Any ideas for a plant my cat won't eat?

kim_b_2010November 9, 2010

Hi Again!

So, I have an extremely unruly cat. He has eaten more plants than I can count. He once chewed an 8" tall palm down to a 1" nub while I slept. Did I mention it was right on my nightstand?! I love plants and my houseplants are what really keeps me going between outdoor gardening seasons. He seems to leave Jades alone for the most part. Though, he killed my last one by snapping the stem. Still don't know how he did that without knocking it over. He'll snack on the Pothos, but only a half-leaf at a time, so those are surviving. He completely avoids the Aloe and he left my Snake Plant alone for 7 years before he decided to taste it. I bought it before I knew it was poisonous and adopted it out to my Dad as soon as I saw the tiny bite mark. I'm thinking the succulent family is my best bet, but he did snatch a section off my Thanksgiving cactus to bat around.

I was just wondering if any of you have had the same problem and have any suggestions on which plants animals don't find tasty. I don't want to poison the little booger, but I have contemplated getting some cacti to teach him a lesson. ;)

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P.S. If there is a spray or something safe for use on plants, that would be great, too!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 9:43AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

If you google 'non-toxic house plants', you'll probably come up with hundreds of plant lists from different sources. I suggest that you study several of these lists, in order to get a consensus. Some plants on such lists may be safe for children and puppies but NOT for cats, for example.

However, since your kitty seems focused on eating and destroying your plants, you might want to consider going plant-less. And give him lots and lots of other things to chew on. ;-)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 12:09PM
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ymaddox(ky 6)

not sure this would work but would be worth a try. why not plant some catnip for your cat in a couple of pots maybe he will be drawn to that and leave the others alone. just a suggestion.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 1:04PM
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Thanks guys. I've tried planting catnip and cat grass. It only temporarily distracts him.

I got the Snake Plant before I knew it was poisonous. I thought I was fine because he never bothered with it. Then, out of nowhere, I found a tiny bite mark on it and got it out of the house that day.

I'd hate to have to go plant-less, but I know that may be my only option. :(

At least I have a nice big window sill at work!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 1:24PM
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Kim, my cat would 'kneed,' 'munch' and a couple times 'wee-wee' on certain plants. Especially a Dracaena 'Corn Plant,' with large cane.
Two things worked. One. I sprinkled Cayenne Pepper around the rim of the pot. For large plants, I cut a piece of cardboard in half, then made other slits for the trunks.
The pepper works great and will NOT harm a cat. They detect the scent several feet before heading for a plant, and make a U-Turn. lol.

Believe me, I am a pet lover, and would never, ever abuse a cat, dog, or bird.
Maybe you should try a little pepper, see how it works.

Are you familar with Cat Fancy magazine/website? They have a list of toxic plants, 'for cats.'
Someone above mentioned some plants may not harm a human or dog, but will make a cat sick. That is correct. Check Cat Fancy and search, Toxic Plants. Toni

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 1:32PM
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Thanks Toni!

Just tries posting and I fon't think it worked, so bear with me if I'm asking this twice.

Do you sprinkle the pepper around the outside of the pot, or in the dirt?

Also, trust me...I don't want to make my cat sick either...even though he is a little booger. ;) I will check out the Cat Fancy list before buying anything.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 1:53PM
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Uh...yeah, that first line should be "I just tried posting and I don't think it worked...."

It's tough having fast thoughts and slow fingers.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 1:54PM
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LOL, problem. Sprinkle closest to the rim, 'on the soil,' closest to the edge..The pepper won't hurt your plant or cat..Cats dislike the smell, and most won't walk a foot near the smell.
A little pepper does fine..Just enough he can smell it.
Is he smart? lol..The smarter the kitty, the faster he'll make that

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 5:53PM
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Hey there Kim. The only thing my cat wouldn't touch were geraniums. I think she didn't like the texture of the leaves. Anything else I wanted to bring in had to be hung out of reach. But hey, at least a geranium can bloom in winter with enough light! Hope this helps, Pet out!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 6:10PM
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Bitter Apple is a spray sold at most pet stores/vet offices. It won't hurt the plant you spray it on, but it does taste nasty.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 6:48PM
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Alas, Toni, he's not the brightest bulb on the Christmas Tree! I think he'll catch on to this pretty quick, though.

Petpalikali, when I try to hang or place things out of reach, he just tears apart the house jumping for them. He is a 16 pound wrecking ball.

Nancy, I was thinking about that bitter apple spray, but I wasn't sure if it would harm the plants.

