Most cat lovers are not only cat lovers, we are also plant lovers. Do you think there’s a reason why that is happening? I have no idea why that is happening but it´s FACTS!
With this beautiful coincidence (cat lovers love plants as well) there's a challenge that's not uncommon either. Cats have the annoying habit of chewing houseplants. Oh, and they won’t go for that orchid that hasn’t given you flowers in 4 years, no, if you shelled out big bucks for a Variegated Monstera, I bet there are going to shred that one down into pieces instead.
Moreover, some houseplants are toxic for our cats. Check the full list here.
To keep our cats away from eating our houseplants we need to understand why our cats are munching on our plants (lack of nutrients, boredom, seeking attention...) and then, offer a safe alternative to fill the motivation far from the plants we love. The most common solutions to the most common motivations are:
Set your most desired plants off limits
Train your cat to leave plants alone
Spray your plants
Spray your cat
Offer an alternative
Why is Your Cat Eating Your Plants?
The very first thing we need to do if our cat is eating our plants is to understand the possible reasons behind the plant-damaging behavior.
Behind almost any cat misbehavior there’s either a health issue, hunger, lack of attention, or lack of exercise.
While it is fairly common for cats to nibble on plants, it is important to be aware that this behavior can sometimes indicate an underlying health issue. If your cat consistently chews on plants, it is a good idea to take them to the veterinarian for a check-up.
Some health conditions that may cause cats to eat plants include dental problems, digestive issues, and stress. By visiting the veterinarian, you can ensure that your cat is healthy and get any necessary treatment.
Most of the mentioned tactics won’t work if you don’t address the cause of the plant's chomping. If they are selective with the plants they chose, they might be looking for an extra source of nutrients or fiber.
Providing your cat with plants you are happy to share with them is as important as stopping the behavior. Munching on these plants will help satisfy his need to chew, and hopefully, distract them from your more prized plants. Make sure the plants you are providing are cat friendly and safe like catnip or cat grass.
If what your cat is looking for is attention or killing boredom, I highly encourage you to spend more time with your cat. 2 or 3 good play sessions a day should suffice. Leaving some toys out can also make the trick if we can’t be available for them. If you do this, rotate the toys so that your cat doesn’t grow bored of them. If the toys become too familiar, they will ignore them.
Your cat might, very easily, be chomping your plants out of boredom, make sure you provide your cat 2/3 good play sessions a day. In the case that your cat does not interact with you when you try to play with them, you are probably doing something wrong… there’s no such thing as a cat without a predatory instinct.
Take a look at this video so you don’t have to wonder ever again why is your cat not playing with you!
Lack of Attention
If we can cross hunger, boredom or seeking attention, we might be facing a cat that’s curious (so once curiosity is satisfied after a couple days, your plant should be fine) or if your cat that has taken it against a specific or some of your plants (in search for fiber or lacking nutrients).
It is always a good idea to talk with your veterinarian about these kind of changes in your cat’s habits, especially if you see your cat eating plants regularly.
How to Stop Cat from Biting Your Plants?
I’m going to start with what I consider are the best/fastest solutions and I’m going to finish the list with some less-obvious solutions as well as some products you can use if anything else works.
Also, if you stick around until the end of the post I’ll be sharing with you some things that you should stop doing to prevent reinforcing bad behaviors, making your cat hate you in the process.
Set Your Plants Off Your Cat's Limits
As basic as it may sound, the easiest way to keep your cat off your plants is placing your plants off your cat’s reach.
Finding a place which is off your cat’s limits might be as simple as placing them at an inaccessible high shelf, hanging them.
You can purchase hanging pots and hooks from any home and garden store. Hanging plants are both attractive and cat-proof.
Finally, if you happen to have spaces or rooms that remain closed most of the time, these are clearly good rooms for your houseplant collection.
I’m not going to spend much more time in this one, I think it’s pretty straightforward.
Train Your Cat To Leave Your Plants Alone
One of the life-changing tricks you can teach your cat with clicker training is “NO” or “LEAVE IT”
Without entering in too much detail, this topic is covered in detail in this post, I’ll walk you through the steps to teach them this command:
- We first need to demonstrate the behavior, the best way to do this is with a treat in our hand.
- We are going to open our palm and show the treat.
- When our cat tries to approach it, say “NO” and close the hand.
- As soon as your cat loses interest, “Click” then reward with the other hand.
- Once your cat learns to “LEAVE IT” or “NO”, you can start using it in contexts where you want them to stop a behavior.
There’s a fine line between teaching them to stop munching your plants and rewarding them by munching their plants.
