What You Need to Know About Indoor Gardening and Cats

Mike's Backyard Garden is supported by its readers. If you buy something with our links, we may earn a commission.

You may be considering or already have an indoor garden and want to minimize the chances of your adored cat destroying your plants. Although we love our furry little friends, they can become a nuisance to our greenery. However, just by thinking cleverly, you can massively reduce the possibilities of this becoming a problem. To counteract this issue, I’ve made a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about cats and plants. But, how can you reduce the risk of cats damaging your indoor plants?

When protecting indoor plants from your cats, you should consider the following.

  • Dash cayenne pepper on your indoor garden.
  • Lay orange or lemon peels on the base of the plant or vegetable.
  • Add decorative accents to minimize the chances of them creating a mess in plant pots.
  • Think about making your plant pots inaccessible to your cat.

As you’re able to grasp from the above, protecting your indoor garden from your cat isn’t rocket science. You just need to follow the correct guidance to ensure you’re shielding them effectively. Because this is such a common issue with cat and plant lovers (including myself), I’ve decided to produce a guide dedicated to helping you out.

Below we go into deeper detail about protecting your plants and what greenery you should or shouldn’t have indoors if you own a cat.

Indoor gardening with a cat

Cats and plants just don’t mix sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, some cats don’t seem bothered by plants, but it’s a different story for others. However, because this might be an issue, you need to understand the basic fundamentals of owning a cat and an indoor garden to ensure they’re both safe.

You may think that you’ll only need to protect your plants from your cats, but it’s also the other way around. Some plants can be immensely toxic to cats, so being aware of these is crucial to guarantee your cat’s safety.

To better visualize how to achieve this and what to look out for in your indoor garden, read below.   

How to protect your indoor plants from a cat

There are two main issues when it comes to cats and plants. For some reason, they’ll either chew the leaves due to boredom or just leave a mess in the pot. Some may think this is a good fertilizer and it will enhance the plant’s growth, and although this is true, you really don’t want to be smelling this indoors.

However, to prevent these issues from occurring, it really isn’t that difficult. It just requires some careful thinking and planning to deter our little friends away from our plants. Here’s how you’re able to achieve this:

Cayenne pepper

The most common method of preventing your cats from going near your plants is by using cayenne pepper. This is because the pepper contains capsaicin, and this chemical is excellent for repelling all animals. Because this pepper is so effective in deterring animals away from a specific location, it’s actually the main ingredient for most pre-made animal repellent.

However, you won’t necessarily need to invest in a pre-made repellent as you can make it yourself, according to the Humane Society of Huron Valley. You can achieve this by following the below instructions:

  • First, you’ll need to create or buy a cayenne pepper sauce.
  • Once accumulated, you will want to combine the cayenne pepper sauce with 16 parts of water (for instance, one teaspoon of cayenne pepper sauce for every 16 teaspoons of water) and mix well.
  • For this to be most effective, you will want to add this mixture into a spray bottle.
  • Now the combination is in the bottle, you can apply it to your indoor plants.

As you’re able to see from the above, making this deterrence mixture is much easier than it may seem. This is the most effective method because it’ll reduce the chances of all animals tampering with your plants, including natural insecticides.

Orange and lemon peels

Another prevention method is by using orange and lemon peels. Cats have a reputation for disliking citrus fruits, and laying either orange or lemon peels onto your plants will deter them away. To effectively use this method, you should follow the below instructions.

  1. First, you’ll need to start collecting citrus fruit peels in a container. For the best results, you should collect both orange and lemon peels. If you don’t eat either of these fruits regularly, why not ask a neighbor or friend to collect theirs for you.
  2. Once you’ve gathered enough peels, you will want to start cutting them into appropriate sizes for blending (Around one-inch square is excellent, but it doesn’t have to be exact).
  3. Now you’ve cut these into smaller pieces, you’ll want to blend or chop them into minuscule pieces.
  4. After you’ve achieved this, you can now start to sprinkle them around your plants.
  5. Because the peels are going to be located indoors, they’ll struggle to decompose. Therefore, you’ll need to remove them from your pots each week and put them into a compost mix or bin. Once removed, you’ll want to add more peels to your pots to continue the deterrence.

The above method is simple and easy to implement if you eat citrus fruits. However, if using peels isn’t something you’re interested in, you can also create a distilled lemon or orange juice which can be sprayed onto a surface.

NOTE – Although using this citrus peel method is excellent for deterring cats away from your plants, it will increase the chances of bugs appearing in your home.

Add decorative accents

Cats can destroy indoor plants in various ways as they can knock them over, lay a mess in them, eat the leaves, and also in many other strange ways. However, something that can dramatically decrease the chances of this happening is by using decorative accents.

The following method will depend on your cat’s traits. For example, are they likely to knock the plant over, or eat the leaves, etc.? To better understand what decorative accents you should use around your indoor garden, see the below examples.

