Keeping houseplants is a hobby that is on the rise in recent years. The more time you spend at home, the more you want to fill your home with beautiful foliage. In fact, plants are great at helping reduce the stress we experience on a daily basis. (1) This might be part of why it is such an addicting hobby.

“[…] active interaction with indoor plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress compared with mental work.”

Min-sun Lee

This article from HerbSpeak features a list of several common plants safe for cats and dogs, as well as helpful information about what you should to in the event that your pet ingests a poisonous plant.

What Do You Do if Your Pet Has Eaten a Poisonous Plant?

If you suspect your pet has ingested something that could be toxic to them, take them to a veterinary clinic immediately. If your normal veterinary clinic is closed, go to an emergency vet.

While not all toxic plants are fatal, they can be if ingested over time, or your pet could be abnormally allergic. Cats and small dogs are especially prone to severe poisoning symptoms as their body mass is smaller, and the poison not only affects them stronger, but can also act faster.

Even if the symptoms are mild, they still put the pet in discomfort, so it is best to get it treated with veterinary care. The vet will often pump the animal’s stomach or provide them with activated charcoal to remove the toxins.

An important note – it is not recommended to induce vomiting unless directed by your vet, as this can worsen the problem.

While we are all concerned about our indoor pets eating the leaves or stems of poisonous plants, the same concern should be applied in outdoor gardening, especially if you allow your pets outside and use mulch or pesticides. (2)

“If possible, keep your pets away from newly fertilized beds and lawns until the product has dissolved. Alternatively, consider liquid fertilizers. When buying mulch, avoid cocoa mulch. It is toxic to pets and lethal if ingested in quantity. Choose root mulch, wood bark or gravel instead.”

Sarah Hodgson

Whether the plant is indoor or out, you should make note of the plant that you suspect they ingested part of or bring that plant with you to the veterinary clinic. If you can’t get to a veterinary clinic, there are hotlines you can call that are the equivalent of poison control for animals.

This list is not all inclusive, but if you see something that should be listed here or that needs modification, please leave a comment below!

United States: +1 (888) 426-4435 (fee unknown)

US & Canada: +1 800-213-6680 ($35 fee applies)

United Kingdom: +44 01202 50 90 00 (£30 fee applies)

Know the Symptoms

The symptoms of poisonous plant ingestion can range from mild to severe, and unfortunately our pets are not the best at telling us what’s wrong.

Often, they grow quiet and lethargic or stop some of their daily activities, which can be difficult to notice compared to them crying out for help.

Any part of a plant can be toxic from the pollen to the stems, leaves, and even sap.

Common Symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Salivation and Drooling
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Weakness or Collapsing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Coughing or Difficulty Breathing
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Increased Thirst
  • Shaking
  • Sneezing
  • Dizziness or Disorientation

Severe Symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Sedation
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Anorexia
  • Death

Contact Symptoms:

  • Skin Rash or Dermatitis
  • Excessive Itching
  • Blisters
  • Swelling

Know Your 24/7 Emergency Vet’s Number and Address

Many areas of the world have fully operational veterinary clinics, but it is difficult to confine medical emergencies to the weekdays during business hours.

It often seems like emergencies only happen when your ordinary veterinary clinic is closed, which is why it’s important to plan ahead. The last thing you want to do is be stuck frantically looking for an open vet clinic when your pet needs immediate care.

Pause what you’re doing and take these steps:

  1. Do a quick internet search and look for emergency vet clinics near you that are open seven days a week.
  2. Write down their name and phone number
  3. Place it somewhere where you will remember it, such as the refrigerator or near the front door.

Can’t get to a pen or piece of paper right now? Make a note on your computer or cell phone and make sure it sends you a reminder later, or send a text to a friend asking them to remind you to do this.

If there are none that are open 24/7, select a few that are open at different hours. Make a note of their hours alongside the contact information so you can call the right one in a pinch.

If you move somewhere new, this should be on the top of your priority list, right alongside changing the utilities into your name.

