Plants are a real treat for the eye. And according to some scientific studies, simply looking at them contributes to our well-being by regulating stress. Unfortunately, your little friend loves them even more than you do and starts to devour them! Here are 5 simple and totally harmless tips to prevent your cat from eating your plants.
Warning – poisonous plants
Some plants that frequently populate our homes, balconies and gardens are toxic to cats. Sometimes the whole plant is toxic, for others, only the flowers, the trunk, the stems or the roots are toxic.
Here are some examples of toxic plants, among the most common (non-exhaustive list):
Lily of the valley;
An emergency consultation at the veterinarian is essential if your cat has ingested a toxic plant and presents one or more of these symptoms:
Why does your cat eat your plants?
If your cat has taken a liking to your plants, to the point that he chews them, licks them or even devours them, it is of course out of the question to let him do so. But before seeing how to stop him, let’s try to understand why he does it.
First of all, it should be noted that this behavior is more frequent in individuals who do not have access to the outside. But it also happens that some little rascals, who have access to the garden, do the same.
There are two main reasons why your cat will eat your plants. One is physiological, the other psychological.
He needs to purge
When outside, cats eat grass. This allows them to eliminate some of the hair they ingest when they groom themselves and it improves their digestion. This phenomenon is totally natural, but also essential for the cat.
Indeed, the hairs he swallows and which are mostly eliminated in his excrements, can accumulate in his digestive tract and form trichobezoars (what we call more familiarly “hairballs”). This can lead to intestinal obstruction.
When he eats grass, some of the ingested hair wraps around the blades of grass that he swallows as soon as he chews and he regurgitates them more easily. This is how he purges his stomach.
Lack of activity
The cat can spend long hours sleeping, watching in front of a window, but it also needs activities, games, a stimulating environment. This is an essential condition for his well-being and good health.
Outside, he hunts, climbs, runs or lazily stretches in the sun. He must be able to do the same indoors, at the risk of developing anxiety, chronic stress, eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia) or behavioral problems.
A bored cat, whose environment does not offer enough solicitations, will tend to look for occupations where they are. And your plants are one of them!
How to prevent him from eating your plants?
Shouting and punishments are totally ineffective and unfairly traumatizing for the cat. They are therefore obviously to be avoided. And all those who know his nature well know it, he hates constraint.
So, how to proceed?
Satisfying his needs and protecting your plants are the best solutions. And for the most stubborn, as a last resort, the use of a repellent, really harmless, is still possible.
Help him purge with catnip
Catnip is a mixture of grasses to be grown in a container, or in a reserved area of the garden, so that your cat can use it at his convenience. Generally composed of oats, barley and wheat, cats love these deliciously tender young shoots. They are a precious help for the natural elimination of hair ingested by your cat and also improve its transit.
You can sow them, buy them in a pet store or even at some florists.
Arrange its environment with games and accessories
As we’ve seen, a bored cat will tend to look for something to do, even with your plants. Providing him with an environment appropriate to his nature will give him all the activity he needs and is an excellent way to avoid him seeking solace elsewhere.
An ordinary cardboard box, a feather cane or a DIY version with a cork at the end of a string, a treat ball, an old sock rolled into a ball or a household duster, there are many inexpensive solutions to provide him with toys that will stimulate his hunting instinct.
But as independent as she is, remember that your cat will appreciate it even more if you play with her. Take the time to share playtime with your cat. Not only will you enjoy it, but you’ll strengthen your bond.
A cat tree for your cat to climb and jump on, a tree house for your cat to hide in, scratching posts, a basket or a soft cat bag – there’s no shortage of things to keep your cat comfortable and busy around the house.
You can even come up with more and make them yourself – it’s as fun as it is satisfying for him and you!
Tip: Spray new toys and accessories with a catnip spray to make them more attractive.
Put your plants under cover
To protect your plants, put them out of reach. In the house, high points, hanging baskets and wall shelves are good solutions. In the garden, think of nets or small fences.
Aluminium foil, simple and effective
You have certainly noticed that cats like cozy and comfortable places. They are very sensitive to materials and textures and some of them are particularly unpleasant for them.
To discourage your cat from approaching your plants, place aluminum foil in the areas where your cat must pass to gain access. After one or two attempts, he will give up.
White vinegar, a truly harmless repellent
As a last resort, if nothing works, don’t go out and buy chemical repellents. You most certainly have the solution in one of your cupboards: white vinegar.
Indeed, the cat hates its smell!
Dilute a capful in a liter of water and spray the pots of your plants and the surfaces you want to protect. The effect is guaranteed and totally safe for him and for you!
Tip: this natural repellent also works to keep dogs away and it is an ingredient that you can use in many other occasions (for cleaning, cooking, laundry, against lice, or as a weed killer in the garden…)!
Warning about repellents and “home recipes
There are all sorts of recipes and tips for making homemade repellents that can work. But using them, especially indoors, isn’t always a good idea, because they’re not necessarily safe.
Some of these grandmotherly recipes recommend using ingredients that, if they do act as a repellent, are dangerous for the cat. This is the case of citrus fruits, such as lemon or orange, but it is also the case of garlic or onion or coffee grounds (caffeine), which are however often recommended.
Be aware that they are toxic for your little friend and that is why they repel cats!
And if most of these recipes warn against the consumption of these products, accidental ingestion, especially by rubbing and licking, is still possible. Also allergies, which are not excluded.
The use of essential oils is also problematic. Most of them are strongly toxic for the cat, because its liver is not able to degrade some of the molecules which compose them and notably (but not only) those which contain phenols and ketones.
Moreover, essential oils are not soluble in water. Even added to a large quantity of liquid, to be then pulverized, they will be released intact. The danger is thus very real!
The problem of enclosed spaces
Using a repellent in a house or apartment, if your cat does not have access to the outside, poses another problem. Your little friend has a highly developed sense of smell and lives in this enclosed space with you. If you make it an inhospitable space with smells he hates, where will he go?
In conclusion, whenever possible, it is always better to use the “soft way” and address the causes, rather than the symptoms. Fixing the problems that cause your cat to eat your plants will always be more effective and much more rewarding than using the best repellent available. Your cat and your plants will thank you for it!