16 Expert Tips To Keep Cats Out Of Your Plants

No matter how much I adore my cats, they routinely return that affection by destroying my houseplants. Maybe they’re jealous of my affection. There is no need to choose between your cats and your indoor plants. Here are a few ways you can keep your cats from using your potted plants as their own organic litter box or munching on their greenery. 

In this article, we’re looking at a few key points. Read on, or use this table contents to guide you:

If you’re looking for some pet-friendly plants, we recommend you check out this bundle option from Icarus Plant Shop – and when you use our link, you get 10% off your purchase.

Why Is My Cat Eating My Plants?

Before we dive into the ways to stop your cat from eating plants, let’s start by looking at why cats enjoy munching on your garden in the first place. In most cases, cats are eating your plants for one of the three following reasons:

  • Your cat likes the taste or smell of the plants
  • Your cat likes the texture of the plants
  • Your cat is bored and looking for ways to destroy your home
  • Your cat is punishing you because their food dish needs to be refilled or they want a new litter box
  • If your cat is actually eating the soil in the plant pot, this could be a sign that it’s missing out on vital nutrients, and you should consider taking it to the vet for a check-up.

How To Train Your Cat NOT To Do Something

Cats are notoriously difficult to train, but it’s not impossible. We’ll go into plant-specific suggestions in a moment, but first, here are some basics to keep your cat from doing something they shouldn’t.

Picture from The Spruce

Timeouts

Cats are smarter than we think. While a timeout may seem like a human concept, cats can understand when they’re being punished. The key here is that you do it immediately after the behavior and don’t leave them there too long. 

According to the Cat-focused site Pawesome Cats, you should leave your cats in time out for about 10 minutes so that they can make a connection between the time and the crime.

Noise

Cats startle easily, so anything that creates noise can keep them away. From personal experience, a forceful “pssssst” sound with your mouth can stop a cat from doing just about anything. 

Another thing you could try is taking a plastic water bottle and filling it with pennies. Shake the bottle when the cat is acting out.

Smell and Feel Deterrents

Cats are very sensitive to aromas and touch. We’ll discuss some specific plants options below, but cats generally don’t like citrus smells or objects with rough or uneven surfaces – like a pinecone.

Similarly, sticky options(like tape) or surprisingly crunchy objects (like aluminum foil) can be great deterrents.

Spray bottle

This one isn’t just true for cats. Dogs, people, anything – no one enjoys it. A spritz of water doesn’t hurt the cat and can make them think twice before doing the behavior a second time.

As a bonus, you can put a little apple cider vinegar in the water. They really don’t like the scent of it.

Consistency Is Key

Much like children, your point will only stick if it’s made often. Be ready to combat your cat’s behavior with these deterrents. This way, they’ll begin to understand the relationship between their action and the consequences.

Houseplants Cats Won’t Chew On

If your cat craves a potted plant salad, the easiest way to deter them is to choose these cat-proof houseplants.

Smelly plants: Several plants will give off a strong odor that may be music to our noses, but cats will hate and avoid. Try planting these between your other plants to keep those pesky paws away. 

Did you know that cats aren’t the only ones who dislike citrus smells? So do mosquitos! Check out our tips on plants that deter mosquitos!

If you’re interested in buying houseplants online, we have a 10% off coupon at Icarus Plant Shop!

Icarus Plant Shop

Caution:

Cat owners are often also told to use pennyroyal to deter cats. However, I would caution against it. If your cats have a death wish (mine are completely reckless) and they do for some reason ingest pennyroyal, it can cause major health issues. 

How to keep cats away from houseplants

Toxic Plants To Keep Away From Cats

On that note, there are some plants that you should absolutely keep out of reach. Visit the ASPCA for more details on plants that are toxic to pets. 

Also, check out plants that are safe for cats and dogs.

How to Keep Cats Out Of Houseplants

If you have plants that aren’t on the list above, don’t worry! There are plenty of natural cat deterrents and commercial cat repellents to choose from.

Natural Cat Deterrent Options

If you don’t want to grow one of the plants listed above, here are some other suggestions from across the internet that cats dislike.

