Protect houseplants from playful cats

04/02/2013 12:00 AM

04/01/2013 3:46 PM

We have two cats, and I need some suggestions on how to get them to leave the houseplants alone.

Give your cats their own plants and make yours harder to get to. That way you can both be happy.

For your cats' chewing pleasure, keep a pot of tender grass seedlings – rye, alfalfa and wheat – growing in a sunny spot. Parsley and thyme are herbs that many cats enjoy smelling and chewing, and both can be grown indoors. Try some different varieties, especially with the parsley.

Catnip is a natural for any cat garden, but the herb is so appealing to some cats that they just won't leave it alone. Keep seedlings out of reach of your pet, or the plant may never get a chance to reach maturity. Once you've got a mature plant, snip off pieces to give your cat, stuff into toys or rub on cat trees.

When your cat has its own plants, you can work on keeping it away from yours. Put plants up high, or better yet, hang them. For the plants you can't move out of harm's way, make them less appealing by coating leaves with something your cat finds disagreeable. Cat-discouragers include Bitter Apple, a nasty-tasting substance available at any pet-supply store, or Tabasco sauce from the grocery store. Whenever you find what your cat doesn't like, keep reapplying it to enforce the point.

To prevent digging, pot your plants in heavy, wide-bottomed containers and cover the soil of the problem plants with rough decorative rock.

Remember that some houseplants, especially lilies, are toxic to cats. Check the list provided by the Animal Poison Control Center ( and remove any plants that are dangerous to your pets.

The buzz

Cats can – and do – fall out of windows

If you live anywhere above the ground floor, your cat could be injured falling out of a window. They're just not able to understand the risk, and sometimes jump after something interesting, such as a bird.

As the weather warms, people will open windows, putting their pets at risk. But it's possible to give a cat fresh air safely, no matter what kind of housing you have. If you're in multifamily housing, you may be allowed to add heavy screening to a balcony to give your cat access to fresh air and a good view. If you're in a detached home, you can put in a more permanent structure, such as a screened-in, multilevel cat playground. And don't open any windows that don't have screens.

– Dr. Marty Becker

and Gina Spadafori Do you have a pet question? Send it to or visit


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