Why Do Cats Eat Plants, and Should I Be Worried?

I’m very passionate about educating cat owners on the dangers of houseplants for cats. That’s because my own sister’s cat (that I gave her) died of acute kidney failure secondary to getting into dangerous Asiatic lilies from a bouquet several years ago.

While I want you to know what plants to be wary of, I’ll admit that I have at least 10 houseplants in my house. You just need to know which are potentially dangerous to cats as some are very safe. The majority of plants may cause drooling, vomiting and diarrhea when ingested by cats but not death. [Editor's note: Of course, it's always a good idea to call your veterinarian if you notice that your cat's ingested anything abnormal. Are you a dog parent as well? Check out Poisonous Plants and Dogs.]

Why does my cat eat plants?
Personally, I feel like cats are craving a different texture or the feel of fiber in their mouth. Keep in mind that cats are true carnivores; they only really need meat-sourced food. (Cats should never be made into vegetarians, as it can cause life-threatening amino acid deficiencies.) If your cat likes to chew on plants, I recommend purposely growing cat grass for them (often found in pet stores); it’s very safe, but can result in vomiting when ingested.

What plants are the most dangerous for my cat?
True lilies of the Lilium or Hemerocallis species are very toxic. Examples of some of these lilies include the following:

  • Tiger lilies
  • Day lilies
  • Asiatic hybrid lilies
  • Japanese show lilies
  • Easter lilies
  • Rubrum lilies
  • Stargazer lilies
  • Red lilies
  • Western lilies
  • Wood lilies

All parts of these lilies are highly toxic to cats! Even small ingestions (2-3 petals/leaves, the pollen, or even water from the vase) can result in severe, acute kidney failure. Learn more about these lilies here.

Cardiac glycosides like foxglove, lily of the valley, kalanchoe, Japanese yew, etc. are also very dangerous. Most of these grow outside, but it’s important you know the name of every plant that you bring into your house. This type does not cause kidney failure, but can cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias and death when ingested by dogs or cats.

Other common houseplants that cats like to chew on are Dieffenbachia or philodendron. These plants contain insoluble calcium oxalate—not soluble calcium oxalate (like so many websites erroneously mention) which causes oral pain when chewed on. This isn’t life-threatening, however, and typically results in foaming and frothing at the mouth. My advice is to keep these plants elevated and out of reach. If your cat does get into one, contact your veterinarian. She may suggest that you offer something tasty to flush out the mouth: a small amount of chicken broth, canned tuna water (not oil!), or even chicken noodle soup. If your cat continues to vomit, a veterinary visit is a must.

Can I have plants in my house and still keep my cat safe?
Yes, I keep one spider plant in my house to act as a “sacrifice” to my cats; they love to chew on the long fronds of this plant, and it’s very safe. My cats typically leave my other plants alone as they prefer the spider plant! That said, like the majority of plants out there, the spider plant can cause some vomiting when ingested. For the rare cat that devours large amounts of plant material, there’s a small chance that the long fronds of the spider plant can tie together and get stuck in the stomach. But a few bites? No biggie.

Here are my simple, cat-friendly (and plant friendly) rules:
No fresh cut flowers or bouquets of flowers in the house. If you can’t confidentially identify Lilium or Hemerocallis spp. (what we call “true lilies”) then it’s a big no-no.

When in doubt, take pictures of your plants and write down the genus name, if possible. You can call animal poison control and your veterinarian to be safe.

If you do want plants to coexist with your cats, consider these "cat-safe" ones; they are in a veterinarian’s house:

  • Spider plant
  • Wandering Jew
  • Christmas cactus
  • Bromeliads

Keep in mind that the majority of plants are relatively safe but may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Of course, if your cat is seen consuming any part of a plant, and you’re not sure it’s safe, call your veterinarian or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for life-saving information.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Eating House Plants

Spring is in the air, and for many homeowners this is the time of year when their homes will be decked out with flowers and green plants.

Unfortunately, if you own a cat, these plants can be particularly tempting for them to eat when you're not around, and while some may be safe for your companion, others may put him or her at a risk of poisoning or myriad other feline health problems. Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can deter your cat from eating your house plants and utilize these decorative ideas for a cat-friendly home.

Remove toxic plants.

To err on the side of caution, you should make an effort to remove any plants from your home that could be poisonous to your cat. According to, common plants like aloe vera, amaryllis, azalea, begonia, daffodils, lilies and many more could cause digestive problems and even death in some cases, so make sure you do your research before purchasing one to ensure that you aren't putting your cat at risk. has a more complete list of plants that could pose a danger to your cat.

