By Carly Sutherland
Plants that are safe for cats and dogs are great for decorating, but they can provide the benefit of fresh air for pets and pet parents alike.
Dr. Cathy Alinovi, DVM, author and pet health expert, explains it like this, “These days, many houses are built for energy efficiency. This can mean fewer fresh air opportunities for people or their pets. For those who can open their windows wide, city living/pollution might make it such that the better air is on the inside.”
She goes on to say, “Stale air can adversely affect health. Stale air has higher levels of carbon dioxide, possibly carbon monoxide and other waste gases. Higher wastes mean less oxygen availability.”
Houseplants cleanse the air we breath from toxins found in many household products—formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide, just to name a few. These toxins are found in household cleaners, paint, solvents, vinyl, cigarettes—the list goes on. Plants play a vital role in improving indoor air quality and helping to remove trace levels of toxic vapors from the air.
Indoor, Pet-Friendly Plants Release Oxygen
One standout benefit is more oxygen. You may be wondering why more oxygen in the home is ideal. When we breathe, we inhale oxygen, and when we exhale, we are releasing carbon dioxide.
During photosynthesis, plants essentially do just the opposite. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which creates a healthy and symbiotic relationship between plants and animals (both human and nonhuman). Plants undoubtedly increase oxygen levels, and our bodies—as well as our pets’ bodies—certainly appreciate it!
Dr. Alinovi goes on to explain, “Oxygen is critical for good brain and muscle function. Therefore, stagnant air can lead to tiredness and brain dizziness, and can even affect heart function. The good news is, safe indoor plants help clean the air and increase oxygen concentration while decreasing waste products.”
As Dr. Alinovi explains, plants make great natural air purifiers!
Houseplants Can Raise the Humidity Level
According to a study conducted by Virginia Lohr of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Washington State University, increased oxygen in the home isn’t the only benefit plants provide for both pets and owners. They also raise the air’s humidity by releasing water in the form of moisture vapor. This means softer skin, less dandruff on your furry family members, and clean and healthy airways for both you and your pets.
In a natural environment, a plant’s roots tap the groundwater table, and through a process known as transpiration, the water evaporates through its leaves. Evidently, the same thing happens in our home—of course with a different water supply.
Choose Plants That Are Safe for Cats and Dogs
Dr. David Dorman, DVM and professor of Toxicology at North Carolina State University of Veterinary Medicine, explains the importance of researching safe plants for dogs and safe plants for cats.
“Exposure of dogs and cats to household plants occurs commonly, especially with younger animals that tend to be very inquisitive. Some plants are extremely toxic to our pets. For example, cats ingesting small amounts of Easter lily leaves can develop life-threatening kidney failure. This is just one of many examples,” he says.
Dr. Dorman goes on to explain, “It’s important to remember that your pet cannot distinguish between safe-to-eat plants and those that are dangerous. The key to preventing poisonings in your pets is to prevent exposure.” Thus, don’t bring poisonous plants into the home with cats and dogs, period.
“Some plants can cause vomiting without actually being poisonous. Poinsettia and spider plants are an example [of this]. On the other hand, many lily species are poisonous, can cause kidney failure and should not be used in the home with pets,” says Dr. Alinovi. She suggests trying succulents and herbs in the home.
If you’re concerned that you pet has ingested a poisonous plant, or they’re showing symptoms of poisoning, contact your veterinarian immediately. The ASPCA and Pet Poison Helpline have valuable information regarding safe, non-poisonous plants for use around pets.
Here a few examples of plants that are safe for cats and dogs:
- Boston Fern
- Lemon Balm
- African Violet
- Aluminum Plant (aka Watermelon plant)
- Friendship Plant
- Spider Ivy (aka Spider Plant)
- Swedish Ivy
- Blue Echeveria (aka Wax Rosette, Painted Lady)
- Christmas Cactus
- Hens and Chickens
- Areca Palm
- Dwarf Palm (aka Good Luck Palm)
Consider Edible Grasses
The benefits of pet-friendly plants in the home will only work if they aren’t eaten or chewed-on, Dr. Alinovi explains. “The downside of trying to grow cat mint or edible grasses is they both taste great, and the challenge will be to keep pets from eating the plants. (If the plants are eaten, they will have difficulty cleaning the air.),” she says.
Having cat-safe houseplants and plants that are safe for dogs doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be nibbled on from time to time. This is where adding pet grass, such as The Cat Ladies organic pet grass kit with planter, comes in handy!
Dr. Dorman explains why some cats enjoy nibbling on indoor plants. “Some cats enjoy chewing on these types of grass materials. Other cats may occasionally develop vomiting even from this ingestion. Most high-quality cat food based diets are complete, meaning they provide all of the nutrients your cat needs—so supplementing their diet with plant materials is not required,” he says.
If your dog or cat enjoys a pet grass to munch on and doesn’t get stomach upset, then pet grass kits, like Pet Greens self-grow garden pet grass, might be the solution to keeping a happy pet.
Do your research on plants that are safe for cats and dogs, and add functional décor to you and your pets’ most treasured spaces for a healthier and happier home!