How to keep cats from eating house plants

This spring, we decided to grow lettuce and dill in our windowsill. What a good intention! We sowed the seeds with our kids’ help, and we all were excited about the prospects. We were even more excited when the first green heads popped out of the black soil. Our joy, however, ended there. Our cats ate them.

A scottish fold cat sitting on a windowsill and eating of houseplants

Keeping indoor plants with a cat in the same house is not always easy. Some cats eat the plants down to the soil, whereas others nibble on the leaves excessively, making a mess of your intended beautiful indoor garden. In this article, you’ll learn how you can keep your cat out of your houseplants.

Why cats eat plants

But why do cats eat plants? Unfortunately, scientists are unable to provide an exact answer, and cats are even less likely to do so. But here is what we know.

Cats vomit after eating grass, which suggests that they might be deliberately purging their system. Plants also provide fiber, which aids digestion and the passing of hair balls, and they might provide certain vitamins and minerals. Some people say that a cat eating grass is a sign of forthcoming rain, though this isn’t backed by science. The most plausible answer is that cats simply enjoy the activity. Why else would they be doing it?

How to stop a cat from chewing indoor plants

Whatever the motive, the fact is that cats do eat plants, and forbidding the activity might not be easy. Instead, repel your cat from indoor plants and provide alternatives.

WARNING: Many indoor plants are toxic to cats. Check this list from the ASPCA. If you have any plants that are toxic to cats, put them out of your cat’s reach or substitute them with plants that are just as beautiful but safe.

  1. Use a cat-repellent spray on plant leaves. You can find such sprays in pet stores and online. By spraying a bitter-tasting cat repellent on both sides of the plant’s leaves, your cat will find them unappetizing. These sprays work very well. The only downside is that you must reapply them every few days.
    Alternatively, if the targeted plants are in only one or a few spots, you can use other forms of cat deterrents, such as motion-activated ones. You can learn more about different cat deterrents here.
  2. Do not punish your cat for eating plants. As you see your cat reaching his teeth toward your plant’s leaves, don’t yell or throw things at him. Let him see and taste the repellent and make his own informed decision. If this doesn’t work, or if you haven’t used a repellent spray, go to your plant and stand exactly where your cat is. He will scoot away without feeling scolded.
  3. cat eating kitty grass and nappin in the potProvide kitty grass. If your cat is a plant nibbler, it’s very likely that he loves it. Why take it away? Pet stores sell small pots with “grow-it-yourself” kitty grass (or you can get just the seeds), which you can place in two to three locations throughout your house. Cats prefer kitty grass over “traditional” plants. For the best results, place the kitty grass near your cat’s favorite spots, such as on a windowsill, near his cat tree, or right next to your indoor plants.
  4. Decrease your cat’s boredom. Cats and dogs usually misbehave because they’re unable to express themselves naturally. See it this way: Your cat isn’t able to hunt, he isn’t able to leap or run sufficiently, and he might not be able to climb a tree. There are some plants, though—a lot of them. In nature, chewing plants is of very little importance to cats. However, if your house provides nothing stimulating to do, chewing becomes a primary activity for your cat. Increasing your cat’s excitement will dramatically decrease his urge to eat your plants. For starters, check how to reduce your cat’s boredom here.

You can also redecorate your house so the plants are beautifully exposed to visitors but out of your cat’s reach, such as on shelves or high furniture or hung from ceilings or walls. An interior designer would be a great help.

On the other hand, if you ensure that none of your plants are toxic to your cats, why worry? If your cat has enough to do, he and your plants—even if he chews on them—will be fine.

Does you cat show other behavior problems? See our list of most common ones here.