Buying a toxic plant was the best mistake I ever made.

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. It was the best mistake I ever made.

Toxic plants to pets - Dracaena

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 just 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, I found her munching on considerably more of 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.

Cats and plants

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.

Cats and Plants

I’m probably not alone, and I’m sure I am not the only one with an experience like that. Years later, I now 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 Monsteras), they not bothered by cat paws.

Cat with Oxalis and Fittonia

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.

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  1. While i appreciate the awareness people like to have and to stay informed this is a slightly overdramatic story. And the comments afterwards indicate such ‘cat was fine’. Lilies are literally my most favorite garden plant, own 100’s of them. And im not getting rid of them for a cat.
    I currently own 5 cats and have owned many cats over the last 20 yrs with the longest living one being 21. I currently have the marginal dracena (in your story) 3 of my cats CONSTANTLY chew up and ticks me off more they are slowly killing it. The other one they eat the most is the spider. Its the only two these cats i have eat. I do not currently own a dumb cane but i have in the past which those cats never touched but i have considered getting another.

  2. I appreciate your site. This time of year, pet owners should be wary of tulips, daffodils, and lilies, among many plants. In particular, every part of the lily plant is poisonous, including the leaves, pollen, and water that cats may drink from the plant. I can’t stress enough that many varieties of lilies., including Asiatic, lily of the valley, etc can cause kidney failure and death in cats. The pollen can be insidious and cling to clothing, shoes, hair, and animal fur. And, pollen can enter the home through open windows, screens, and even closed doors through microscopic crevices. In short, lilies on the porch or yard aren’t safe, either. Always google the name of the plant before purchasing it.

    1. Totally agree, Jonathan. I personally think lilies are the worst and appreciate you bringing up their toxicity – people forget that lilies in gardens and landscaping can be hazardous too.

  3. My cat is visiting my parents’ house and just got into a dracaena. It was in a supposedly closed room, but apparently the door didn’t latch properly. I’ve been scouring the internet for the signs to look out for and just found this blog. I’m so glad your kitty was ok and hearing that makes me a bit relieved. I’m still going to closely monitor him and hope for the best.

    1. Yes, definitely monitor, Tracy – the warning signs your looking for are not eating/drinking, lethargy, and excessive drooling. Any signs of these (or anything else suspicious) take her to the vet. Glad I can help!

  4. Hi,

    I’m so glad I have found your page! I’m about to adopt two cats and already have a house full of (apparently mostly toxic plants! 😳) I have ditched most of them (including my beloved Dracaena that I’ve grown from a baby) and have scoured your page for advice before buying myself some safer plants (including a monstera which I would have avoided before I read your page) thank you so much!!

    I’m off to find your insta page!!