cat smelling plants

For some reason, there’s just something about a beautifully potted plant that entices pets like you wouldn’t believe. Learning how to keep cats out of your house plants will not only protect your plants and keep your home clean and free from dirt that gets kicked out of the pot, but it can also keep your cat safe, if you have greenery in the home that is toxic. Fortunately, there are many ways you can solve this problem and several methods you can try that will make your pet think twice about playing with your favorite indoor plants or using them in favor of their litter boxes.

Keeping Pets Safe

Like most animals, cats have a very sensitive sense of smell, so certain strong odors placed strategically around the house can cause the cat to leave your greenery alone. Some cat lovers suggest using lemon juice, old lemon peels or orange peels and placing them on top of the soil. Their strong scent can work as a deterrent and cause your cats to steer clear of each plant since cats hate the smell of citrus.

Cayenne Pepper

Other cat owners recommend sprinkling cayenne pepper in the soil, but this can be a huge mistake. Imagine if the smell of the pepper isn’t enough to scare your cat away and later, your cat will groom themselves, spreading the hot pepper all over their fur. The pepper can potentially get in their nose, mouth, and eyes, causing extreme discomfort and pain. I would not recommend using cayenne pepper. You should also avoid using essential oils, even citrus oil, since these oils can be toxic to cats.

Choose Plants Cats Hate

Cats are not attracted to all indoor plants. In fact, there are certain species of plants that cats love and other species they absolutely hate. Tea roses or any type of cacti are great choices since cats will avoid them because they can injure their mouth if they chomp down on a thorny leaf.  Cats also can’t stand the smell of rosemary, which is a beautiful plant that grows well indoors. Do a little research and look up other species of house plants that cats naturally hate and you won’t have to worry about them digging around in your greenery when you’re sleeping.

Sprays Work Well

With a little research, you’ll find sprays that are designed to keep cats away. These sprays consist of non toxic chemicals that are safe for a pet to ingest, but your cat won’t want to. If you’re hesitant to try one of these sprays, you can also make your own non toxic spray, using a combination of three parts water and one part vinegar. Mix well and place in a spray bottle. Use the repellent spray to wet down the leaves thoroughly. The mixture will not harm your cat and they will not be tempted to chomp on your plants.

Places that are off Limits to Pets

cat and plant

Another one of the best ways to protect  your greenery  is to keep it somewhere that’s off limits to your pets. This can be the bathroom, a bedroom, or a balcony. If you don’t have this type of space, then you can also consider hanging your houseplants in a basket from the ceiling or placing it up high on a bookshelf. However, younger, more ambitious pets often love to climb, so placing your greenery on a high shelf may not be very effective.

Spray Your Cat with Water

This training technique is one that’s safe and used on a kitten or adults. The idea is to spray your cat with a little water from a spray bottle, every time they come close to your pots. However, while this technique may work for some pets, it can also cause behavioral problems. It’s also not recommended for pets who are already skittish. Additionally, this technique may be effective when you’re around, but once you’re asleep or at work, your cats may take their vengeance out on your greenery.

Use Gravel or River Rocks To Prevent Cats From Using Pots as a Litter Box

If you have a cat or kitten that loves to dig and use a pot as a litter box, then one of the best ways to prevent this is by adding a layer of sharp gravel or stones on top of the soil. Cats usually prefer loose soil that they can dig in. By adding stones or gravel on the surface of the dirt, your cat will not be able to dig and may find it uncomfortable to walk on the soil. You can also use seashells, foil, and other types of materials that cats do not like to walk on.

Pine Cones

Not only will pine cones placed in a planter prevent your cat from walking on the soil, but they can also make your house smell wonderful. All you have to do is scatter enough pine cones to cover the soil to prevent your cat from stepping around one.

Use Aluminum Foil

It’s well-known that cats cannot stand walking on foil. Place a few loose sheets of aluminum foil on the floor. When your cat walks on the foil, they will immediately become startled. Hopefully, over time, this will work to keep your cats away from your houseplants for good, just plan on setting up the foil daily until they get the hint.

Double-Sided Tape

You can also try using double-sided tape. Place the tape on the floor, two to three pieces wide. This will ensure your cat at least sets one paw on the tape. They will immediately make a run for it and try to get the tape off their paws. This is a great and effective way to keep your cats away and one that’s totally harmless. Another great solution is chicken wire, or you can place a pot inside a small wire cage.

Switch to Silk

cat behind a plant

If you don’t purchase your plants for the oxygen they provide and they’re simply there for decor, then to solve your pet problem, all you have to do is make the switch to silk trees and plants. This is also a good solution if you don’t have a green thumb.