This cat isn't going to know what hit him. ;)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 7:45PM
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Kim, do you have a pic of your cat?
He sounds like a Major-Energy-Ball of Fur. lol.
What a handful. Many cats like plants that hang, especially Spider Plants with babies. They'll stand on their back legs to reach. And you how cats are? Very patient. Will sit, stalk or whatever to get something they want. lol.

The cat/plant question has been posted over the years. I believe someone mentioned Bitter Apple in the past.
As far as I know, the stuff is harmless and natural. Heck, it might even prevent certain plant bugs from attacking.

I can't remember which spray it was, but one isn't to be sprayed directly on an item like furniture, plants, etc..instead it's sprayed on a patch of material, then placed on the item cats like to play around.
Read directions before purchasing.

Either or, both products are natural, therefore cat/plant/human won't be harmed, unlike chemicals.

Funny about Geraniums..there are many scented types. Scents that deter cats from nibbling, including an Apple Scented Geranium, which is ironic.

The problem w/CatNip is, a cat cannot distinguish one plant from another. If he/she is given a plant to nibble on, wouldn't you say they'd think all plants are theirs? It's like giving a puppy an old sock. They don't know the difference..if a second sock is lying around, they'd think it was okay to chew/play with..just my opinion. Toni

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 3:19PM
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This is my long haired Calico, Sexy. She is the well behaved one...unless you pet her in a way not up to her standards, then she'll cut you.

Here's the stinker, Frankie. He's 16 pounds of mischief! Here he is lounging on my laundry a few years ago (he's much fatter now).

And here he is just last night sticking his big, fat head where it shouldn't be while I was trying to take a pic of my new Aloe...

I have more pics at home, but this is the best I can do for now. I tried researching what kind of cat he is. Russiam Blue and another breed I can't think of were pretty close. No one knows who the dad is and his mom was black, but he has THE softest fur I've ever felt. It's almost like rabbit fur. His paws almost look silver. He's very sweet to me, just not my plants...or anything else I leave laying around. He's seven! I thought he would calm down! If nothing else, he's endlessly entertaining and good for a cuddle sometimes. :)

I'm going to try a combination of the pepper and the bitter apple spray. I'm thinking I can just sprinkle the pepper along the sill of my garden window in the kitchen. Any other plants around the house will get bitter apple spray. I can't wait to have green in my house again!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 4:04PM
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I feel the same way about catnip, Toni. I couldn't have said it better than the dog/sock analogy. Sure, he'll eat that first, but how is that teaching him to stay away from plants? If anything, it encourages them to taste everything green! My plan was to grow some so I could pluck off leaves and give them to the cats...but he found it first.

I brought my geraniums I've over-wintering right into the office. I didn't even give him a chance.

If he just grabbed a leaf here and there, I wouldn't mind so much, but he has chewed plants down to a nub.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 4:11PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hey Toni,

"The problem w/CatNip is, a cat cannot distinguish one plant from another."

Of course they can tell the difference, cats have very strong senses of smell. I believe what lights their fire to start abut the catnip is its smell.

In my parents' home we had both cats & plants. From time to time we'd catnip the cat(s) & they NEVER went after the plants.

How do you think cats would be able to hunt if they couldn't smell???

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 5:54PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I, too, immediately thought of Catnip or some other plant that cats enjoy - like Chives.

Not all cats respond to Catnip the same, perhaps that accounts for Toni's experience.
According to one of Wikipedia's references, only about 2/3 of all cats will have the typical response.
And, because the trait is hereditary, most cats in Australia do not share the reaction.

*Turner, Ramona (May 29, 2007). "How does catnip work its magic on cats?". Scientific American. Retrieved February 14, 2009.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 10:09AM
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Kim, beautiful kitty-cats..Sexy has a distinctive Calico face, and Frankie looks more Russian Blue than his daddy's breed.
I see what you mean now, how Frankie is approaching your new plant. Do you think he's jealous? How does he act when you play w/Sexy?
Does he watch when you work w/plants?
Does Frankie prefer one plant to another 'taste?' or does he figure, heck with it, I'll eat them all? lol

Karen, of course cats have a strong sense of smell, but it seems Frankie, 'Kim's cat,' likes plants in general, despite scent.
My cat would ignore catnip, but liked Spider babies and a tall D. Corn Plant..especially its caned trunk. He found it a great scratching post, and on occassion, even though his liter box was cleaned daily, would squirt the cane. That's the reason I placed cardboard atop the soil.

Josh, that's another thing. Did you ever give an older cat, toy catnip? Despite age, he/she will behave like a 7-wk-old kitten. Run around the house, jump, and play.
Frankie doesn't need a 'stimulant' that might make him more hyper. Unless he runs outside and 'mows' Kims front and back lawn. lol.

Of course, cats have different personalities. My last cat, Halloween, 'he passed away 2 summers ago, a few days after his 17th birthday,' didn't like catnip. I bought him CN twice, the last time ended up keeping it in the window as a house It didn't live.
On the other hand, in summer, he'd sit in the yard with me. He LOVED munching grass.
Josh, I'll check your link..Toni

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 4:50PM
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Thanks Toni! I could go on and on about her coloring. She's pretty and she knows it.

I don't think it's jealousy with Frankie. He generally doesn't care when I'm playing with Sexy or Jack (my dog). I think he just has to sniff everything new in the house and sometimes he decides they might be tasty.

I'm lucky, he has never "squirted" my plants. I do bring him out when the weather is warm once in a while. I stay right on top of him, but I let him go in the yard and munch the grass. The cat just likes his veggies.

I bought a few new plants today. I've been experimenting with the non-toxic ones. He went right after the palm even with the bitter spray on it, but he seems to be leaving the silver nerve plant far. So, the bitter spray is a bust. A little tip if you ever try it; hold your breath. If you even inhale a little through your nose, you'll taste it. Learned that the hard way. It's disgusting. I don't know how the cat can stand it.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 9:08PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Yes, he does look like mischievous devil. :)

Did he munch much on the palm or just sample? Perhaps after tasting he'll decide to pass on further sampling.

A couple of additional ideas......

Do leave him a windowsill or two to look out of but as for any other areas, try covering the sill with aluminum foil (slightly loose). Many cats do not like walking on it whether it is because of the feel or the sound it makes.

Do a terrarium. :)

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 10:03PM
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Kim, does Frankie eat veggies? Cooked or raw? Maybe he needs greens..cats/dogs sense this stuff.
They used to say cats don't need veggies, but notice many cats foods are now adding them?

It's good he doesn't have a jealousy problem. Coco, my smaller dog doesn't want me touching Sam, the larger dog.. But he's not jealous of the birds at all..thank God! There'd be

I accidently tasted bitter spray before, and you're right, it's terrible.
It's strange he stayed away from your Silver Nerve Fittonia. Did you use the bitter spray on it?

Are all your plants from the same nursery?? Just a thought. Toni

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 11:29PM
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Hi Paul,
It looked like he just sampled the palm. However, when I brought one of them out of the bedroom this morning (it broke into two plants when I went to re-pot it), he went right after it. He LOVES palms. He once chewed one about the size of my new one to a 1" nub while I slept.
He has all of the window sills they're not big enough to put a plant on, yet somehow he squeezes his big butt onto them.

I did spray the fittonia, but I also spoke too soon. When I got up this morning, there was a nibbled leaf. Hopefully he was just taking a taste. I'll find out when I get home tonight! I think he just likes plants that have grass-like leaves. His favorites are Palms and Bamboo (not the stalk, just the leaves). I'm going to try out all of these tips and see if anything works. You can get this gel now that has all the "green" nutrients that cats need. Maybe I'll try giving him that every day. He doesn't really go after veggies, so I don't think I can get him to eat them. The dog will get to them before he does. :)

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 9:11AM
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I have both a cat and 2 dogs....the dogs never do anything to the plants...but the cat has to go after my spider plants (I have never heard that they are poisonous and my cat has eaten a few blades and she is 21 years old never bother her) she never touches any other plant, so I keep them up where she can't get at them...
and to keep her on the floor and off where I don't want her I have trained her with pepper spray (any hot pepper sauce, a few drops in a cup of water this is used inside and outside on plants you done want anything biting and or eating) and scotch tape...cats smell the hot pepper and stay away and if they insist on getting up on the counter or table where ever you don't want them just lay pieces of scotch tape sticky side up...cats hate things sticking to them, so if they jump up on the counter and the tape sticks to them they think its there all the time and don't jump up there or where ever they have gotten into the boots only sleep on one of my dining room chairs and no where else...ooops in the dogs beds too....hope this helps you .....linda

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 10:32AM
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Kim, I think Frankie is jealous of your
Does he nibble on any other objects in the house? Furniture? Wood?

