Keep Cats Away From Plants: 5 Key Takeaways

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and all is right with the world. Just as you start daydreaming about winning the “Plant Parent of the Year” award, in swoops your mischievous feline companion, with a sly grin. Before you know it, your precious Pothos has become his personal salad bar. You can’t help but wonder, how on earth do you keep cats away from plants?

A problem that plagues plant lovers everywhere – the relentless pursuit of houseplants by our furry friends.

My cat Gizmo has an uncanny ability to find the one plant I cherish the most and turn it into his own personal jungle gym or midnight snack. I’ve been on a quest to maintain peaceful coexistence between my precious foliage and my four-legged furball.

It’s about ensuring the well-being of both your plants and your purring companion. After all, nobody wants a cat with an upset tummy and a wilting fern to tend to.

I will share with you effective strategies to keep cats away from plants and maintain a harmonious home environment while keeping your kitty’s paws out of the potting soil.

black and white cat sniffing grass purple pot

Table of Contents

Why Do Cats Behave Funny Around Plants?

Let’s dive into the feline psyche and find out why our furballs just can’t resist turning into little green monsters around our plants.

cat sniffing plant in clear jug

Curiosity That Could’ve Killed the Plant

Firstly, the classic “Curiosity killed the cat” situation. Cats are natural explorers like mini–Indiana Joneses with fur. They love swatting at that swaying leaf or pretending your fern is the latest feline-friendly jungle gym.

Nibbling for Their Version of Salad Days

Ever catch Mittens chowing down on your prized peace lily? Don’t worry; it’s not a sign of culinary critique. Cats eat plants because they believe it’s good for their digestion. It’s their version of a health kick – move over, kale smoothies!

The Plant Cat-astrophe Potential- More than Just Dirty Paws

It’s not all sunshine and daisies when our furry friends mingle with our leafy pals.

Some indoor plants are more hazardous to your cat, and these toxic greens can cause everything from upset stomachs to more serious health issues. Cats eating plants is like playing Russian roulette with your kitty’s well-being. No stress; we’ll cover which potted plants to keep out of their reach further down the page.

When Fluffy decides your begonias are her personal litter box, it’s not just the plants that suffer. Soil contamination is a real concern, like mixing oil and water. Your household plants become a kitty restroom, and it’s no laughing matter. We’ll help you find ways to protect your plants and precious hardwood floors from such…incidents.

fluffy cat sniffing monstera

How Do I Keep Cats Away From Plants?

Let’s shift our attention from the great outdoors to your cozy indoor jungle. We’re about to make your potted paradise a feline-friendly haven.

Providing Alternative Play Areas: Indoor Cat Disneyland

To keep cats away from plants, you’ll need to create alternative play areas for your furry friend within your four walls. It’s like setting up a mini-Disneyland for cats in your living room, complete with a scratching post and dangly toys. Cats are adventurous and would rather tackle a feathered toy than your Ficus.

ginger and white cat next to potted plant on floor

  • Choose a Suitable Location: Find a corner or area in your home where you can set up the play area. Ideally, it should be a space where your cat likes to spend time.
  • Provide a Variety of Toys: Offer a selection of toys such as feather wands, balls, and interactive puzzles. Rotate toys regularly to keep your cat engaged and prevent boredom.
  • Incorporate Vertical Elements: Cats love to climb and perch. Install cat trees, shelves, or scratching posts to create vertical space. Add platforms or shelves at different heights to encourage climbing and exploration.
  • Include Hiding Spots: Provide cozy hiding spots like cat tunnels, igloos, or cardboard boxes. Cats enjoy having a place to retreat to when they need some alone time.
  • Interactive Playtime: Spend time playing with your cat in their designated area. Use interactive toys that mimic the movement of prey to engage your cat’s hunting instincts.
  • Catnip and Treat Dispensers: Use catnip-infused toys or treat-dispensing puzzles to entertain your cat. These toys can provide mental stimulation and reward your cat’s playtime efforts.
  • Rotate and Refresh Toys: Cats can get bored with the same toys over time. Rotate their toys to keep things interesting. Introduce new toys occasionally to pique their curiosity.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Reward your cat with treats and affection when they use their play area. Positive reinforcement can encourage them to associate the space with fun and reward.
  • Comfortable Resting Spots: Place soft bedding or cushions in the play area for your cat to rest and relax. Cats enjoy lounging in comfort after an active play session.
  • Regular Maintenance: Keep the play area clean and tidy by removing used toys and cleaning any litter or fur. Ensure that the area remains safe and inviting for your cat.
  • Monitor and Adjust: Pay attention to your cat’s preferences and adjust the play area accordingly. Cats have individual preferences, so tailor the space to suit your cat’s personality and interests.

cat looking past plant

Using Cat-Safe Plants: A Potted Buffet

You’re essentially setting up a salad bar right in your home by choosing cat-friendly plants. Cats are less likely to nibble on toxic house plants with delicious catnip, catmint, or even some cat grass to munch on.

