I Have Almost 100 Houseplants and This Is How I Keep My Pets from Destroying Them

published Oct 6, 2022
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

There’s nothing quite like a mischievous pet to take the fun out of decorating your kitchen with houseplants. Whether your furry friend enjoys eating your plants, digging in the soil, sleeping in the pots, using the plants as their personal litter boxes, or being destructive seemingly just for the fun of it, keeping a houseplant alive can start to feel like an impossible task.

Don’t worry, though: No matter what method of plant destruction appeals most to your pet, there is a way for your pets and plants to live harmoniously.

After several years of living with a dog, two cats, and close to a hundred houseplants, I’ve learned a few things when it comes to pet-proofing my plants. Based on personal experience, here are seven ways to keep your pets from destroying your houseplants.

1. Keep your plants out of reach.

This one may seem obvious, but out of all of the methods to keep your houseplants safe from your mischievous four-legged friends, keeping them out of reach is by far the most effective. Try displaying your plants in hanging baskets and planters, in wall-mounted planters, or on top of high shelves that your pets can’t access. Also, avoid placing plants in locations where your pets spend a lot of time.

My cats enjoy sitting in my kitchen windowsills, and after a few spilled plants and broken planters I eventually resigned myself to the fact that my cats own that windowsill, not me, and begrudgingly chose a new spot for my plants.

Credit: Bev Wilson

2. Use tall planters.

Large floor plants and indoor trees aren’t quite as easy to tuck out of your pet’s reach, so for these plants, tall planters and pots come in handy. You can even use these taller containers as cover pots for your plant’s existing pot, which will make it even harder for your pets to reach the soil. 

3. Stay away from toxic plants.

Unfortunately, there are lots of popular houseplants that are considered toxic to pets. If you have pets that love munching on your houseplants it’s a good idea to get familiar with the ones that are the most dangerous.

With two cats and a dog in my house, I absolutely stay away from any type of lily (including peace lilies), sago palms, Diffenbachias, and some popular holiday houseplants like poinsettias and Amaryllis. Pet-friendly plant picks are always recommended first.

Credit: Dima Berlin/Getty Images

4. Spray your plants with diluted lemon juice.

Citrus is a great natural deterrent for both cats and dogs and it is safe for your houseplants. You can mix a few drops of lemon juice with water and use a spray bottle to apply it to the leaves of your plants, or you can place the lemon rinds over the soil if digging is more of an issue. 

5. Cover the soil with tin foil or stones.

This option is particularly relevant if you have cats, which may attempt to use the soil of your houseplants as a litter box at one point or another (been there, done that). Personally, I have found that placing tin foil over the soil will prevent this, but using pebbles or stones is another great option that is a little more decorative.

However, be aware that small stones could be a choking hazard for dogs or small children. Also, by covering the soil you might not be able to tell when your plant needs to be watered as easily. Luckily, tools like moisture meters can be helpful in these scenarios.

6. Get your pet their own plant.

I’m not kidding here — sometimes getting your pet their own plant can help distract them from munching on yours. Cat grass is a great option that is easy to grow and beloved by most cats and dogs. Plus, you can find cat grass seeds almost anywhere, from your local superstore to your nearest pet food store.

Credit: Minette Hand

7. Get to know your pet’s plant preferences.

Some pets love getting into any plant they can find, but others are a little more picky and prefer certain types of plants over others. Speaking from personal experience, my cats definitely have specific plants that they are more interested in than others. I religiously stay away from any “grassy” looking plants (even if they aren’t toxic to pets) because my cats eat these plants like catnip. 

This includes spider plants, thin-leaved dracaenas, ponytail palms … you get the idea. Figuring out which plants my pets like the most helped me determine which plants they don’t care for, and which ones I absolutely need to avoid.