Safe for Pets, Not from Pets: Protecting Your Houseplants

Posted by Patricia Colomy on

Dog sitting with lots of plants

Bringing a plant into your home should be a fairly easy endeavor- as endeavors go, anyway. But for pet owners, things can get a little hairy. See what I did there?  Many plant species are toxic for cats and dogs, and it can take some thorough recon to find a pet-safe plant that suits you.

And once you’ve won the battle of finding a plant that’s safe for  your pet, you must win the war of keeping your plant safe from  your pet!

Most pet owners understand the struggle to keep new items out of paws’ and jaws’ reach. Our curious little creatures love to eat and maim even the most surprising of items. Luckily, there is a plethora of creative options to help defend your plants, and we’ve put together a list of our favorites for you.


Keeping Plats Out of Curious Jaws

The majority of pet owners have experienced the, “Really? You ate that?” moment more than a few times in their pet-owning lives. The list of items that our pets will happily chomp is extensive. As frustrating as it can be, that’s probably because the chewing is usually driven by boredom, instinct or nervousness. It’s not always deliciousness that riles up the need to nibble.

Cat trying to eat plant

If you’re having trouble keeping your pets from sinking their teeth into your plants, try these safe solutions:

1. Citrus is a natural deterrent for most cats and dogs, as neither appreciate the taste or smell. Dilute fresh lemon juice with water and put the mixture into a spray bottle to mist your plant.

If you don’t want to spray the solution directly onto the plant, try cutting a few lemon wedges and placing them on top of the soil (a few bits of lemon peel might even be enough to do the trick). Just be sure to keep an eye on the lemons so they don’t rot.

2. Vinegar can also be used in a similar manner and is safe for your plants. Mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts water and spray directly onto the leaves of your plant.

3. Over-the-counter sprays are also available, and a variety are specifically plant-safe. Off Limits, by NaturVet; Fooey Ultra-Bitter Spray, by Synergy Labs; and Boundary, by PetAg are just a few to look into.

These plant perfumes can be an easy solution to keeping chompers at bay. Hopefully your pets will learn their lesson from one good whiff or taste, but it’s possible you’ll need occasional refreshers for them to really work their best.

4. Pet grass can be an enticing distraction for your pets. After all, who says you have to disgust them away from your plants? Try offering them a tasty veggie treat of their own, instead! Make sure to place the grass of your choosing in an area away from your plant. With any luck, after a few bites your pets will lose interest in your plants altogether!

One especially clever pet parent planted wheatgrass to distract her cat from the other plants in the room... and the picture she uploaded doesn't disappoint!


Keeping Plants from Sneaky Paws

Chewing isn’t the only havoc our devilish little angels like to wreak. Few pets can resist the temptation of digging in the soft soil or batting at the baiting leaves of a plant- which can cause just as much damage as a surprise snack attack.

cat playing with houseplant

If you’re looking for ways to protect your potting soil from your pets, here are a couple smart suggestions we’ve found:

5. Window screen material can be used to prevent crafty paws from sinking in for a quick dig. Cut the material into a circle to fit inside the pot and lay it on top of the soil. Cut a slit from the edge of the circle to the center, and then cut a hole in the center large enough to fit around the stalk of your plant.

Think of it like wrapping a donut around the base of your plant. 

6. Lightweight rocks or marbles placed on top of the soil is also a great preventive. It allows enough room for water to breech the surface, but not prodding paws. If those furry toes do try, the noise of the rustling rocks should alert you, and you can correct the behavior as it’s happening.

Every pet owner knows the struggle of catching those sneaky sneaks in the act. Ooh! Note to self: future puppy name - Aftermath.


Pet-Safe Locations

While the obvious solution to these issues is to simply put the plant where your animal can’t reach it, this might not be the best option for the plant itself. Maybe the only safe haven from your little beast is a closet where the plant won’t get ample light. And what’s the point of having a plant you have to lock away. Plus, most people want their plants easily accessible for watering and pruning.

However, if you’ve tried several other methods plus training to protect your plants from unwarranted attacks, but those covert critters are still breaking the lines, you may have to remove the temptation all together.

Dog laying in room with plants
7. Wall and ceiling hangers are easy options for keeping plants away from pets, and they add plenty of character to your space.

8. Air plants are a glorious group of greens that made our list of pet-safe plants and our list of ways to keep plants safe from your pets. These delightfully odd plants don’t require soil to grow. They get the majority of their nutrients from the air around them and an occasional soak in good ‘ol H2O.

Because of their unique traits, they can be displayed in an endless array of creative containers and positions, making them quite evasive where pets are concerned.

If you need a broader range of ideas and help, there are plenty of forums where you can gather advice from other pet owners and experts. PetGuide, Dogster and TheCatSite are a good start! Platforms like Quora and Reddit are also great resources for solutions to all sorts of pet topics.

Creating peace between your pets and plants can be challenging. But it can be done with patience, persistence and a little ingenuity. Stay the course, and you’ll get there in no time.

In the meantime, we’d love to see pictures of their devastation and your imagination! Share your pics and stories with us on Facebook and Instagram for a chance to be featured in an upcoming post or newsletter!