If you are not very familiar with clicker training, I’d recommend you to practice positive reinforcement before you use it to teach “NO”. If you mess up, you might reinforce the behavior you want to stop.
Spray Your Plants with Products to Stop Cat From Eating Them
Spraying your plants with some products will also deter your cat from chewing and gnawing your plants. You can both, create your home made find deterrent sprays or buy it in the pet store and online. They won't harm your plant, but will discourage your cat from poking around it.
A very cheap and effective home-made formula can be done with ingredients you probably already have at home right now. Water and vinegar. Cats despise the smell, and it doesn't hurt your plant!
- Get a bottle with a spray
- Add ½ of water
- Add ½ of vinegar
Another not as cheap home remedy to stop your cat from munching on your plants is essential oil spray:
- 1/4 essential oil
- 3/4 of water
CAUTION NOTE: Cats lack an essential enzyme in their liver and as such have difficulty metabolizing and eliminating certain toxins like essential oils. Cats are also very sensitive to phenols and phenolic compounds, which can be found in some essential oils. The higher the concentration of the essential oil (i.e. 100%), the greater the risk to the cat. A single Drop diluted in water does the trick with minimal to no risk to the cat, but it's best to be careful.
Best essential oils for this are citronella, lavender, peppermint or lemongrass. You can pick the one that you like the most, in the case it doesn’t work, you have 3 other options to try - Buy on Amazon
Using spicy cayenne pepper is also a commonly recommended option but it might hurt your cat if it gets in their eyes and they try to clean it, causing self-harm. I could not find any evidence of this being true, so if you know any article or blog post that does, please, leave it in the comment section!
Spraying Cats to Stop Eating Plants
Positive Punishment is useful to stop cats from acting a certain way. The problem with it is that while we might stop the behavior, there are 2 consequences that will steam from it:
Spraying Water Creates Anxiety and Can Make Problems Worse
Many people spray their cats with water when they misbehave, thinking that it will help to correct the problem behavior. However, this can actually make the situation worse.
When a cat is sprayed with water, they often experience anxiety and fear. This can lead to further behavioral problems, eating plants being one of them.
In addition, anxiety can create even worse problems than the plant eating behavior, like spraying urine, anxious scratching or redirected aggression.
Spraying a Cat to Stop a Behavior Will Impact Your Bond
The idea is to make the cat associate approaching the plant with something bad, like getting sprayed in the face with air or water. There are some products that can help you do this, sensor activated air sprays (which are going to get triggered when your cat approaches the plant) much like a booby-trap.
This won’t hurt your cat but will make them fearful of the plants area, making them have second thoughts when approaching your beloved plants. You can check the product on Amazon here.
Another alternative is to spray your cat with water from the distance. However, you don't want the cat to associate the punishment with you.
You want your cat to think the punishment came out of nowhere, so if you use this method, make sure to be discrete don’t yell and shoot at the same time.
I personally believe that to correct behavior, it's better to try another method of discipline - like verbal cues or positive reinforcement - rather than resorting to a spray bottle of water.
Focus on the Motivation (Why) and Not on the Consequence (What)
Most of the mentioned tactics won’t work if you don’t address the cause of the plants chomping.
If they are selective with the plants they chose, they might be looking for an extra source of nutrients or fiber.
Providing your cat with plants you are happy to share with them is as important as stopping the behavior. Munching on these plants will help satisfy his need to chew, and hopefully distract them from your more prized plants.
Make sure the plants you are providing are cat friendly and safe like catnip or cat grass.
If what your cat is looking for is attention or killing boredom, I highly encourage you to spend more time with your cat. 2 or 3 good play sessions a day should suffice.
Leaving some toys out can also make the trick if we can’t be available for them. If you do this, rotate the toys so that your cat doesn’t grow bored of them. If the toys become too familiar, they will ignore them.
You Might Be Training Your Cat to Eat Your Plants!
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Before I let you go, I want to stop a second and share with you things that you SHOULD NOT DO!
- If your cat is looking for affection, food or play and you just stop what you are doing and play / feed / cuddle with them when they attack your plants, you are reinforcing the behavior. You are telling your cat that they need to press that button for you to stand up. So, STOP DOING IT!
- Don’t punish the cat yourself. This will keep them off the plants when you're in the room, but not when you are out. Also, your cat will associate the punishment with you, growing angry or scared of you which probably is far from your ideal.
This was the first post of a series about how to prevent my cat from… Check them out here!
Stay Wild, Stay Safe, See You Outdoors!
Albert & Mia