Plants Your Cat Can Eat (If They Must)

I currently reside with two well-mannered, delightfully polite felines. They wash their faces after every meal. They never kick the litter out of the pan. They tastefully decline from chewing cords, scratching the furniture, or sampling my plants.

And then there’s this gremlin.

Pictured: Empress Philippa Georgiou, my cross-eyed lynx-point Siamese goblin pet.

Pippa (for short) chews everything. Cords, bedding, pens, junk mail, important mail, books, people, plants. Especially plants. Especially the plants that are not especially for her. (Cat grass and catnip? meh.)

Pippa even chews plants that are supposed to deter cats from chewing, like cactus. Not gentle cactus like Christmas cactuses. I have caught her chewing cactus with actual spines, like pitahaya (aka dragonfruit cactus). She once ate an entire lemon balm plant.

Filling my house with “plants cats won’t chew” isn’t an option with Pippa around. Instead, I needed plants that cats can chew without needing a rush trip to the emergency vet.

So far, my “plants Pippa may chew (if she must)” include:

Image: A red and gold Gerbera daisy in an orange pot.

Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

Also known the African daisy, Barberton daisy, or Transvaal daisy, Gerbera daisies are perennials in USDA Zones 8-10. Elsewhere, they can be grown outdoors as annuals or indoors as potted plants. They like full sun but not intense heat, and they demand plenty of water. They also come in a variety of colors.

Gerbera daises are related to asters, another flowering plant that’s generally considered safe for cats, dogs, and horses. Mine is free of inquisitive teeth marks because I put it on a high shelf the moment I got it home – one of the rare times I managed to sneak a plant in without Pippa investigating immediately.

Image: A bronze Venus fern in a green pot.

Bronze Venus Fern (Adiantum hispidulum)

Also known as a rough maidenhair fern. These plants like not too much of anything – not too much sunlight, not too much water, not too much freezing (a light frost is okay). They’ll live happily outdoors in USDA Zone 9a and warmer, but the rest of us keep them as houseplants.

Maidenhair ferns are often sold as easy to care for plants for houseplant beginners. I have my doubts. Because they’re so fond of moderation in all things, maidenhair ferns generally won’t tolerate low humidity (far more common when a houseplant lives solo) or an erratic watering schedule. If you opt for a maidenhair fern variety as a beginner, get it a friend or two, and set yourself a repeating calendar reminder to water the plant family.

Yes, mine is in two pots. The outer pot has no drainage holes, but it’s a lot prettier than the inner pot. This setup gives the plant proper drainage without forcing me to look at the plastic pot.

Image: A Boston fern/green fantasy fern in an orange pot.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

Aka a sword fern. I’ve also seen this little friend called a “green fantasy fern.” I’m not sure if that’s simply an alternate name, or the name of a particular variety of Boston fern. Anyway, these plants are native to central and south America. I’m American, so I’m bad at geography, but I’m pretty sure that part of the planet is nowhere near Boston.

Boston ferns are also frequently touted as “low maintenance” and “great for beginners.” If I had to choose, I’d recommend one of these over a maidenhair fern. Boston ferns have the same high humidity demands as a maidenhair fern, but they are more tolerant of an occasional ghosting by the watering can. Boston ferns trust you. They know you’re good for it. (Don’t let them down.)

Image: Pippa, my resident plant gremlin, checks on my newly-acquired Boston fern.

About the only thing Pippa likes more than chewing plants is being the center of attention. I knew I’d only get to photograph plants for so long before receiving the benefit of her assistance.

Image: Two small spider plants in a gray pot.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum cosmosum)

The good news: Spider plants are safe for cats, are very difficult to kill through neglect, and will happily grow in low-light areas. They especially like offices and bathrooms with one small, sad window.

The bad news: Cats tend to be obsessed with spider plants.

Before Pippa, I had a tuxedo cat named Fizzgig and a spider plant overflowing a 12-inch pot. Over the course of about four years, Fizzgig killed that spider plant through constant obsession.

One day, I caught him sneaking away with an entire plantlet in his mouth. He made eye contact with me and started running. On the way, he dropped the plantlet – and he turned back to get it rather than leave it behind. The plantlet did not survive Fizzgig’s fierce love (or teeth).

Image: A lynx-point Siamese cat taste-testing a spider plant.

Even cats that don’t normally take an interest in plants will chew on spider plants. I recommend hanging these in baskets, out of a cat’s reach, as soon as they’re large enough. Feel free to stick them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed – as long as your neighborhood isn’t overflowing with cats.

Image: A columnea plant in a brown pot.

Lipstick plant (Columnea hirta)

This plant’s common names include “lipstick plant” and “goldfish plant,” because its tubular red flowers look like lipstick tubes or like leaping carp. Several other unrelated plants also go by the name “lipstick plant” or “goldfish plant,” however, and some of those are indeed poisonous to pets. For best results, shop for this one by its Latin name, Columnea hirta.

