Pet-Friendly Houseplants—And Plants that are Toxic to Cats and Dogs

First and foremost, you want plants that are non-toxic to cats and dogs. The good news is that you’ll still have lots of different types of pet-friendly houseplants to choose from. This includes air plants, spider plants, African violets, orchids, Christmas cactuses, and many more. Unfortunately, there are also many common types of houseplants that you need to be careful with or avoid altogether. and you should double check before introducing a new plant to any area that’s accessible to your pets. The ASPCA offers a searchable directory of plants that are toxic or non-toxic to cats and dogs. For stables and farmhouses, you can even search for plants that are toxic or non-toxic to horses. 

These are by no means an exhaustive list, but here is a rundown of our favorite pet-friendly houseplants—and plants that are toxic or non-toxic to cats and dogs. Keep in mind there are plenty of other outdoor plants that can potentially make cats and dogs sick, but it’s hard to completely control what dogs and outdoor cats may eat. Likewise, there are some types of houseplants, like the African milk tree that has poisonous sap on the inside that is highly toxic to pets but which is unlikely to ever be exposed to your cat or dog, unless you leave a mess behind while trying to prune and propagate the plant.

Pet-Friendly Houseplants

The first thing you want from a pet-friendly houseplant is a plant that’s safe for animals. If you fall in love with a plant that’s toxic to your pet, it’s not the end of the world especially if you can find a place or install a wall shelf that can effectively keep the plant away from your pets. At the same time, there are likely many areas in your home where you want to put plants even though your pets can get to them. So, what plants can you choose from? There are endless options, but here are some of the most popular types of houseplants that are perfectly safe for most pets.

  • Areca Palm
  • Boston Fern
  • Zebra Plant
  • Rattlesnake Plant
  • Bromeliads
  • Air Plants
  • Spider Plants
  • African Violets
  • Orchids
  • Christmas Cactuses
  • Cast Iron Plant

Plants that ARE Toxic to Cats and Dogs

Some plants that are toxic to cats and dogs may simply cause your pet to throw up, while others may be a matter of life-and-death. Even with some of the most poisonous plants, pets may be okay if they receive prompt attention. With lilies, for example, you have about 18 hours to get your cat to the vet hospital before the odds of euthanasia go up dramatically. 

  • Lilies: Even small amounts can be potentially fatal. The damage is usually worst to the kidneys. Calla lilies, peace lilies, and Peruvian lilies are also mildly toxic, but rarely fatal.
  • Aloe Vera: This plant contains the laxative anthraquinone glycosides. Rarely fatal, toxicity symptoms are primarily vomiting and diarrhea but may also include depression, anorexia, tremors and changes to urine color.
  • Mistletoe: This plant contains a triple cocktail of polysaccharides, alkaloids, and lectins. Most often, symptoms include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. The berries of this plant are especially toxic and may even cause death.
  • Sago palms: The leaves of this plant may cause a pet to throw up, but the seeds of the plant are especially poisonous and may induce diarrhea, seizures, liver failure and even death.
  • Azaleas: Called grayantoxins, the toxin in this plant can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and neurological systems. In larger quantities, this toxin can be deadly.
  • Oleander: The toxin in the oleander plant primarily affects the cardiovascular systems creating dangerous arrhythmias and high or low blood pressure. It can also cause neurological and gastrointestinal problems. It is potentially fatal.
  • Jades: We don’t know everything about houseplants. Jade plants are toxic to cats and dogs, and we’re not really sure why. Symptoms include vomiting, lack of coordination and lowered heart rate, but are rarely fatal.
  • Chrysanthemums: Pyrethins are the toxins at work when a pet ingests chrysanthemums. All parts of the plant are toxic and may cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Severe cases may include depression and lack of coordination.
  • Pothos: These different types of houseplants cause inflammation of the mouth and gastrointestinal system. Though rarely fatal, symptoms may emerge just from chewing on the leaves.
  • Kalanchoes: This plant is mildly toxic in low doses that typically causes little more than an upset stomach and maybe vomiting. Eaten in larger quantities or by a pet with health problems, dangerous cardiovascular symptoms may emerge.

More Plants that are Toxic to Cats and Dogs

  • Hydrangeas
  • English Ivy/Branching Ivy
  • Swiss cheese plant
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Begonia
  • Corn Plant
  • Pencil Cactus
  • Mistletoe
  • Fig Tree
  • Caladium
  • Lemon Tree

Pet-Proofing Your Pet-Friendly Houseplants

For some, pet-friendly houseplants also mean plants that dogs and cats are less likely to destroy. For example, we’ve seen cats go crazy for the long leaves of the spider plant, and if they can find a way to dislodge air plants from their perch, these plants are basically another kind of ball toy for cats to bat around and chew on. Many cats and some dogs will start to chew on houseplants only when they’re hungry or bored. You don’t want to overfeed them to the point of being overweight, but it will help to maintain an enriched environment for your pets.

Large houseplants and pots may also be used as litterboxes. For outdoor houseplants or for puppies that aren’t completely house-broken, some people are also interested in houseplants that can survive dog urine. Leaving behind both pets and plants can also be problematic when traveling. Cats and dogs may act out in these situations, making them more likely to knock over and/or chew on houseplants. Finally, pets may prohibit you from using certain methods of houseplant pest control. Sticky paper traps may be great at capturing white flies, thrips, and other pests, but can also make for an unpleasant trip to the vet.

Not all of these factors may apply to your plants and pets, but by identifying which factors are more or less likely to become problems, you can have both pets and houseplants in your home without any major worries or headaches.