We spend a lot of time talking about the plants cats shouldn’t eat (tiger lilies, day lilies, and Easter lilies, for starters — lilies are bad, mmmkay?), but what plants can cats eat? Are there any non-toxic plants for cats?
Kitties are obligate carnivores, meaning they require a diet of meat, meat and more meat — so plants are just a fun, nutritionally void snack, kind of like that last box of Girl Scout cookies in your kitchen. It’s also possible that cats eat grass to help clear their digestive tracts of hairballs and other detritus — in other words, so they can barf it right back up.
Fortunately, there are several non-toxic plants for cats you can grow at home on your patio garden, satisfying your human need to be surrounded by colorful living things while simultaneously ensuring kitty will be safe if she decides to make your window box into a breakfast buffet. Let’s get the scoop on non-toxic plants for cats:
It’s super cheap and easy to grow catnip at home. All you need is a packet of seeds and a pot of soil, and before you know it your happy kitty will be able to get as stoned as her little heart desires. Catnip requires full sunlight, so you may need to keep it outdoors — and, naturally, out of reach of other neighborhood wanderers who might want a taste. Growing it in a container might be preferable, because this member of the mint family can be invasive. Most cats love catnip, and yes, it’s fine if your cat eats the catnip.
Oat grass, typically marketed as “cat grass,” is on our list of cat-friendly plants. Simply plant the seeds in a pot (any size will do), and within a couple of weeks you’ll have a thick, luscious patch of greenery for kitty to enjoy. I typically leave the grass outside and bring it in every couple of days for Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix to munch on. I do keep an eye on them, though, or they’ll eat the whole thing.
These earthy little bits of roughage quickly add texture and crunch to any salad or sandwich — and in small amounts, they’re harmless to cats. If you want to hone your green thumb but know your kitty will devour anything you manage to grow, sprouts are a great way to get your fix and ensure your feline friend stays safe.
In addition to bean sprouts, various herbs are also harmless to cats (in small quantities, of course; remember that cats are mad about meat, so plants are not a vital component of their diet). Valerian root, known for inducing sleep in humans, has the opposite effect on cats, causing your lazy kitty to get up and go (but it kind of smells like a foot). Many common herbs used for seasoning are also among cat-safe plants, including basil, dill, catmint, parsley and rosemary.
Given the choice between herbs and grass, however, cats are more likely to choose grass, so keeping them side by side may discourage kitty from destroying your dinner plans.
It might seem no bouquet is safe from your cats, but certain flowers are safe for your cats. Some options include roses, zinnias, gerber daisies, sunflowers, roses and snapdragons. Bad news: Tulips are potentially toxic! So are carnations, daffodils and — you guessed it — lilies. Keep these flowers away from your cat and call a vet ASAP if you suspect she ingested any of them.
About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.
Thumbnail: Photography by HHelene / Shutterstock.
This piece was originally published in 2015.