Columnea hirta is native to Costa Rica. It prefers extremely well-drained soil and at least some protection from direct sunlight. Mature plants, which this one is not, grow trailing stems that do well in hanging pots.

Columnea hirta is generally considered safe for pets, but it is mildly toxic to humans. This is a good plant to keep out of reach of babies and toddlers until they’re past the “I shall taste test THE WORLD” stage.

Pippa-Unapproved Plants

A list of plants I didn’t know Pippa had taste-tested until I found the greenery barfed up somewhere in the house. Based on these results, I’ve put these plants in the “not for cats” category and stowed them out of the pets’ reach accordingly.

Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), aka “devil’s ivy” or “devil’s vine.” There are dozens of pothos varieties; this is one of the most common. Until proven otherwise, I’ve decided to keep all pothos out of Pippa’s reach.

Nerve Plant (Fittonia albevenis). I’m lowkey obsessed with nerve plant, which pulls a fainting-goat routine whenever it is mildly inconvenienced. I currently have nerve plants in multiple varieties (white, pink, and red), all of which are stashed in no-Pippa zones.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). I grew up hearing poinsettias were highly poisonous. It turns out they’re not particularly dangerous to people or pets. Eating too much of one can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, however, as demonstrated by the soggy clump of it I got stuck to my sock two Christmases ago. No poinsettias for Pippas.

False shamrock (Oxalis triangularis). Finally, a plant Pippa didn’t have to barf for me to learn my lesson. Rather, she stole the leaves off an entire bulb. I buried the false shamrock pot behind the Christmas cactus, where the plant is, fortunately, making a comeback.

Image: Blog post title image featuring two cats and houseplants, plus the post title and URL.

Honorable Mention: Peperomia

The spines on Christmas cactus, dragonfruit cactus, and haworthia didn’t deter Pippa’s questing teeth. Neither did the intense lemon flavor of lemon balm.

The one plant that does seem to turn her off? Peperomia, also known as radiator plant. She’s taken a few tastes, but each time she backs off, shaking her head like she’s just eaten a stinkbug (again). Peperomia are generally considered cat-safe, too. Perhaps I’ve finally found the best of all possible plants.

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Why You Should Keep Your Cat Indoors

Rarely have I seen a seemingly innocuous comment on Twitter blow up like “Cats should be indoor pets only.”

As it turns out, there’s a whole world of people out there who think that keeping a cat indoors 24/7 is some kind of crime against feline nature (not to mention their furniture). And I don’t mean people who own farms, granaries, or other venues in which cats are present primarily as working animals. I mean ordinary suburbanites who cherish their feline companion as part of their own family.

Suffice it to say, the risks to an outdoor or indoor-outdoor cat are many, and the benefits to the cat don’t really outweigh those risks. Nor do they outweigh the risk the cat poses to local birds – and many bird populations are struggling already.

But don’t take my word for it.

Currently, I have three cats who were once all strays. Here’s what they have to say about why they much prefer living inside a human house.

Image: Grayscale image of a shorthaired tabby cat with blog post title and URL.


Image: an extremely flully brown tabby cat with large yellow-green eyes gazes longingly over the edge of a sofa covered in an afghan.

Melody was born on the streets of Jackson, Michigan. Along with her mother and siblings, she was transported to the local Humane Society, where I met her while working as a volunteer. It took me two weeks to get her to come out from behind a cat condo and give me an exploratory sniff, at which point I decided she needed to come home with me.

Melody enjoys napping, playing fetch with a hair tie, and using her Dickensian orphan vibe to get food and treats, which she especially loves. She says, “The house is full of food, and I mean FULL of it. They have an entire cabinet stocked with JUST canned cat food! I don’t have to find, stalk, catch or kill anything. All I have to do is make this face and boom, Fancy Feast.”


Image: A lynx-point Siamese cat rests on a red throw pillow.

We met Pippa in October 2018 when she climbed my husband. Someone had dumped her at my in-laws’ farm, but her lack of a winter coat and snuggly manners made it abundantly clear that she had spent the first six months of her life as a house pet. We suspect she was purchased from an unlicensed breeder by someone who had no idea that Siamese are among the most assertive, outgoing, and demanding cat breeds out there.

As a true princess of Siam, Pippa demands only the best in care and comfort. As a full-time indoor cat, she gets it.

Pippa says, “Humans live THE MOST plush lives, and I am an expert on Being Plush. Everything they own is either covered in padding or is a hard flat surface ideal for knocking small objects off. And get this – CLIMATE CONTROL. No freezing in winter or baking in summer! It’s all a little short on cat hair, but I don’t mind contributing mine.”

Image: A lynx-point Siamese cat lounges on a brown rug in front of a fireplace with wood stove.

“And get this,” Pippa adds. “In the winter, when it gets cold and awful outside? They put a fire inside a box. For me. It heats my personal cat sauna, which is just there, under the bricks, behind where I’m lounging in this photo. There’s nothing this nice outdoors!”

Image: A sleepy lynx-point Siamese gets tummy rubs.

