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How to Keep Cats Away From Plants | 8 Top Tips You Need to Know

reviewed by a veterinary box

For some curious reason known only to them, cats seem to enjoy terrorizing and destroying perfectly helpless houseplants. Perhaps you’re one of those exasperated owners who regularly come home to find that their kitty has been at the plants again. And you might be wondering how to keep cats away from plants.

This can be especially problematic if you have an indoor cat in the same house as your plants all day. You find yourself in a difficult situation where you love your plant and fur babies and wish they could just get along.

So is it time to give up on growing plants? Certainly not! Finding the best solution may take a while, but it’s definitely possible to safeguard plants from your feisty feline.

Here are some handy tips and tricks you can try that can help answer the age-old question, “How to get cats to leave plants alone?”

Devon rex cat under plant looking up how to keep cats away from plants
Devon rex cat under plant looking up


3 Common Problems When Keeping Cats Away From Plants

Owners experience different types of problems with their cats and houseplants. Some felines like to chew on plants or play with the leaves. Others even use indoor plant pots as litter boxes.

Understanding why they might be doing this can help you find a solution to how to keep cats away from indoor plants.

1. You Can’t Keep Cats From Eating Plants

If you find your cat happily chewing on your plant’s leaves, they may enjoy the taste. Just like human babies, cats explore the world with their mouths.

Your kitty might take a bite of every new houseplant and go back for more if it tastes good.

Another reason could be that your pet’s stomach feels upset. You often see cats chewing on the grass outside. This is a natural way for them to get fiber into their bodies and soothe their stomachs.

If your furry friend is cooped up inside, your houseplants might simply be the closest source of fiber. A quick fix could be introducing high-fiber foods to your kitty’s diet.

2. Your Cat Keeps Knocking Over Plants

It’s entertaining to watch your kitty play and chase — until your plants become their new toys. Cats seem to enjoy playing with plant leaves or even jumping at pot plants and knocking them over.

toyger cat with spilt plant

Strange as it may sound, your plants may be arousing your feline’s natural hunter instinct. The movement of long soft leaves can be impossible to resist. Kitty sees those branches shaking and just has to stalk and pounce.

If your cat frequently knocks over plants on windowsills or counters, the pots might just be in their way. You don’t need to let your cat rule the house, but consider moving your plants to a safer spot.

3. Your Cat Uses Houseplants as Litter Boxes

One of the most annoying problems is when your cat uses your potted plants as their personal traveling litter box. Coming home to see your kitty has been digging in the plants and finding soil all over the floor is bad enough. Having them use your plants as a litter box can bring up a whole new level of frustration.

Luckily, there are also valid reasons and practical solutions for this problem. So how about a look at some things you can try at home to figure out how to keep cats away from house plants?

grey cat shaking outside

8 Tips on How to Keep Cats Out of Plants

You can find many tricks on the internet for keeping your cat away from plants. But not all these tips are good for your cat or plant’s health. Here are some safe things you can do to help keep the plants safe and your kitty on your lap.

1. Train Them to Stay Away to Protect Plants From Cats

You may think cats can’t be trained like their canine counterparts, but this isn’t true. Although it may take longer and require different methods, cats can be trained. It is possible to redirect their unwanted plant-destroying behavior.

A big mistake many people still make when training their cats is to use spray bottles. Vets have been saying for a long time that this punishment doesn’t work. These types of punishment can be harmful to the relationship and bond with your cat and its overall wellbeing

Your cat is more likely to associate the spray bottle with you than their plant-destroying behavior. And you certainly don’t want your kitty hating you.

Rather than punishing your pet, try positive reinforcement and redirecting their behavior. When you see your cat coming near a plant, distract them with a toy. When they listen and start playing with the toy, be sure to praise their good behavior. Or try using a clicker.

This can also be effective if you’re trying to keep your cat out of the fireplace.

tabby kitten plays with colourful toy

Praise can take various forms, for example, a tasty cat treat. Get to know your furry friend and what they like. Sometimes, just petting your cat in a way they enjoy is reward enough.