What to Do If Your Houseplant is Toxic

If you find out that your houseplant is toxic to your beloved pet, there are two main options that you could consider.

The first is gifting or selling the houseplant to someone else who does not have pets. This is the most common method of removing the plant from the home without throwing it in the trash. Plus, if the plant was expensive – as many are – you can recoup some costs by selling it.

The second option is to place the plant in an enclosed terrarium or shelf with a glass door. This would still allow you to see and care for the plant in your home, but it removes the pet’s ability to access the plant.

For low-light tolerant plants, a high place, such as on top of a bookshelf or a fridge may be sufficient, but cats are known for their surprising agility and would have no trouble reaching these tall spaces if they had the inclination.

List of Plants Safe for Cats and Dogs

The ASPCA maintains a list of plants that are poisonous for cats and dogs. (3) It is an easy way to look up and plant that you know the name of. Though it is not all-inclusive, it is an excellent start for many common plants.

“This list contains plants that have been reported as having systemic effects on animals and/or intense effects on the gastrointestinal tract.”

ASPCA.org

In the section below, however, you will see the HerbSpeak compilation of 20 common houseplants safe for cats and dogs. These plants are further categorized by their care difficulty and sunlight requirements.

Indoor Plants Safe for Cats and Dogs

Bird's Nest Fern

Asplenium nidus

This showy fern is among one of the easiest ferns to care for. While it will still require humidity, the fern makes a great indoor houseplant that won’t harm your pets.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Sunlight: Moderate, indirect

African Violet

Saintpaulia ionanth

African violets are a plant that many flower lovers aspire to care for in the home. Luckily, if you are an animal lover too, you don’t have to give up on that dream. African violets are non-toxic to both cats and dogs.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Sunlight: Bright, indirect

Venus Flytrap

Dionaea muscipula

This unique, two-lobed carnivorous plant, the Venus flytrap, is a favorite among kids and adults alike. Luckily, they are also non-toxic to cats and dogs, so if the green little hunter becomes the hunted, no harm is done other than a missing flytrap.

Difficulty: Beginner
Sunlight: Bright, direct

Boston Fern

Nephrolepis exaltata

Boston ferns are known for being one of the easiest ferns to care for, and are popular decoration for porches, bedrooms, and kitchens. Thankfully, these bright, cheerful fronds are also safe for your pets.

Difficulty: Beginner
Sunlight: Moderate, indirect

Spider Plant

Chlorophytum comosum

While this plant is considered non-toxic to cats and dogs, cats have been known to nom on the leaves and over-indulge to the point of nausea and vomiting. Why? Because the plant contains mildly hallucinogenic compounds. If you want to keep a spider plant around, let it hang from the ceiling and break out the catnip instead.

Difficulty: Beginner
Sunlight: Moderate, indirect

Moth Orchid

Phalaenopsis blume

The moth orchid is a specific type of orchid that is surprisingly non-toxic to both cats and dogs. While losing an orchid bloom to a curious nom might be devastating to you, you can rest assured that your pet will be perfectly safe.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Sunlight: Bright, indirect

Calatheas

Calathea spp.

Calatheas, also known as prayer plants for their unique behavior in “praying” or raising up and down throughout the day as a result of circadian rhythm; a process known as nyctinasty. This plants are both beautiful and safe for cats and dogs.

Difficulty: Beginner – Intermediate
Sunlight: Moderate, indirect

Cast Iron Plant

Aspidistra elatior

The cast iron plant is a fun, broad-leafed addition to any home that needs a bit more greenery. Luckily, while cats and dogs might appreciate a good, wide leaf to nom on, they are non-toxic and will not put your pets in danger.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Sunlight: Bright, indirect

Zebra Haworthia

Haworthia attenuata

Haworthia plants have recently gotten a lot of attention and grown in popularity as a succulent. Fortunately, these plants are not toxic to cats or dogs, making them an excellent addition to any shelf or desktop.

Difficulty: Beginner
Sunlight: Moderate, indirect

Air Plant

Tillandsia spp.