  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria): Catnip is a non-toxic favorite among many cats. It can provide entertainment and stimulation for your cat.
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum): Spider plants are safe for cats and can add a touch of greenery to your home. Cats may occasionally nibble on them without harm.
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis): Sage is a cat-safe herb that you can grow indoors. It’s safe and can add flavor to your culinary dishes.
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Thyme is another cat-safe herb that can be grown indoors. It’s a fragrant addition to your kitchen and safe for cats.
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Rosemary is a cat-safe herb known for its aromatic leaves. It can be used in cooking and is not harmful to cats.
  • Cat Grass (Dactylis glomerata): Cat grass is specifically grown for cats to nibble on. Cat grass can aid in digestion and provide entertainment for your cat.

grey cat next to potted plants

Would a DIY Spray Work?

If you’re a fan of DIY projects, you can concoct your own pet-safe repellent solutions. Items like vinegar, lemon juice, or citrus peels can do the trick.

Some websites mention sprinkling Cayenne pepper, but I would steer clear personally. Think of the sting you experience when you accidentally get some on your nose or eyes- you wouldn’t want your whiskered friend to experience that.

Just ensure what you use is safe for your furball so you don’t accidentally turn your house into a spicy experiment.

neem oil on bamboo surface

Here’s a DIY cat repellent spray that doesn’t include cayenne pepper and is safe for both your houseplants and your cats:


  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap (preferably fragrance-free)
  • 10-15 drops of citrus essential oil (choose one that cats dislike, such as lemon, orange, or citronella)
  • Spray Bottle


Firstly, in a clean spray bottle, combine the water, white vinegar, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar.

Then, add the liquid dish soap to the mixture. The dish soap helps the solution adhere to surfaces.

Secondly, carefully add 10-15 drops of your chosen essential oil to the mixture. Essential oils can be strong, so be cautious not to use too much. Shake the bottle to mix everything thoroughly.

After that, test a small area of one of your houseplants to ensure it won’t damage the plant. Spray a small amount on a leaf and wait for a day to ensure no adverse effects.

Finally, once you’re confident that the solution won’t harm your plants, you can spray the soil around the base of your houseplants or on surfaces near them. Spray it lightly but evenly to create a scent barrier.

Reapply the repellent as needed, especially after watering your plants or if your cat is showing interest in the area again.

grey cat next to tree in black pot

Raising Plants Out of Paw’s Reach: Elevate and Conquer

Creativity knows no bounds when it comes to keeping potted plants away from curious cats. Consider placing your cherished greenery in elevated locations, such as tall shelves, or wall-mounted planters. You can hang plants in out-of-reach spots to add a decorative touch and keep your plants safe from prying paws.

Additionally, you can create designated plant sanctuaries behind a closed door or in a room with limited cat access, ensuring your plants thrive in peace.

Don’t forget about the magic of plant stands and terrariums, which offer an extra layer of protection while showcasing your indoor garden. With a bit of ingenuity, your plants can flourish, and your feline friends can coexist harmoniously in your living space.

What Plants Keep Cats Away?

Think of herbs as fragrant marvels that are a natural deterrent against unwanted feline visitors. It’s like nature’s own security system, warding off curious cats without harsh chemicals.

Whether it’s rosemary, lavender, or lemon balm, these herbs are your secret weapon in maintaining a harmonious garden while keeping your cat’s inquisitiveness at bay.

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis):
    Care: Bright, indirect sunlight; allow the soil to dry out between watering.
  • Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
    Care: Lots of sunlight; water sparingly, ensuring good drainage.
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
    Care: Indirect sunlight; keep soil consistently moist but not soggy.
  • Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
    Care: Bright, indirect light; keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
    Care: Bright light; let the soil dry between watering.
  • Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)
    Care: Bright, indirect light; water sparingly, allowing the potting mix to dry partially.
  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
    Care: Sunlight for at least 6 hours; keep the soil consistently moist.
  • Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus)
    Care: Bright light; let the soil dry out slightly between waterings.
  • African Violet (Saintpaulia)
    Care: Indirect light; water the soil, not the leaves, when it’s dry to the touch.
  • Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens)
    Care: Indirect light; water when the top inch of soil feels dry.

Why Does Covering the Soil Work?

Cats have an innate love for digging in soft, loose soil like their litter boxes. They see your plant pots as prime real estate for their excavations, much to the chagrin of your green leafy companions.

Texture That Cats Dislike

Cats are creatures of comfort. They prefer smooth surfaces for their little paw-pad adventures. When introducing textures they find unpleasant, like decorative stones or pinecones, you give them a “not welcome” sign in their language. This can be particularly useful when trying to keep them off your pots. 

Another option to keep cats away from plants is chicken wire. It’s not so decorative, but if all else fails it’s an option!

