Every homeowner with plants and cats knows the perils of having the two in the same vicinity. Curious cats will go to great lengths to munch on the leaves, stems, and petals of our prized plants. While we can quickly see the devastation our felines can do to our plants, the truth is that houseplants are just as likely to endanger our pets.
Moving your plants out of reach can keep everyone safe, but accidents happen—it’s hard to supervise your cat 24/7. At times like this, it pays to know which plants are toxic to cats.
Orchids are plants that belong to the family Orchidaceae, a large family known for its flowering plants with colorful, fragrant blooms. Orchids have become popular houseplants thanks to their unique and long-lasting flowers; however, those flowers are no match for a curious cat. So the question is: Are orchids poisonous to cats?
Are Orchids Toxic To Cats?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), orchids are non-toxic to cats. All members of the Orchidaceae family are considered feline-friendly and not poisonous to cats.
Even though orchids are non-toxic to cats, you still don’t want your feline companion making a meal of them. Nibbling on any part of the orchid or another plant will likely trigger an upset stomach and vomiting in cats. In addition, while orchids may not be poisonous, the chemicals in fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides can harm your pet. Always use organic, pet-friendly products on your orchid, especially if your cat has a penchant for plants.
If you suspect your cat has been munching on your orchid, monitor them carefully. Vomiting or gastrointestinal upset should pass within 24 hours; however, if you notice symptoms worsening or accompanied by other adverse reactions (unsteady gait, difficulty breathing, or seizures), it’s time to contact your vet.
Why Are Cats Attracted to Orchids?
Despite being obligate carnivores, plant-eating is common in cats of all ages. Wild cats regularly ingest plants; our domestic kitties also inherit this behavior. One theory suggests that cats eat plants when feeling unwell to induce vomiting or ease GI discomfort. Others suggest that eating plants is a means of expelling hairballs. Recent studies indicate that eating plants is instinctual, possibly linked to reducing a cat’s intestinal parasite load.
In the case of orchids, cats may be drawn to the smell, taste, or movement of the orchid. If your cat typically stays away from your orchid and is only recently showing interest, it could be a case of boredom or stress.
How To Stop Your Cat From Eating Your Orchid
If you’re trying to stop your cat from munching on your plants, a combination of prevention and behavior modification is your best bet. Here are some ideas to protect your precious plants from feisty felines:
- Cat-proof your plants: Move your plants out of your cat’s reach using high shelves ad hanging baskets. For extra acrobatic cats, you might need to move your plant into a cat-free room. You can also try deterrents. Put aluminum foil around the base of your plant (many cats don’t like the paw-fee of foil) or use a citrus spray (unappealing to cats) to keep cats away.
- Increase enrichment activities: Puzzle feeders, interactive cat toys, and even clicker training can do wonders in fixing destructive behaviors in bored or stressed cats. Like humans, cats need mental and physical stimulation. Not only will enrichment activities improve your cat’s quality of life, but they will also keep your cat away from your plant babies.
- Buy cat grass: Offer your cat an acceptable alternative to your orchid by creating a garden full of plants your cats can eat. Catnip, cat thyme, mint, rosemary, and valerian are all feline-safe plants. You can also grow your cat grass, typically a blend of barley, oat, rye, or wheat seeds.
- Relieve your pet’s stress: If your cat is anxious, determine their triggers to help them feel more at ease. You can also try supplements, such as Pet Honesty Calming bites, or pheromones like Feliway to help your cat feel more comfortable.
My cat, Luna, will only bother my plants when hungry or bored. She will tap, tap, tap on the plant and then stop to watch my reaction. The tapping will continue or become more destructive if I don’t move. If mealtime is far away, I’ll turn on her Hexbug robot toy, which piques her interest and keeps her busy. In contrast, my cat Lucy can’t resist munching on certain cat-safe plants, and I’ve learned to keep those in a designated feline-free zone.
Other Cat-Safe Plants
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) names plants as one of the most common household toxins for pets—along with medications, certain human foods, rodenticides, insecticides, and other garden products. The best way to protect your cat is to remove toxic plants from your home. If you love the idea of a home full of plants, here are some non-toxic indoor plants that are safe for cats:
- African violet
- Air plant
- Areca palm
- Baby tears
- Banana tree
- Boston fern
- Chinese money plant
- Date palm
- Parlor palm
- Polka dot plant
- Ponytail palm
- Prayer plant
- Spider plant
- Venus flytrap
Frequently Asked Questions
Are All Orchids Safe?
There are thousands of species of orchid, and not all of them have been tested to ensure they are safe for cats. While generally considered not poisonous to cats, keeping your orchid away from your feline companion is best.
What Happens If My Cat Eats An Orchid?
Orchids are not considered poisonous. If your cat nibbles on an orchid, they may not experience any adverse effects. On the other hand, if they devour the whole plant, they’ll likely have digestive upset. If your cat experiences severe vomiting or diarrhea after eating an orchid, seek veterinarian assistance.
What Other Plants Are Toxic To Cats?
Orchids aren’t poisonous to cats, but to avoid upsetting your cat’s digestive system—and your nerves—it’s best to keep this plant away from your curious companion. Looking for other ways to keep your kitty entertained? View our top picks for cat steps, slow feeders, hammocks, and exercise wheels. We also cover the best cat toys for large cats and popular breeds like the Maine Coon and Bengal. If your cat still shows behavioral problems, it may be time to consider training or seeking out a cat behaviorist in your area. You may also wish to speak to your vet to confirm that there are no underlying health problems causing your cat to eat plants excessively.