In addition to enjoying the plush surfaces and cozy winter wood stove heat, Pippa has also found that year-round indoor living is a great way to get the attention she is due as a Cat.

“When it comes to being Supreme Feline Empress, I have one rule: NDPM (Never Don’t Pet Me),” says Pippa. “When I lived outdoors, nobody followed the rule! No one! You had ONE JOB, humans! Anyway, that’s why I found a mark and charmed him by being too cute to resist. Also, he had a soft warm winter coat on and it was October (see: humans live plush lives).”

Melody Again

Image: A fluffy brown tabby gives her best Dickensian orphan stare.

When Pippa first climbed my spouse, she was a hot mess of fleas, ear mites, three types of worms, and a wood tick that had lodged between her shoulderblades where she couldn’t reach and had already sucked enough of her blood to make it twice its normal size.

Melody, when she first arrived at the Humane Society, was in similarly rough shape. But since she’s become an all-indoor cat, Melody says, “I haven’t had a single flea, tick, ear mite, or worm of any description since I got here. I haven’t caught feline leukemia, FIV, distemper, rabies or even a cold. And they BRUSH ME. OH MY BAST, I LOVE THAT BRUSH.”

More Pippa

Image: A lynx-point Siamese, wearing a black harness and blue leash, checks out the autumn leaves on a grass lawn.

That’s not to say the cats don’t ever get to see the great outdoors. We just take them out in controlled conditions, where we know they’re safe from cars, neighborhood dogs, marauding cat-haters, coyotes, and so forth.

Melody is still too petrified by the harness to enjoy sojourns outdoors, and Gracie (see below) is too old to really enjoy them anymore – she just looks at me like I have personally betrayed her by putting her outside. Pippa, however, loves a good adventure in the backyard and will put herself into her harness in order to get one.

Here’s Pippa, singing her favorite autumn song:

You can eat a dead leaf
You can eat it with ease
And then go back inside, where you

It’s fun to eat and then
It’s fun to eat and then

You can eat a whole leaf!
You can even eat two!


Image: A fluffy white cat sleeps curled in a ball, with one front paw covering her nose.

At 14 years old, Gracie is the oldest of our three. My neighbor found her wandering the streets in the summer of 2008. Gracie was born deaf, which made the streets an especially dangerous place for her. We suspect she was abandoned after someone adopted an adorable Turkish Angora kitten from an unlicensed breeder, only to discover that Angoras are almost as demanding as Siamese – or, with her utterly un-showable facial features, she was dumped by a kitten mill.

In addition to being deaf, Gracie has immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, which we were fortunate enough to catch before it killed her. For the cost of one highly undignified pilling session a day, Gracie has gained an additional five years of life so far.

When asked to comment on the benefits of living indoors, Gracie replied, “Buzz off. I’m trying to sleep in this comfortable safe space where I know no predators can take advantage of my advanced age, autoimmune disorder, or deafness by sneaking up while I’m vulnerable.

I would have been dead years ago if I lived outdoors. Instead, I’m queen of a warm, clean, comfortable castle, with servants whose opposable thumbs are here to serve my every whim.

If living outdoors is so great, let’s see you do it.”

You can send cat treats and toys to their Highnesses by clicking here. Put “for cats” in the comments so I’ll know the gift is for them. Thank you!

Free to Loving Home: This Terrible Raccoon

Friends, I’m not made of stone. I know when I have reached my limits. And I have reached my limits with this raccoon:



I didn’t even want this raccoon. This raccoon climbed my husband while we were splitting wood last October, and he begged me to keep it. Sure, his words said “it’s up to you” but his eyes said “please?!?!”

Anyway, this raccoon is genuinely terrible. For instance:

“Don’t eat the plant,” I said to the raccoon.

“Eat the plant and then go to sleep,” the raccoon heard.

This raccoon’s primary skill is destroying household objects. If there were a Destroying Household Objects Olympics, this raccoon would win every gold medal. Those gold medals would be awarded before the opening ceremonies even began. “This raccoon is the only destroyer of household objects humanity will ever need,” the International Destroying Household Objects Olympic Committee would say. “Just give this raccoon all the medals so it can destroy them on the ride home.”

Which is great, because this raccoon will NEVER win an Olympic medal in napping:


Look at this hot mess? Is this some kind of joke?


You have to be punking me here, raccoon. Do you not even understand how to sleep?!

This raccoon’s butt is also made of velcro and sadness. For some reason, this raccoon has to stick its sad velcro butt to my side at all times:


Which would be fine, except that, like most raccoons, it eats trash. Its consumption of trash is directly proportional to the amount and quality of raccoon food in its food bowl. Full bowl of premium raccoon food = trash hoover.

Also, it farts. And raccoon farts are the WORST.

All of which is to say that if you have a large home that needs to be totally destroyed, if you have a dog or small child that needs to be permanently traumatized, or if there just aren’t enough atomic critter farts in your life, THIS IS THE RACCOON FOR YOU.


Next time, we are getting a cat.

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