Training your cat to stay away from plants can be a long process, but well worth it. Unfortunately, this solution only works if you are at home most of the time to monitor their behavior.

If this isn’t possible for you, don’t worry. There are plenty of other tips on how to keep a cat away from plants that you can try.

2. Grow Plants That Cats Hate

If you don’t mind which type of plants you have in your house, you have many options as long as your feline friend leaves it alone.

Some flora deters cats from plants due to their smells or textures. Naturally, they will avoid these plants and not try to chew on them.

black cat with green eyes up close in herb garden

Rosemary and lavender are some examples of plants that cats dislike. Plants with thorns might also keep them away, but your furry friend could also end up with a thorn in their soft paw.

Be careful not to plant something dangerous for your cat to eat. Aloe vera, lilies, and poinsettias are common plants that are poisonous to cats. So be careful when planting plants to deter cats from your pretty green friends.

3. Repellent Spray to Keep Cats Away From Plants

You can spray your plants instead of spraying water at your cat and annoying it. There are many repellent sprays made with smells that cats dislike. Felines generally don’t like citrus and highly fragranced smells like lavender.

If you’re asking, “What can I spray on my plants to keep cats away?” let me fill you in. You can make a diluted spray from lemon juice and spritz some on your plants. Some people place orange peels in their planters, which might attract fruit flies.

You can buy natural repellent sprays that are pet and plant safe.

A sprinkle of pepper on your plant’s leaves will keep your cat away. Just don’t overdo it. It can be quite painful if your kitty gets pepper in its eyes.

white cat with black marks about to be sprayed

Vinegar will also keep your cat away, but it can also harm your plant, which is best avoided.

Whenever you buy a plant spray, be sure to check the ingredients before you use it. Insect repellents are also toxic to your pet.

4. Cover the Plant Base to Keep Cats Out of Houseplants

This is an excellent solution if your cat uses your potted plants as a litter box, as they like digging in loose, soft soil. Adding a physical barrier to the soil is the easiest way to stop your pet from digging.

You can cover all the loose soil with something sturdy, like large decorative pebbles, pine cones, or seashells. As long as you don’t pack it too tightly, water can still seep through to your plant.

Avoid using small gravel. It can look similar to your cat’s litter box and make the plant more inviting.

You can also cover the base of the plant with mesh or chicken wire. A small hedge made of wire or wood is useful too. Place it around the pots, as it’s one of the best solutions to keep a cat out of plants.

black cat on terrace with plants

5. Deterring Cats From Plants by Using Unpleasant Surroundings

Another option is to place something on the ground or counter around your potted plants. Certain textures and loud noises are unpleasant for cats, and they will avoid them.

Try placing aluminum foil around the base of the plant to keep your pet away. Cats dislike the noisy sound of the foil. They will avoid stepping on it and, in the process, avoid your plants.

You can also place aluminum foil plates against the plant. This will fall over and make a noise whenever your cat tries to touch the plant.

Tin cans on sticks also work. These solutions must be reset until your cat learns to avoid the area.

ginger cat sniffs white flowers

Unfortunately, these solutions also make the plants unpleasant to look at for you. Most of the time, though, these are temporary measures. Your plant aesthetics can return to normal as soon as your cat learns to stay away.

6. Moving Your Pots Helps in Keeping Cats Out of Plants

Moving your plants from their place on the floor or table may help them to live longer. A plant that is easy to reach for your cat makes for an appealing plaything.

Try to place your houseplants on high shelves where your cat doesn’t usually sit.

tabby cat sniffs green plant

However, cats are adventurous creatures, and it may seem like they can reach anywhere. You may need to get more creative if you have a particularly agile feline.

Use floating shelves or plant containers that mount directly to the wall. Place these high up and away from other furniture. Remember not to place it too high where you may struggle to water the plant.

Hanging baskets can also create a lovely effect in your home while keeping plants away from your determined cat.