  • Pine Cones
  • Coffee grounds
  • black pepper ( you can also sprinkle cayenne pepper in the problem area)
  • tea leaves
  • plastic carpet runner
  • ultrasonic devices
  • plastic forks
  • Eucalyptus oil

Smells Cats Hate

Cats are 40x more sensitive to smells than you or me. If you’re looking to deter your cats with aromas, there are a few different options that cats can’t stand:

  • Citrus: oranges, lemons, limes (but be sure not to use any essential oils, which can be dangerous to cats)
  • Banana peels: consider making a banana water nutrient mix, which can then be sprayed on your plants. It will give your plants a yummy boost and help keep your cats away.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Cats are typically known to dislike the smell of vinegar, which is safe around cats unless ingested. Dilute with a little bit of water and use a spray bottle to apply. 
vet spraying to white cat

Spray To Keep Cats Away From Plants

There is also a wide variety of sprays that can help keep your cats off plants and furniture. When purchasing a spray, it’s important to find an option that is safe for your cats and plant, as well as effective. Here are some of our favorites:

Of the options above, one of our favorites is Critter Ridder. It’s safe on cats and effective.

Toxic Plants To Keep Away From Cats

On that note, there are some plants that you should absolutely keep out of reach. Visit the ASPCA for more details on plants that are toxic to pets. 

Also, check out plants that are safe for cats and dogs.

What Plants Are Poisonous To Cats?

Many plants could actually be harmful to your cats, and this is especially true for lilies. A leaf or a flower of many varieties of lily can cause acute kidney failure in your cats. Again, this is by no means a complete list, so be sure to check on the ASPCA‘s website if you are unsure. But, be especially sure you keep them away from the following:

  • Day Lilies
  • Tulips
  • Hyacinth
  • Many Holiday Plants: Mistletoe, Holly, Amaryllis, Poinsettia, Many Christmas Tree Varieties
  • Daffodils
  • Rhododendron
  • Oleander
  • Sago Palm – especially the seeds
  • Philodendron
  • Jade
  • Some Ivy
  • Pothos

That said, please note that “toxic” doesn’t always mean deadly. Many houseplants could give your cat a numb tongue or a belly ache – but they won’t kill them. Please be sure to read the ASPCA’s list of symptoms before making your decision.

If you’re looking for a good plant that’s easy-to-care-for and not toxic to cats, check out the purple waffle – which is one of our favorites from this year.

Here’s a good list of fan-favorites that aren’t toxic to cats:

If you’re looking for a bundle of plants that won’t make your feline friends sick, check out this purrrrfect bundle from Icarus Plant Shop (and save 10% off your purchase):

Icarus Plants Pet Friendly
Plants That Are Toxic to Cats!!

Dangers Of Cats In The Vegetable Garden

Many surprising and annoying issues can pop up for gardeners if they have an indoor, outdoor cat.

Cats’ feces contain a lot of dangerous pathogens and parasites. If they decide to do their business in your garden soil, it’s concerning, as you’re eating the plants growing there.

Cats also kill birds, which might seem like just a part of nature – but they kill a lot of birds. According to ABCbirds.org, our outdoor cats kill 2.4 billion birds in a year.

If you have flower beds, you know that cats can be detrimental to them, as well!

What To Do If Your Cat Is Digging

Your houseplants may appeal to your cat in a few different ways. Digging is one of them, and I live by the rule that if a cat can dig in it, they will probably poo in it, too. Don’t ask me how I know. If digging is a problem, here are a few tricks to discourage this behavior.

Use Less Dirt

That sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes the most simple solution is most effective. Many plants require less dirt than others or can be grown in more rocky soil, which is much less fun for our feline friends. Succulents and air plants are a few decorative options that will brighten up your home without dirtying your cat’s paws.

Barriers

Every cat has its own quirky personality and will respond differently to detergents. You may want to try a few different physical barriers. 

Place items on the top of the soil around the base of the plant. You will be able to water your plants through the barrier still, and digging will be difficult. One drawback to pinecones is that they can be pretty easy to knock out of the planter.

 My little angels would have them out and bouncing around the house in about twenty seconds. Here are some great options: 

One alternative is aluminum foil. Cut sections and wrap them around the base of the plant. Cats typically don’t like the selective nature of the feeling of tinfoil under their paws. 

Chicken Wire And Netting

Chicken wire can be cut to cover the pot’s base with the plant growing through a hole in the center and secured by bending the wire around the pot’s base. This could be the purrfect way to make a cat-proof garden.

