Cats and House Plants‚Äč

The following questions were sent to the P&PDL diagnosticians here at Purdue University:

Question 1: We've been having trouble with our cat digging in our plants. She is about 6 months old full of spunk. Shes not eating the plants just digging in the dirt. She uses her litter box so its not a matter of her going in the plants. And she never digs when were awake only after everyones asleep. I would like to know if there are any products available to keep her from ruining my plants. If not, some advice on how to cure this problem. Thank you for your help.

Question 2: I have recently provided a home for a couple of cats. How do I keep them out of my house plants? I have tried rocks in some of my larger pots, but they seem to like the little ones as well. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

Answer: House plants provide a wonderful play ground/toy for house cats. The plants themselves, as well as the potting soil, are irresistible attractions for bored cats. Some house plants are toxic to cats, so make sure you have only non-toxic varieties within the reach of your pets.

Cats really seem to love to get their toes into soil. Even when not used for litter box purposes (the most obvious reason), house cats like to dig and play in dirt. The rock "mulch" in your plant pots is a good deterrent for digging in the soil. You can enhance the effectiveness of your rock mulch by first cutting a circle of screen wire or weed fabric the same diameter as your pot. Cut an X or hole/slit for your plant to fit through. Then cover the screen barrier with rock, crushed marble, or pea gravel. This is a pretty effective barrier for digging, but it may not curb destruction of plant materials.

There are several spray repellant products available to keep cats away from plants and other items. Pet stores will have a selection of these products or check with your personal veterinarian for a specific recommendation. If your cats are very determined, you may have to make your plants inaccessible by putting them in hanging baskets or by displaying your plants in rooms that are off-limits to your cats.