Animals are curious creatures. They sniff, paw at and dig their way through life ― and this may be especially true when you add new plants to your home. But instead of panicking each time you see Mr. Whiskers chomping on your kangaroo fern, know there are plenty of ways for both your furry and green family members to coexist in carefree, non-toxic unison.
“Many of us share a living space with a cat or dog—or both! So, it’s essential to keep in mind plant toxicity when picking a houseplant to help keep them safe,” said Erin Marino, a plant expert from The Sill, an indoor plant shop that offers educational workshops.
Marino explained that plant toxicity is something that naturally occurs as part of a plant’s evolutionary defence mechanism.
“Most plants create or secrete what are called secondary plant metabolites to defend themselves. They have been doing this for millions of years! For example, poisonous sap from the popular rubber tree (or Ficus elastica) protects it from many herbivores,” she said.
Some of these secretions can be not just toxic, but deadly to pets. However, Marino said many factors contribute to whether or not a toxic plant is a complete threat to your animal.
“It really depends on the pet and their interest level. And it’s important to note that the plant, or part of the plant, needs to be ingested to affect your pet. Simply being in the same room, perhaps on an out-of-reach shelf, can be totally fine.”
Marino suggests keeping plants out of reach by utilising ceiling hangers, elevated shelves and plant stands.
However, if you want to be on the complete safe side or if you have a particularly inquisitive pet, Marino said it’s best to steer clear of any bulb plants like daffodils, lilies and hyacinths, as well as the highly popular and beginner-friendly pothos plant.
“Other popular toxic plants include the heartleaf philodendron, ZZ plant and peace lily,” she added.
Marino also noted that just because a plant is non-toxic, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily edible — it just means it won’t make your pet seriously sick if they consume it. Organisations like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offer great resources to know what kinds of indoor and outdoor plants post a potential threat to your animal and which ones are safer options.