats can, and do, climb up to high places, so placing your plants on a high self may not do the trick.
A safe place for your plants is in a hanging basket. Plants hung in high places with nothing around for your cat to climb on will eliminate the problem. You may see him sitting underneath the plant, looking longingly at the leave and vines. But without a way to climb up, your plants will be safely out of his grasp. This is an especially good strategy if you have plants that might be poisonous to your cat, such as those mentioned in Cat-proofing Your House.
Make Plants Unappealing
Another good strategy is to make the plants unappealing to your cat’s taste buds. Cats often enjoy the taste of plants, which is why he returns again and again to nibble. Since cats don’t like the taste or smell of citrus, make a spray of water and lemon, lime, or orange juice, and spritz it on your plants. Often the smell of the citrus is enough to keep kitty away. If he does nibble, one taste of citrus should prevent further plant snacking.
If the smell and taste of the citrus don’t keep him away, you can try using vinegar. Since spraying the vinegar on your plants could well harm them, soak cotton balls in a water and vinegar solution and place them on top of the soil. The smell of the vinegar will keep your cat away, break his habit of eating or playing in the plants.
Sometimes it’s not the eating of the plants that is the problem, but rather it’s the planter itself that attracts your cat. You may find him digging in soil, thinking the dirt is another litter pan for him. Be sure the soil your plant is potted in does not resemble the texture of his kitty litter. Also use of decorative rocks on top of the soil will derail your cat’s ability to dig into the planter.
Plants for Cats
If your cat simply cannot resist the tender leaves of young plants, then give him a garden of his own to eat. There are plenty of tender young plants you can offer to your kitty that are safe, and even good, for him.
Cat nip is, of course, the plant of choice in the feline world, along with the cat grass you can find at your local pet supply store. Your cat might also enjoy a cat grass plant, which you can purchase at most pet supply stores. Put these plants in some of your cat’s favorite places to lounge, and he’ll forgot all about your houseplants.
Schedule Daily Play Time
Often it’s the motion of swinging vines and leave that your cat cannot resist. Often, cats who are bored and have pent-up energy will attack plants with long dangling vines that swing in the air, the way he would go after prey in the wild.
Daily play sessions with your cat will help alleviate his boredom. Use a feather wand or fishing pole type toy he can chase as you wave it around. It should only take 5 to 10 minutes of intense vigorous play to get him to the point of exhaustion. Also be sure your cat has enough solo play toys, to keep him engaged and away from the plants (and other trouble) while you are at work.
Plant Distraction and Aversion
If you do find your cat going after your plants, distracting him from his mission is the goal. Toss a soft toy to him so he’ll be distracted and go after the toy instead. If you have no toy handy, clap your hands and loudly say his name or “no!” to get his attention. He will stop what he was doing and forget what he was about to do. Use of a water bottle to deter cats from going after your plants is a last resort to be used only when all else fails.
Once your cat learns that eating and playing with your plants is unacceptable and even unpleasant, he will stop doing it. It will take time and patience for him to learn, but with consistency and repetition, he will forget all about how fun and delicious he once found your plants.
Important to Note: Some plants are very toxic to cats, most notably Lilies and Poinsettias.
Please refer to this guide before adding plants to a household with cats, especially at holiday time: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLANTS THAT ARE POISONOUS TO CATS