Q: Can you suggest plants that our two cats won’t chew on?
A: We’d rather you satisfy your cats’ desire to chew by offering safe plants for their pleasure, while removing all toxic foliage and catproofing the plants you want left alone.
Many common houseplants can make your cats ill, and a few can be deadly. Among the most dangerous plants are dieffenbachia, lily of the valley and philodendron. Various ivies and yews can be troublesome, too, and the bulbs of plants popular for forcing into early indoor bloom — such as amaryllis, daffodils and tulips — can cause problems for the cat who likes to dig and chew.
The Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA.org/apcc) maintains a list of problem plants. You also should be able to find such lists in most basic cat-care books. Check your household inventory against the “bad plant” list, and replace any dangerous plants with safer ones.
Then, indulge your pets by keeping planters of sprouting grasses growing in an accessible place for nibbling. Special blends of seeds for cats are available in pet stores and specialty shops, or you can purchase rye or wheat grass seeds at the nursery.
Catnip, too, is something that’s always better when fresh, as is valerian. While not all cats react to the pleasures of these plants, those who do will appreciate your keeping it in-house and using fresh cuttings to recharge cat posts, trees and toys.
When your cats have their own plants, you can work on keeping them away from yours. Plants on the ground or on low tables are the easiest targets, so make your houseplants less accessible.
Make the plants that you can’t move less appealing by coating them with something your cats find disagreeable, such as bitter apple sprays, a nasty-tasting substance available at any pet supply store, or Tabasco sauce. Keep reapplying it to reinforce the point.
Pot your plants in heavy, wide-bottomed containers, and cover the soil with rough, decorative rock to end digging. Foil, waxed paper and double-sided tape are also effective deterrents, albeit less attractive ones.
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.