Invest in cat grass.

While cats are carnivores by nature, there's a reason they're drawn to house plants. In the wild, cats eat grass to aid their digestion, and you can pick up a similar product at your local pet store. According to, cat grass is a great source of fiber, niacin and B vitamins, and you can usually buy it in potted form at the nearest pet store.

This will satiate your cat's need to chomp down on some greenery and avoid your plants, as well as holding a number of unique health benefits.

Utilize chili powder.

If you have a plant in your home that isn't toxic but your cat never seems to leave it alone, a good way to keep him or her away is by sprinkling chili powder on the leaves. Lightly dust the plant with the spice and you'll soon notice that your cat will avoid it altogether. Be sure to water your plants from the bottom in the weeks following the application of the chili powder to prevent the spice from washing off. Last but not least, you can also place aluminum foil around your potted plants - cats hate the feeling underneath their feet and will avoid your plants in the future.

This content is provided by the pet wellness experts at Hartz. We know that adopting a dog or cat is a huge commitment, so we're here to help you feel confident and become the best pet parent you can be.

What Causes Unusual Cravings?

"I wish I knew the answer to that one," Plotnick says. Cat pica may be caused by many things, including:

  • Dietary deficiencies: Some cats will eat their cat litter if they’re anemic, Plotnick says. "I’ve had two cases of cats with anemia, and that was one of the signs." And although it’s normal for cats to eat a little grass, eating a lot of plant material may indicate something’s missing from the cat’s diet.
  • Medical problems: Cat pica is also associated with feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, and it may be triggered by conditions like diabetes or brain tumors.
  • Genetic predisposition: For some cats, pica appears to be in their genes. For example, wool sucking, sometimes a precursor to pica, is seen more frequently in Siamese and Birman cats, says Alice Moon-Fanelli, PhD, CAAB, a certified applied animal behaviorist researching wool sucking at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Environmental factors: Is the cat bored or seeking attention? Do they need more mental or physical stimulation? "Some cats require more environmental stimulation than others," Moon-Fanelli says.
  • Compulsive disorder: Once other possibilities are ruled out, Moon-Fanelli says, "we start to investigate whether the behavior may be a compulsive disorder. We think it may have a genetic basis, because we do see it occurring more frequently in certain breeds."

Though feline pica shows up most frequently in young cats, it can also appear in older cats.

When that happens, says Moon-Fanelli, "my first thought is, ‘Is there an underlying medical cause, or stressful changes in the environment that would precipitate this sort of behavior?’"


Why do cats eat grass and how does it affect them?

Cat eating grass? Learn the causes, effects and alternatives to this behavior and what to keep in mind when your cat is playing outside!

When sharing your home with a cat you’ll inevitably discover the occasional odd behaviors they exhibit. Like for instance, why do cats eat grass? Some behaviors might be charming and entertain you, but it’s important to know if your cat eating grass is safe. Find out why it’s perfectly natural for cats to eat grass, and when you should be worried. Plus, discover some natural alternatives to grass to offer your kitty. While you’re here, find out if your cat suffers from a pollen allergy and what you can do about it.

It’s official – cats eat grass. You’ve likely already observed this in your own kitty. In fact, researchers at the University of California, Davis, Veterinary School of Medicine conducted a survey among cat parents, in which they made the following findings:

  • 89% of cats ate grass six or more times throughout their lives.
  • 11% of cats were never observed eating grass.
  • 91% of the time, cats appears in good health before eating grass.
  • 27% cats vomit frequently after eating grass or other foliage 1

This research shows that nearly all cats eat grass – and are typically in good health when doing so. So that brings us to the question – why do cats eat grass anyway?

I sprayed Grannick’s Bitter Apple, a taste-deterrent spray, on all my houseplants. Minou didn’t like the taste, but I found that I needed to reapply the spray every day to keep her at bay. (I fail to water my plants on a weekly basis, so I definitely failed to spray them every day.) I also found that the more porous the plant, the more its health suffered from the spray: I don’t think it was healthy for the ferns, moss, and begonia.

Above: It seems that the best solution is avoidance. I knew that Minou would continue to nibble on the begonia until it died, and its toxins are not good for her. So I composted the begonia and planted cushion moss to live alongside three tiny hypoestes and a creeping pilea (above), three plants listed as non-toxic by the ASPCA. Now the entire arrangement is non-toxic to dogs and cats.

Watch the video: Why Do Cats Eat Grass? (July 2021).