Cats are intelligent. Does he like toys? Perhaps you should get him a new toy..make a fuss over it. Goo-goo, set it somewhere and see what he does. He'll probably continue munching on plants, but think of it as an experiment.

We have two dogs. The younger, when younger, would eat my plants. He destroyed a number of succulents, in bowls I made. I finally put a divider between rooms. He finds a way to get inside, but no longer bothers plants.

As for toxic plants..Some plants are extremely poisonous, like Oleander, Brugmansia, Datura.
Ivy, 'Hedera Helix,' is supposed to be toxic. My friends bird, 'cockatiel' ate her entire ivy..This happened about 4 yrs ago. He's alive and well. I think it depends on the pet. I'm not saying we should feed our pets, way.
Most of my plants are poisonous. Every so often, one of my birds land on bothers me, and I grab them, FAST..but I'm sure they've nibbled on several throughout the years. One of my babies ate an Ardisia which is said to be was small, in a 3" pot, but he ate the whole thing..At the time I just brought it home from the store, set it on the counter..he flew to it, while I was putting groceries away. and nibbled to the soil. He's doing fine.
So, I wonder how toxic plants really are at times.
It was said Poinsettias are poisonous, but proven they're not..Still, I'd never let my pets intentionally eat one..Toni

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 4:41PM
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Geez, I guess I'm lucky. Got lots and lots of plants and mostly they ignore them. Except this one has some kind of cut flower fetish.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 6:49PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Toni, part of the problem is people tend to get paranoid. There are a lot of plants that are "poisonous" but only in large quantities. Then there are plants in which only certain parts are poisonous (take your garden variety potato for instance). Add to the confusion is the simple fact that just because a plant may be poisonous to us, certainly doesn't make it necessarily poisonous to other creatures or vice versa. Take chocolate -- it can be poisonous to dogs -- yet it isn't for us.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 7:18PM
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Okay, I bought the "Bitter Yuck" spray and it didn't seem to deter him.

I brought home crushed red pepper from work and he LICKED it!

I bought some cayenne pepper...he LICKED it again!

I am starting to think there's something wrong with his sense of taste. I was browsing through some OLD threads here yesterday and found another poor soul with a cat as determined as mine. She ended up using perfume....and it worked! I know chemicals could harm my plants, so I carefully misted around the plants hoping some scent would land on them. I used the stinkiest perfume I have. My house smells like grandma's perfume, but he seems to be leaving the plants alone!

In fact, he spent most of the night wandering around the house whinning and mourning the loss of his snacks! He tried a couple times to approach my brand new pothos and cringed back before he even got within a foot of them!! Yay!! I know my cat. He is pissed off, which I'm taking as a sign that it's working! Here's hoping this works for the long term. I just did this last night, so I'll have to check the plants regularly. I'll wash them and start over with a new plan at the first sign of 1.) Bite marks or 2.) discoloration of leaves.

Just wanted to give an update! Thanks to everyone for your suggestions!

Now, if I can only get him to stay out of the garden window...

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 11:12AM
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ifraser25(z11 Brazil)

If your cat is addicted to eating plants he probably has some kind of intestinal infection/ growth. He's trying to self medicate. Take him to the vet.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 9:43PM
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ifraser, I understand why you would say that, but this cat has been doing this with some plants for all of his 7 years and always received a clean bill of health from the vet. He may not be getting as much greens as he would like, but he is perfectly healthy....aside from being obese! :)

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 8:24AM
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I have an extensive collection of small and tree tropicals and 3 cats that live happily together. Over the years I've found that my cats only will try to munch on anything "fluffy" like a Spider plant or indoor palms. Plants with large or thick leaves they won't touch.

I actually buy 4" or 6" parlor palms for the cats to eat. When I get them home I wash them with vegetable wash and put them in pots by the cat food bowls. They love them. (True palms are from the grass family and are edible) Be aware, just like with eating grass, if they eat too much they will vomit. Cats love fresh greens, so it's best to give them ones they can eat so they leave your decorative plants alone.

To prevent peeing or digging in large tree size plants that have a lot of bare dirt, I plant pothos or other small plants to fill up the space. Never leave a large amount of easy access dirt to attract the cats. At the very least they will dig in it and get the dirt all over your floor. It's their nature, they can't help it. :)

Never have difenbachia, lilies or cycads in your home. These plants can be truly toxic/deadly to your pets. (Sego and Cardboard palms are cycads. Peace lilies are fine as they are not a member of the lily family) The pollen from lily flowers is especially toxic to cats.

Cats and house plants CAN live happily together.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 7:27PM
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