Buy Some Catnip

If you want your cats to have a little fun when you’re away or sleeping, then buy some catnip. Many cats adore catnip. Buying one can provides a fun, safe way to keep your cats from chewing on your other greenery and it also promotes a calming effect that most cats enjoy. You can also try adding other greenery that is safe for cats to chew on, such as mint, thyme, or cat grass, which is a mixture of barley or oat grass. Choose safe species that will thrive in your climate. Catnip is a great idea because it has a nice calming effect on most adults.

What Plants Will Kill Cats?

cat and cacti

Before you bring potted plants home, make sure it’s not of the toxic variety. This can be very dangerous and potentially lethal to your pets. Unfortunately, there are many species of common houseplants that are dangerous to pets.

Some of the most toxic include the following:

  • Poinsettia
  • Tomato
  • Coleus
  • Pothos
  • Dollar
  • Sago palm
  • Dumbcane
  • Rubber tree
  • English ivy
  • Peace lilies
  • Aloe vera

Peace Lilies

This is one of the most common flowering plants that you’ll find in a home during the springtime. This greenery has beautiful white flowers. Because this is such a low maintenance plant that’s very beginner-friendly, it’s a very popular choice. Unfortunately, the leaves contain calcium oxalates, which can induce vomiting if consumed.

Aloe Vera

cat and plant portrait

In a hotter climate, the aloe vera plant is a staple. They’ve since gained more popularity due to their medicinal properties found in the gel contained in the leaves. The leaves of these potted plants are succulent-like and thick, with sharp jagged edges. When ingested by cats it can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and a lethargic response.


One of the most common houseplants, pothos plants can make your kitty seriously sick. This beautiful plant is beginner friendly and low maintenance. If ingested, it can cause oral swelling, vomiting, and burning of the lips and mouth.


Dollar plants, also known as jade plants, are a type of succulent that’s said to bring fortune and luck to the owner. There are many different varieties of these houseplants to choose from. Unfortunately, this greenery is very toxic to both dogs and cats, and even horses. When ingested, the vegetation will cause incoordination, severe fatigue, vomiting, and GI upset.

Sago Palm

These tropical plants are said to significantly improve indoor air quality, which is one of the biggest reasons they’re so popular. Unfortunately, this greenery is very toxic to many types of animals, including cats. When ingested, the plant will cause diarrhea, vomiting, and in severe cases liver failure or death. If you have a cat at home, these plants should be avoided at all costs.

Dumb Cane

These popular houseplants are low-maintenance and feature tropical foliage that instantly makes them the focal point of any room. There are many different species of dumb canes available, with some measuring several feet high. Unfortunately, this type of plant produces a source of toxins that can be fatal to pets. Even the sap of the plant can irritate human skin. Signs of poisoning can include difficulty breathing and swallowing, oral irritation, and vomiting.

Research Houseplants

tabby cat and plant

Before you buy new vegetation, it’s important that you do your research to ensure these plants are not harmful to pets. Of course, this will be especially important if you have a cat that’s younger and has a history of chewing on houseplants. In many cases, placing the greenery out of reach by hanging them, or putting them in a room that your cat doesn’t have access to, can solve the problem. But if you have a cat that gets into everything, make sure you only purchase cat-friendly plants for your home.

Why Cats May Eat Plants

In nature, cats mainly lived on meat, which is why most pet food manufacturers have focused on creating diets that are mainly focused on animal proteins, although there is usually a small percentage of plant-based proteins found in some formulas.

Diet in the Wild

Here’s the thing, in the wild, cats would get a small percentage of houseplants from inside any animal that they consumed. Some vets believe that this is the element missing from a domesticated cat’s diet, and one of the reasons why some cats have an inner drive to snack on indoor plants.

But in the wild, the vegetation they ate was already partially digested, unlike house plants. This undigested vegetation can cause a cat to regurgitate after eating. This is due to the fact that the cat’s body lacks the ability to break down the vegetation. Some cats will intentionally eat greenery matter to cause this regurgitation in order to clear out their digestive tract, if they’ve eaten something earlier that has caused digestive upset.

Final Thoughts

cat smelling flowers

Learning how to keep cats out of your greenery is about more than just protecting your indoor plants from damage or preventing a mess. Many common greenery toxic to cats. Some are so toxic that they can cause a serious illness, or even death. Follow the tips that I’ve included here to keep cats safe and cause them to lose interest in your greenery. If these tips and tricks aren’t effective, then the best thing may be to get rid of your houseplants, if they’re toxic, in favor of greenery that is safe for pets.