Knock over prevention – We’ve probably all seen a video of a cat slowly knocking something over with their paws, and this is how most cats push plants off shelves. However, remember that cats are relatively weak, and especially their paws. To reduce the chances of your cat knocking over your plants, you’ll want to add stones above the soil. This won’t disrupt the development of the plant, but it will add additional weight to ensure your cat cannot push it.

Eating prevention – To stop your cat from eating indoor plants, the best way to prevent this is by adding a decorative fence. This way, they won’t be able to gain access to your plant’s location and will ultimately leave it alone.

Mess protection – I’m not sure why this is, but cats love to leave messes near plants, and notably inside of a plant pot. The above fencing method would also help with this, but you should also consider shelving. Again, if your cat cannot reach your pots, they’ll be unable to do their duty inside of them.  

Potting

As you can imagine, your potting choices and locations can significantly affect the overall protection of your plants from your cat. With age, the selection of pots you’re able to purchase has become huge. You’re not really stuck for choice, and it should be relatively easy to find something that looks beautiful indoors. Here are some potting solutions you should consider:

  • Hanging pots – A hanging pot can be a highly effective way of reducing the chances of a cat destroying your plants. This is because they’re hanging, and the platform they’re on is usually unstable and hard to reach. If this is the case, and you’re able to locate your plants in difficult-to-reach spots, then this will be the perfect solution to protecting them.
  • Shelving pots – This type of potting shares similarities to the hanging pots, the only massive disadvantage they have is that they’re a secured surface. Because of this, cats are more likely to risk jumping onto them.

As you’re able to see from the above, using unique potting solutions is a fantastic way to protect your indoor plants from your cats. However, if your indoor space doesn’t allow for potting like this, think about using one of the repellent methods first.

Teach them at a young age

Surprisingly, cats and dogs can be taught to do or not to do something based on specific commands. Because of this, you’re able to teach your cats not to tamper with your indoor plants. The only downside to training a cat commands is that they’re slow learners compared to dogs. This is because cats aren’t likely to be motivated by praising as dogs.  

Single handily, the best way to teach an animal anything is through reward-system training. To achieve this, you’ll need to reward them each time they successfully listen to a command. Teaching them generic commands is the best, such as “stop.”

Remember always to use positive reinforcement and never negative punishment. Using negative punishment can cause your cat to become feared by you and ultimately destroy the companionship you have with each other.

Indoor plants that cats need to avoid

In the world of indoor gardening, there are some plants you should absolutely avoid as they can have a negative impact on your cat’s health. For a better understanding of these, please see the below graph.

NOTE – The below symptoms will only occur if consumed in large amounts.

Plant NameSymptoms
Azaleasdiarrhea, vomiting, excessive amounts of drooling. If consumed in large volumes, it can dramatically alter their heart rate and blood pressure, leading to mobility difficulties.
NarcissusWith this plant, the following symptoms will only occur if the bulbs are eaten, as this is the most toxic part. You can expect to see vomiting, diarrhea, or severe heart complications.
HyacinthThis is the same as the above, as the bulb is the most toxic part of the plant. Here you may see a cat have difficulties with its digestive system, which can lead to death.
English YewOn this list, this is by far the most toxic to cats. This is because it contains a chemical that can affect the ability of normal heart function.
OleanderIf oleander is consumed, you may see excessive amounts of vomiting or diarrhea, which can lead to severe dehydration and sometimes even death
Peace LilyUnlike the above, a peace lily can increase muscle problems such as cramps, tiredness, and also vomiting.

From the above, you can start to understand what plant species aren’t suitable for indoor use around cats. However, the list is much more extensive than this, and you should double-check your plant species before adding them into the same environment as a cat.

What indoor plants do cats like?

If you’re unable to get your cat out of the habit of destroying your plants, you should consider investing in greenery that doesn’t make your cat sick. Typically, they do this out of curiosity or boredom, but if you want to have plants inside your house without running a risk of making your cat sick, you need to read the below.

Here are some plants you’re able to grow indoors that won’t make your cat sick:

  • Spider Plant – This is also known for its superb air-purifying capabilities, and they’re great house plants because of their minimal maintenance requirements.
  • Bamboo – In the right conditions, a bamboo plant can grow superbly indoors. It’s also great for cats that enjoy eating leaves as they grow back fast.
  • Sweet basil – To grow basil inside your home, you’ll need to supply it with plenty of sunlight. Again, they’re non-toxic to cats, and their leaves also grow back immensely quickly.
  • African violet – If you really want to spice up your room, you can also grow an African violet. This flourishes greatly and can provide your cat with those much-needed leaves.

Conclusion

As you’re able to see from the above, there are plenty of ways to protect your plants and cats from one another. Some are much more difficult to implement than others, but they can all provide the same outcome, safety.  

If you’re someone who excludes indoor gardening from your life because of your cat, I hope after reading this article you’re re-considering developing one. Indoor gardens are enjoyable and an excellent way to start growing all year round, and everyone can achieve this, with pets or not.