7. Make Plants Inaccessible

There are ways to keep your plants in their current placement while making them inaccessible to your furry friend. Place your plants inside a glass cloche, small terrarium, or decorative birdcage.

These barriers will keep plants away from cats while adding style to your rooms. However, if your cat tends to knock over plants, this is probably not a safe option.

Sometimes, the only solution is completely removing the plants from your cat’s space. Choose a place in the house to make into your ‘plant room’ and always keep the door closed.

Sunrooms are perfect for this. Otherwise, a sunny bedroom or office can work just as well. Think about the room you are choosing.

You won’t want to lock your cat out of your bedroom, for example, if this is a space they often share with you.

ginger cat sniffs yellow flower

8. Add a Plant for Your Cat

Maybe your cat has a green thumb and really, really loves plants! In this case, why not consider getting your kitty a plant of its own? Giving your cat a plant it’s allowed to chew on may distract your pet from the other houseplants.

Choose one or two plants as a ‘sacrifice’ to keep your cat from destroying other houseplants. Quite a few plants are attractive to cats and safe for them to eat.

Orange cat sniffing dried catnip

Cats enjoy the smell of catnip and mint plants. However, eating too many of these leaves may upset their stomachs.

The best choice is cat grass. This refers to cat-friendly grass, like oat, wheat, and barley grasses. In addition to distracting your pet from other houseplants, cat grass is also good for your feline’s health.

Cat grass is a natural source of fiber that helps with digestion and prevents hairballs.

Other Possible Reasons You Can’t Keep a Cat Away From Plants

Before blaming your cat for destroying your plants, it may be time to examine your role in this behavior. Sometimes, your feline’s unique behavior is because there’s something you’re not doing.

1. Is There Something Wrong With the Litter Box?

If your cat often uses your houseplants as a litter box, it may be time to check on the state of their actual poop palace. Cats are clean animals and don’t like doing business in dirty litter boxes.

If they find their box dirty, they may take their business elsewhere — in this case, your houseplants. A second and even a third litter box in different rooms can work wonders, even if you only have one cat.

cat in small green litter box

Be sure to clean out the litter box daily. If your cat is particularly picky, you may have to do more than grab your cat litter scooper and remove the dirty litter on top. Fully changing the litter regularly and giving the box a good scrub may do the trick.

It may also be that your cat simply doesn’t like their type of litter box. Since cats are small animals, you might have misjudged the size of the litter box they’ll need. Try a larger box or a different shape.

Some cats prefer an open litter box, while others like it covered or with high sides.

2. Is Your Cat Bored?

You may think your cat is an independent and solitary creature. This doesn’t mean they don’t want attention. If your cat chews all your plants, it could signify boredom.

If you leave your cat alone for long periods, they can become bored and try to find ways to keep themselves entertained. Unfortunately, these forms of entertainment often involve the destruction of plants and furniture.

Make sure you spend enough time with your kitty every day. There are also many great cat toys that you can buy to keep your cat occupied while you are out.

If your cat’s destructive behaviour persists despite trying all of the above tips, it might be important to consult a vet or a professional cat behaviourist for further guidance

black and white cat shaking

Final Thoughts on How to Keep Cats Out of Potted Plants

Cats make very loving pets, even if you don’t always understand why they do what they do. Having a cat that chews on or plays with your houseplants is one of those strange behaviors that can quickly become very frustrating.

You shouldn’t have to choose between keeping cats or plants in your house. There are many ideas for keeping plants safe from your stalking feline. Often, your cat’s behavior will have a reasonable cause that you can address.

So, how do you keep cats out of plants? It’s honestly down to a lot of trial and error. But there’s no doubt you and your friendly feline can live happily with your houseplants kicking about.

Dr Julia Brassel and her dog Paula

Meet our Veterinary Expert

Dr. Julia Brassel studied in Giessen, Germany and later completed her PhD in Ireland, where she also lived and worked. She has a 17-year-old Dachshund called Paula, who she adopted from a local shelter during her first semester at university.

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