Five Stylish Pet Safe Houseplants

Staghorn Fern

It is possible to have lush and stylish houseplants that are pet safe. It just takes a bit of know-how and label reading. The main reason I began leaf&paw was because I spent years researching safe non-toxic plants that wouldn’t send my cats to the ER.  In the realm of the internet with so much misinformation, it was somewhat difficult to find a consistent list. Many trendy blogs and websites that recommend plants for your home don’t specify toxicity to animals or children. So I’ve made my own list of five plants to get you started as you begin to build your indoor jungle. And rest assured, they are all safe for Mittens and Fido.

Boston Fern

Boston Fern
Keep ferns watered and fertilized to achieve a lush, jungle look.

This classic summer outdoor plant can actually be brought inside and made an indoor plant. It looks best suspended from the ceiling. 100% safe for pets, these are stunning in a dining room or bathroom. Cat consumption level is medium – my cats haven’t eaten my fern but they do eye it surreptitiously. Basic care is to keep the soil moist (checking about 1-2x a week) and spritz with a spray bottle to keep the air humid. Perch in a mildly sunny location.

Fittonia

Fittonia
Fittonia looks best in a planter pigment opposite their leaf color and grouped together.

I think Fittonia are underrated. More recently marketed at “fairy garden plants,” they are really a unique speciman and perfect for low light areas. They don’t stay small, but instead grow quickly if they like the conditions you offer them. What makes these stylish is their appearance grouped together. Single, they are a tad sad-looking, but bunched together they look stunning in a contrasting planter, such as mine. My cats also don’t touch this plant – probably because the leaves are crinkly, almost paper-like (not that that has stoped them before). Fittonia come in a variety of colors, too. They prefer lower light areas that are warm. They benefit from being misted a few times a week and always like to be kept moist – don’t let these guys dry out.

 

Grafted Cactus

Grafted Cactus
Cacti in all colors – just remember to replant them using a cactus soil blend.

These tutfy cacti look so bright and cheerful (ideal), and they are convenient scratching posts for my kitties (not ideal). I like these because they aren’t dangerously spiny (so cat head scratching is fine, I guess), they’re super cute, and look best in a planter with other pet safe succulents (see this post) or grouped together. Basic care is pretty, well, basic. Let dry out completely and water once a week at most. Remember, these usually live in a desert.

Staghorn Fern 

Staghorn Fern

Staghorn ferns can either stay in pots or hang on the wall. And they’re fuzzy!Mount this fern on a wall as a vegan alternative to antlers or hang from the ceiling using kokedama. They’re pretty neat ferns, and are completely safe for pets and really stunning. This is a really great tutorial from Gardenista about mounting a fern. As far as care, they are actually related to air plants (see my post here) so they respond best to misting 1-2x a week and watering (if in a pot) once a week. If you wish to mount your Staghorn Fern, you’ll need to use different watering methods. They also like high humidity and medium light, not direct sunlight.

Majesty Palm

Majesty Palm
Giant palms are easy to find in big box stores – just make sure you have room!

The ability to make any room look like it is out of a spa, the Majesty Palm is the most common palm seen at big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. They are relatively easy to care for and make a great houseplant. Be warned – cats are obsessed. Both ate my first palm almost down to the stump, which looked awful and made me sad. You can always place them on a pedestal out of cat-paw reach or make a simple repellent to spray on the fronds. Keep palms in medium sunlight, not in bright direct sun, which will turn the leaves brown. As far as watering, I soak my palm once a week (less in winter), let it drain, then return it to its saucer. They also like temperatures above 70 degrees, generally. Look for the name Ravenea rivularison the plant label.

The Dracaena Episode.

Marginata Dracaena

My first plant as an adult was a Marginata Dracaena. I had been wanting a plant for my apartment,  and, after scouring some blogs, loved the look and easy care of dracaenas, so I bought one. In retrospect I had no idea what kind of houseplant it was, maybe some kind of palm tree? It was so lush and according to NASA, it was an air purifier, so it must be fine. I also purchased a matching pot and a bag of soil for replanting. Excited, I took everything home proudly – I couldn’t wait to replant it and set it in that empty corner by the TV.  Replanted, it looked lovely! My curious cat, Harlequinn, wandered over and nibbled on its leaves a bit, so I moved the plant to a higher location. Hours later, there she was munching on the leaves. Frustrated, I googled “how to stop your cat from eating your houseplant” and punched in “dracaena.”  Low and behold, it was poisonous. Poisonous?! I had no idea houseplants could be poisonous – I mean why would they sell them?! I threw the plant outside in the snow and monitored my cat closely (closer then she wanted, trust me) for the next 24 hours. Everything she did, I checked her mouth, her poop, inspected the hairball she produced shortly after, how much water she was drinking. I worried I would have to bring her to the vet and have her stomach pumped. What if she dies? The worry, oh my God, the worry.

Leaf and Paw
The Dracaena eater, Harlequinn.

Harlequin was fine. After an exhausting few days I didn’t want this to ever happen again. If I only knew a houseplant could kill my cat? I didn’t see any labels, nothing says POISON for customers to see. Since then I brought it upon myself to do my homework and not to purchase plants blindly or emotionally.

Leaf and Paw
The newest floof, Harvey.

I’m probably not alone, and I’m sure I am not the only one with an experience like that. Years later, I own over 50 houseplants, all of these purchased and /or inherited with my cats in mind. I’ve never had to experience the Dracaena Episode again, as it came to be named. While I have a few toxic plants (I do own a few pothos), they are kept suspended from the ceiling and, no matter what super climbing power my cats have, they cannot reach them.

Palm Tree
One of my plant-friends, Harold Jr.

With the help of the ASPCA website, which houses a plethora of information  on toxic plants and pets, I have compiled many lists dividing plants into safe, marginally safe, and unsafe categories. I created leaf&paw to share that knowledge with all of you, so you don’t have to sacrifice a dracaena to a New York winter and a day of your well-being to live harmoniously with pets and plants.

welcome to leaf&paw.

Welcome to leaf&paw!

I’m a cat and hedgehog lover, and indoor plant parent. I live with my husband, two cats, two hedghogs, and over 50 houseplants in my 200 year old historical cottage in New York.

As an animal-lover and plant hoarder, I created leaf&paw to provide information, inspiration, and thoughts about my two favorite things. I ramble about toxic and non-toxic houseplants for pets, plant care, and document my ever-growing plant collection that I love to share.

This was supposed to be a bookcase….oh well.