Pets and Poisonous Plants - The Overblown Myths

A few times a month I get calls or queries about poisonous houseplants and garden plants and people's pets. Most often it is about their cat has eaten a plant they have determined to be poisonous. 

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Most recently a customer came to me about her cat who was eating and chewing numerous plants that she read were poisonous and her cat was still very healthy. She was mystified why her cat was still doing well and would continue to chew plants that were suppose to be bad for her. 

After speaking with this lady I explained the whole poisonous plant myths. Take poinsettias as an example, every year I hear people who would never have a poinsettia in their house because of their cat. A cat could never consume enough poinsettias leaves to kill them. The leaves have a sticky sap and I have eaten some to prove they are not this deadly plant that kills pets and people. 

Over the last 50 years we have had several dogs and cats roaming our greenhouses when they were filled with poinsettias. Never did any one of them become poisoned by poinsettias or any other plant. 

We have grown thousands of other varieties of trees, shrubs, bedding plants, perennials, and houseplants in those years. 

The most common problem I have experienced with people and most often their cats, is they are damaging their plants by scratching, digging in the soil, and chewing off leaves. 

These problems are usually easy to solve by relocating and changing the plants. In some cases simply add rock to the soil surface, raise the plant, wrap the stem in a protective cover and prune it. 

One thing we must remember with pets is that they have evolved and survived by simply not eating too much of any plant and most have the ability to quickly vomit up anything that is discomforting.

In the last 50 years, we've found that healthy and safe homes can have both pets and plants living together with very few problems.