Even if curiosity doesn’t kill the cat (or the dog), it could make either one mighty sick, or at least uncomfortable if they chew on or ingest certain indoor and outdoor plants that are toxic to pets. Effects can range from mild oral irritation to poisoning, with variables being the type of plant and the quantity consumed as well as the size and weight of the pet. So does that mean you either have to give up the plants you love to keep the pet you love or give up the pet and keep the plants? Fortunately, you don’t have to give up either one. Pets and plants can coexist safely inside and outside of the home. You just need to smart and aware and sometimes a little creative.

The first step is to know what types of plants you have (or plan to purchase) and whether they are harmful to pets. Examples of toxic plants to watch out for include dieffenbachia, philodendron, hyacinth, pothos ivy, elephant ear, yew, oleander, foxglove, mountain laurel, begonia, tulips and lilies, to name a handful. Beware, too, that it’s not just the leaves of plants that can be toxic. Take the oleander, for example. With this plant, all parts of it—leaves, stems, roots and flowers—are toxic. Also toxic in their entirety are azalea, laurels and rhododendron. Some pet-safe plants include bird’s nest fern, tropical bromeliads, wax plant, spider plant and African violet. For some plants, such as jasmine and lantana, it’s the berries that are toxic. And some plants are toxic to cats but not to dogs and the other way around. To know if a specific plant is toxic or safe for your pet, check out the ASPCA’s “Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List” at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants?.

Now that you’re armed with some knowledge, you can take some steps to keep your pets safe. If you have a hard-to-control or overly curious cat or dog that likes to explore anything and everything, you might want to consider getting rid of harmful plants inside or outside your home. If that seems a bit too draconian, you can try some less drastic strategies such as displaying the plant in a hanging basket that’s out of reach of curious cats and dogs or putting the plant on a high shelf or ledge. It’s also a good idea to keep a watchful eye on your pet and to discourage or control potentially dangerous behaviors around toxic plants if you choose to keep them around. Another strategy is to transplant toxic outdoor plants to a part of the yard to which pets can’t gain access. For plants that are too big and difficult to move, try erecting a fence around the plant to keep curious pets out of harm’s way.

It may take a little work and a little creativity and even an investment in some alternate plants indoors and out, but it’s a small price to pay for ensuring that your beloved cat or dog can live in harmony with plants that beautify your home.


Aguirre, Holly. “Keeping Cats Safe in the Garden.” HGTV.com. n.d. http://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/keeping-cats-safe-in-the-garden.

Aguirre, Holly. “Garden Safety Tips for Dogs.” HGTV.com. n.d. http://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/garden-safety-tips-for-dogs.

Asbell, Steve. “Keeping Pets Safe around Plants.” Zillow Porchlight. June 25, 2015. https://www.zillow.com/blog/keeping-pets-safe-around-plants-178902/.

Hofer, Marie. “Keeping Pets Safe: Poisonous Plants.” HGTV.com. n.d. http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/keeping-pets-safe-poisonous-plants.

Holdefehr, Katie. “5 Pet-Safe Plants (& How to Keep Your Furry Friends Away from Them, Anyway). Apartment Therapy. May 23, 2016. http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/5-pet-safe-plants-and-how-to-keep-your-furry-friends-away-from-them-anyway-230807.

“Plants and Pets: Our 10 Favorite Pet-Safe Indoor Plants and 7 to Avoid.” Pistils Nursery. January 22, 2015. http://pistilsnursery.com/pet-safe-indoor-plants/.

“Protect Your Pets from Harmful Plants.” HGTV.com. n.d. http://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/planting-and-maintenance/protect-your-pets-from-harmful-plants.