No one is certain why cats like to munch on houseplants. It might be a form of play or instinctive behavior left over from life in the wild. You can preserve your indoor greenery and keep your cat happy by placing your plants out of reach and giving your kitty alternatives. To be safe, take an inventory of your plants to ensure you have nothing toxic growing in your home.
Cats Seek Play and Attention
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there's no evidence eating plants provides nutritional benefit to cats or that it eases stomach discomfort. Veterinarian Benjamin Hart of the University of California at Davis theorizes eating greens might have provided evolutionary benefit. Most likely, cats are attracted to drooping leaves much as they are toys, and respond in the same way: by swatting and chewing. Cats also notice when their actions attract your attention, which can be a motivation to continue the behavior. Some cats also may be prone to compulsive, and sometimes dangerous, behavior such as chewing nonfood objects. If your cat likes to eat all varieties of objects, the ASPCA recommends seeing a certified behaviorist for advice.
Make Plants Inaccessible and Unappealing
To prevent your kitty from getting at your houseplants, move them out of reach. Hang them from the ceiling or place them on top of furniture that your cat can't access. Cats are able climbers, so watch your kitty's activities to make sure she isn't able to get at your greenery despite the move. The ASPCA also recommends making the plants unappealing. Over-the-counter sprays such as bitter apple or bitter cherry will not harm your plants but taste bad to cats. If your plants can handle an extra dose of moisture, you can spray them with water and sprinkle them with cayenne pepper, which also deters cats.
Grow an Indoor Cat Garden
Cat grass is one way to satisfy your indoor cat's desire for greenery while protecting your houseplants. The Humane Society of the United States recommends growing cat grass from seeds and offering it to your kitty when it is about 3 to 4 inches tall. Cat grass can be purchased already sprouted from pet stores. The ASPCA states that oat grass, wheat grass and catnip are all safe alternatives for your kitty. In addition to providing greens, you can give your cat pieces of rawhide or food through an interactive feeder that satisfies your cat's need to hunt and play.
Find and Hide Toxic Plants
Despite your best efforts, your cats may have a close encounter with your houseplants. Some plants are highly toxic to cats. If you have a toxic plant in your home, make sure your cat can't get to it, or remove it. Some of the more common toxic houseplants are lilies, aloe, philodendron, azaleas, rhododendrons, chrysanthemums, cyclamen, English ivy, oleander, Spanish thyme, tulip bulbs and yew. If you are not sure about the status of a certain plant, ask your veterinarian if it's safe for your kitty.
Catherine Lovering has written about business, tax, careers and pets since 2006. Lovering holds a B.A. (political science), LL.B. (law) and LL.L. (civil law).