Netting can be secured with string woven around the outer edge to create a drawstring. Pull the drawstring tight around the base of your pot and cut a hole in the center for the plant to grow through.

Plant Cage To Protect From Cats

If you want to be a little more heavy-duty with your barriers, you may be looking for a plant cage to protect your flora and fauna from cats. Planter cages and glass terrarium cages are options that could meet your needs.

black plant terrarium with plants inside

Bird Cage

Depending on your esthetic goals, a birdcage can be a great idea. You can find bird-free stands, tabletops, or hanging birdcages, some more decorative than others on Amazon. If it can keep a cat from eating a bird, it can keep it from eating your plants too.

Additional Safe Cat Deterrents

Especially if your cat is chewing on leaves or digging, a cat repellent will be useful.

Sticky Paws For Plants

The brand Sticky Paws has a wide variety of options for safe cat deterrents, specifically for furniture. You can use Sticky Paws for plants by putting the sticky sheets in strips across the top of the plant’s pot. This will keep them from digging in the dirt. 

While you shouldn’t put the sticky sheets on the plant itself, Sticky Paws has a wide variety of products, including sprays, that can help you train your cat to leave your floral and fauna friends alone. It’s also easy to apply and remove, transparent, and won’t harm them. 

Taste Deterrent

The tastes of pepper, cayenne pepper, and bitter apple are not appealing to cats. Mix your chosen substance in a spray bottle and spritz the soil and leaves. After a few tries, your cat will get the idea that your plants are not tasty. But again, every cat is different, and you may have to try out a few things. Mine happen to like a little spice in their lives. 

It would be wise to test your spray on a small leaf to test the effect before spraying the whole plant. 

Smell Deterrent

Our feline friends also have an aversion to the smell of citrus. Citrus peels can be cut up and placed in the base of the pot. Even when ground small, they can give off a strong citrus smell. If you’re already taken off the lemon peels, you might as well use the lemon juice. Citrus juice can be diluted and sprayed directly onto the leaves of your potted plant. 

You should also be aware that citrus oil can be highly toxic to cats. So I would not suggest using essential oils, like those used in diffusers. These oils are also found in perfumes, soaps, and shampoos. So if you’re thinking of improvising, use caution. It’s best to go with a natural solution such as juices and peels. 

Here are some smell deterrent options that could be an effective way to keep your cats at bay:

Out Of Reach, Out Of (Your Cat’s) Mind

A simple way to keep your domestic cats out of plants is to place them in high places. Big disclaimer for this one – if you have a jumping cat or a cat that likes a challenge, you may need to pick a deterrent that packs a little more punch. But from experience, I have noticed that even placing plants slightly higher up can cause a cat to leave a plant alone. 

We are currently growing Avocado trees in our condo, and our cat, Blanche, immediately went after the leaves when they started to grow. She didn’t ingest them. She would just rip them off like a little jerk. So I placed them on wooden milk crates in our home. For some reason, even having the saplings a little higher made Blanche uninterested. She hasn’t gone after them ever since.

Indoor Cat Garden: A Garden Of Their Own

Why not try a little positive encouragement? There are a few plants that are extremely attractive to cats and esthetically pleasing to you. Win, win. Your cat would much rather nibble on these and will leave your precious garden be.

Catnip is an obvious go-to. It is thought to mimic feline pheromones, and while the smell can make your cat act like a total goofball, it has a calming effect when ingested. Needless to say, it’s pretty distracting and is likely to draw your cat’s attention away from your other plants.

Cat Grass is also an excellent nibble for your pet. Most cats will naturally chew on grass. The enzymes in grasses aid in digestion and help to pass fur-balls. 

Many pet stores will sell cat grass and catnip as seedlings. You can even have this little cat garden pack of 6 plants from Petco. It doesn’t get much more simple than that. 

Final Thoughts

I truly believe cats (at least mine) have no ill will. They’re just intolerably playful and curious! Hopefully, these ideas will help you, your plants, and your cat-friends live together in harmony.

Devri Chism

Devri loves making the most of her in-home garden. While she was raised on a farm in the Ozarks, she traded the rolling hills for big city livin’ - and an itty bitty living space. She loves growing herbs, as well as, accent plants that can be used decoratively around her home.

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