My mother has a number of cats, and by this I mean well over 10. They are all well cared for, and even spoiled, with plenty of room to roam about indoors and out (they have an enclosed ‘cat palace'). What's the point to this? She also enjoys growing plants, many of them, and we all know that cats and houseplants may not always work well together. Some plants are toxic to cats and others are simply overly attractive to these curious fur-balls, especially when it comes to the spider plant. Why are cats so attracted by these plants, and will spider plants hurt cats? Read on to learn more.
Spider Plants and Cats
The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is a popular houseplant and a common fixture in hanging baskets. When it comes to the nature of spider plants and cats, there's no denying that cats seem to be weirdly attracted by this houseplant. So what's the deal here? Does the spider plant give off a scent that attracts cats? Why on earth are your cats eating spider plant foliage? While the plant does give of a subtle scent, barely noticeable to us, this is not what attracts the animals. Perhaps, it's because cats just naturally like all things dangly and your cat is simply attracted to the hanging spiderettes on the plant, or maybe cats have an affinity for spider plants out of boredom. Both are viable explanations, and even true to some extent, but NOT the sole reasons for this uncanny attraction. Nope. Cats mainly like spider plants because they are mildly hallucinogenic. Yes, it's true. Similar in nature to the effects of catnip, spider plants produce chemicals that induce your cat's obsessive behavior and fascination.
Spider Plant Toxicity
You may have heard about the so-called hallucinogenic properties found in spider plants. Maybe not. But, according to some resources, studies have found that this plant does, indeed, cause a mild hallucinogenic effect to felines, though this is said to be harmless. In fact, the spider plant is listed as non toxic to cats and other pets on the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) website along with many other educational sites. Nonetheless, it is still advised that cats eating spider plant leaves may pose a potential risk. Spider plants contain chemical compounds that are said to be related to opium. While considered non toxic, these compounds can still result in an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. For this reason, it is recommended that you keep cats away from the plants to avoid any spider plant toxicity, regardless of its mild effects. Like people, all cats are different and what affects one mildly may affect another quite differently.
Keeping Cats from Spider Plants
If your cat has a penchant for eating plants, there are steps you can take for keeping cats from spider plants.
- Since spider plants are often found in hanging baskets, simply keep them (and any other potentially threatening plant) up high and out of reach from your cats. This means keeping them away from areas where cats are prone to climb, like windowsills or furniture.
- If you do not have anywhere to hang your plant or a suitable location out of reach, try spraying the leaves with a bitter-tasting repellent. While not foolproof, it could help in that cats tend to avoid plants that taste bad.
- If you have an abundance of foliage growth on your spider plants, so much so that the spiderettes hang down within reach of the cat, it may be necessary to prune the spider plants back or divide the plants.
- Finally, if your cats feel the need to munch on some greenery, try planting some indoor grass for their own personal enjoyment.
In the likelihood that it's too late and you find your cat eating spider plant foliage, monitor the animal's behavior (as only you know what's normal for your pet), and take a trip to the veterinarian if any symptoms seem to linger or are particularly severe. Sources for information: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/columns/hortiscope/hortiscope-46/?searchterm=None (question 3) http://www.news.wisc.edu/16820 https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/styles/iidc/defiles/ECC/CCR-Poisonous-SafePlants.pdf https://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/files/154528.pdf (p 10)
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Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.
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