Decorative Stones or Pinecones

Decorative stones or pebbles add an aesthetic touch to your plant’s appearance and create an unwelcome terrain for curious cats. The uneven surface is a deterrent, and cats will think twice before venturing into what now feels like a rocky desert.

Pine cones, with their prickly scales, serve as a natural deterrent. The thought of poking their paws on those sharp scales will make cats reconsider their digging mission. It’s like a cactus garden for their delicate toes.

Aluminum Foil (an Extra Tip!)

In the arsenal of cat deterrents, aluminum foil is a secret weapon. Cats tend to have an aversion to the crinkly sound and unusual texture of tin foil. Lay some strips on top of your plant’s soil, and your cat may decide that this is one territory better left unexplored. It’s like treading on a crunchy path.

aluminium foil rolls

Large River Rocks (the Heavy-Duty Option)

If your cat is particularly persistent or has the agility of an Olympic gymnast, consider bringing out the big guns – large river rocks. These hefty stones not only make it challenging for cats to dig but also add substantial weight to the plant pot, making it less likely to be tipped over.

What Houseplants Are Dangerous for Cats?

Here is a list of common toxic plants that are considered dangerous for cats:

  • Lilies: Various types of lilies, including Easter lilies, Tiger lilies, and Asiatic lilies, are highly toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure.
  • Pothos (Epipremnum aureum): Pothos contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause irritation and swelling of the mouth, tongue, and throat when chewed or ingested.
  • Philodendron: Like pothos, philodendrons contain calcium oxalate crystals that can lead to mouth and throat irritation, drooling, and difficulty swallowing.
  • Dieffenbachia: Also known as “dumb cane,” this plant contains calcium oxalate crystals and can cause severe oral irritation, swelling, and difficulty breathing if ingested.
  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum): Peace lilies can cause mouth and throat irritation, as well as gastrointestinal upset if consumed by cats.
  • Caladium: Caladium plants are toxic to cats and can lead to intense burning and mouth irritation, drooling, and difficulty swallowing.
  • Oleander: Oleander is a highly toxic plant that can cause severe cardiac issues, such as irregular heartbeats if ingested by cats.
  • Azalea: Azaleas contain grayanotoxins, which can lead to symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and, in severe cases, even death.
  • Sago Palm: All parts of the sago palm are toxic to cats, and ingestion can result in liver failure, seizures, and death.
  • Aloe Vera: While aloe vera is known for its soothing properties, the gel inside its leaves can cause gastrointestinal upset in cats when ingested.
  • Kalanchoe: Kalanchoe plants can lead to symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea in cats.
  • Snake Plant (Sansevieria): While not as toxic as some other plants on this list, snake plants can still cause mouth and stomach irritation if cats ingest.
  • Cyclamen: Cyclamen plants can cause symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea when consumed by cats.


How do I keep Neighbours cats out of my garden?

You can use fencing, motion-activated sprinklers, natural deterrents like citrus peels, or ultrasonic devices to keep neighbor’s cats out of your garden.

What is a smell that cats hate?

Generally, most cats dislike scents like citrus, vinegar, and some minty aromas. Not all cats are the same so you may need to monitor the effects.

Do cats hate lavender?

Cats may have mixed reactions to lavender. Some find it unpleasant, while others are unaffected.

Does lavender repel cats?

Lavender is used as a natural cat repellent by some, but its effectiveness can vary among cats.

Does vinegar keep cats away?

Vinegar’s strong odor can deter cats, making it a useful, non-toxic option for keeping them out of certain areas.

Putting a Paw-sitive Spin on Keeping Cats Off Plants

Maintaining a harmonious coexistence between your beloved houseplants and your curious feline companions is indeed achievable. By implementing the strategies discussed, you can protect your green oasis while ensuring the safety and well-being of your cats. 

You can elevate plants, cover the soil with textures cats dislike, or use natural deterrents. It’s essential to remember that patience and consistency in training play a vital role.

While some cats may be more determined than others, the right combination of preventive measures and alternative sources of entertainment can foster an environment where both your flourishing plants and contented cats thrive. 

With a little creativity and much love, you can create a home where your indoor garden and furry friends cohabit peacefully, making life a little greener and more enjoyable for all.

Ready to Get Your Hands Dirty?

Our houseplant guides are packed with plant wisdom waiting for you to explore. We’ve got everything from choosing the perfect potting mix to troubleshooting common plant problems on our care pages.

Have questions or itching to share your green-thumb victories? Connect with our community of fellow plant lovers; drop us a line and join the conversation.

Photo of author
Alex Tinsman
An avid plant and flower lover! Ever since he was little, plants, flowers, and shrubbery of all kinds filled his life. Alex credits this fascination with nature's beauty to his mother and grandmother who were - and still are - dedicated gardeners. It's now Alex's mission to pass that same love for plants onto others and show them it's as easy as pie to bring nature inside.

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