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Safe Houseplants to have with Pets

By Lea Jaratz

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Most pet parents know of the most common plants to avoid if you have cats or dogs, like poinsettias and lilies. Yet, there is a long list of plants that are toxic to cats and dogs. While some plants can cause mild tummy upset, others can be lethal in a matter of minutes.

Our pets benefit from the cleaner air and increased oxygen that plants provide too, so don’t let the harmful plants put you off houseplants altogether. We’ve put together a nice little list of substitutions for some of the more common unsafe plants, so you can pick similar indoor plants that are safe for cats and dogs.

Avoid: Corn Plant

Try: Parlor Palm

The parlor palm thrives in bright or low light and is one of the best for air purification. It’s a slow grower and maxes out at 3-4 feet, making it great for decor and atmosphere. Bonus points for it having leaves that are high enough they aren’t likely to be swatted at by your kitty during playtime.

Avoid: Azalea

Try: African violet

If you need a little pop of color, try the African violet. They do well in low to medium light. They offer rich purple flowers and fuzzy green leaves, without the risk of poisoning. Highly adaptable, this popular plant is a great substitute for azalea.

Avoid: Dieffenbachia

Try:  Calathea

The dieffenbachia (or dumb cane) and the calathea look similar, offering broad, variegated greenery, but only the calathea is safe around cats and dogs. Calathea thrives in low light, offering quite a show and a lot of air purification without a lot of hassle, making it a popular cat and dog-friendly plant.

Avoid: Lilies

Try: Orchid

Most people have heard horror stories about a cat getting into the Easter lilies. But there is no reason to skip out on beautiful blooms just because you have cats or dogs. Orchids are commonly available and a popular gift because of their lovely appearance and fragrance. Orchid care can be a bit different from the typical houseplant, but they take up very little room and can make a resplendent statement while posing no risk to your pets.

Avoid: Jade Plant

Try:  Air Plant

While jade is a popular staple in modern decorating, it’s harmful to cats and dogs. The good news is that there is a similar and even easier to care for substitute, the air plant. Air plants require no soil, rarely need to be watered, and offer an eye-catching option to put in your small pots and containers.

Avoid: Aloe

Try: Haworthia

Haworthia requires very similar care to the common aloe plant, and the two are akin in appearance. But this succulent isn’t harmful to your cat or dog, making it a great alternative if you’re looking for something with a little flair and possibly a little height. You don’t want to overwater them, but they’ll need to be checked on every now and then. Imagine how pretty this would be, growing in your cat’s favorite windowsill.

Avoid: Satin Pothos

Try:  Spider plant

The Satin Pothos drapes nicely in a pot, especially in a hanging basket. But even if you hang it high, leaves could fall and be eaten, making it a potential hazard for pets. Instead, try the spider plant. Spider plants look great in a pot with a macrame hanger without any fear of hurting your pet.

Avoid: Caladium

Try: Polka Dot Plant

The caladium and polka dot plant are nearly indistinguishable, but you’ll want to go for the Polka Dot Plant with pets. These gorgeous plants, affectionately nicknamed “freckle face” have been hybridized to offer tons of leaf colors and patterns. They can be grown indoors or out and grow well from cuttings, making them a colorful and safe option for the pet-friendly home.

Avoid: Ficus

Try: Areca Palm

Everyone knows the ficus. It’s in every waiting room and office (though commonly those are artificial). However, the ficus, or rubber plants, can be harmful to pets. So, if you want a large, live plant without the risk, try the areca palm. They offer a great focal point to a room, providing privacy and bold greenery, without the risk to your pet.

Bonus Cat-friendly Plants

Cats can get an upset tummy from eating most plants, even if they’re not toxic. If your cat is prone to chewing on leaves, consider growing catnip, silvervine, or cat thyme. These are all safe and provide stimulant benefits for cats.

If you’re wondering “is my favorite houseplant poisonous to cats or dogs”, we recommend checking this list from the Humane Society of the United States.

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