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.
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.
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.
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.