Good news to indoor landscapers who want to create a beautiful arrangement without the hardship of constant watering; air plants are completely safe for cats and dogs. Though, cats in particular seem to like the texture of the plant, so it is advised to keep them elevated if you notice your pet taking a liking to them. At least, if you want to keep your air plant, that is.

Difficulty: Beginner
Sunlight: Bright, indirect

Parlor Palm

Chamaedorea elegans

A lot of palms are off-limits for pet lovers, but fortunately, the parlor palm is not one of those. Also known as a tabletop palm, this plant makes a great centerpiece to any shelf or table and is completely non-toxic to both cats and dogs.

Difficulty: Beginner – Intermediate
Sunlight: Moderate, indirect

Outdoor Plants Safe for Cats and Dogs

Crepe Myrtle

Lagerstroemia indica

Crepe Myrtle is a popular tree used in landscaping that is luckily non-toxic to both cats and dogs, meaning your beloved pets are safe from this type of landscaping flora.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Sunlight: Full, direct

Sunflower

Helianthus annuus

These bright, cheerful flowers won’t harm your pets in any way, so if your pet tries making a lunch out of the leaves or petals of this plant, you can put the keys back down; no vet visit necessary.

Difficulty: Beginner – Intermediate
Sunlight: Full, direct

Snapdragon

Antirrhinum majus

Snapdragons are among some of the most common flowers to use in gardening that add a beautiful, unique shape to any garden. Luckily, these plants are also non-toxic to both cats and dogs, making them an excellent choice for pet-friendly gardening.

Difficulty: Beginner
Sunlight: Full, indirect

Rose

Rosa spp.

While the thorns might make a prickly surprise for unsuspecting paws and noses, the actual plant is not considered toxic to beloved pets. This is great news considering how widespread rosebushes are in outdoor landscaping.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Sunlight: Full, direct

Sage

Salvia officinalis

Sage can cause intestinal upset and digestion problems if your pet noms down whole plants consistently, but it is generally considered safe and non-toxic, even if they do like to sniff around the leaves.

Difficulty: Beginner
Sunlight: Full, direct

Impatiens

Impatiens spp.

Impatiens are considered safe and non-toxic to both dogs and cats, which is great news for you if you want to add a splash of color to your garden bed!

Difficulty: Intermediate
Sunlight: Full, indirect

Bamboo

Bambusoideae spp.

It’s important to note that the small “lucky bamboo” or ribbon plants are toxic to pets – this is not really bamboo but called it due to its uncanny appearance. True, outdoor bamboo of the Bambusoideae genus is completely safe, however.

Difficulty: Beginner – Intermediate
Sunlight: Full, direct to partial indirect

Hollyhock

Alcea rosea

Hollyhock is a wonderful addition to any garden, sprucing the landscape up with color. In addition to being a great pollinator plant, this plant is also non-toxic to both cats and dogs.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Sunlight: Full, direct

Catnip

Nepeta cataria

An age-old favorite of cats, catnip is not only a favorite of cats but is also considered a good medicinal plant to keep on hand for humans. It is also safe for dogs to ingest, though they won’t roll around and enjoy the herb as voraciously as cats will.

Difficulty: Beginner
Sunlight: Full, indirect

When In Doubt…

If you are ever unsure of whether the houseplant you have is safe for your pet, keep it out of reach until you can consult a veterinary clinic.

By keeping it up and out of the way of your pets, you can rest assured knowing that they won’t accidentally take a nibble out of the leaves or nom on flowers overnight or while you’re at work.

Identifying your plant is the top thing you can do to help prevent accidental poisonings. Proper identification can be done with the help of a local nursery or botanist.

For most common houseplants, identification is not difficult, but exotic or rare plants can sometimes look similar to others that are toxic.

If you need extra reassurance or to be 100% positive, there are horticultural labs that will test a sample of your plant’s tissue for a genetic match, giving you a positive identification down to the subspecies.

References
  1. Min-sun Lee, Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4419447/
  2. Sarah Hodgson, 5 Pet-friendly Gardening Tips, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/pet-friendly-gardening-tips_b_5159050
  3. org, Poisonous Plants, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants