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Precautions for Plants and Pets 

Tips and advice for successful plant-pet cohabitation

Plant and animal purchases have boomed during the pandemic because of the nurturing comfort that both can provide. John Kish, owner of the Bend plant store Somewhere That’s Green, is obviously a fan of indoor plants, believing they can be a soothing trial run to see if people are ready to handle the responsibility of pet care.

 “I think people mainly need to nurture, and I think [plants are] something that’s not as high-stakes as a kid, or even a dog.” Starting with a plant can help expand those nurturing instincts to better prepare for the sympathies required in taking care of larger, more dependent animals. 

Some people may crush the plant trial run, turning their living spaces into mini greenhouses, and then decide it’s time to adopt a cat, or two. But they may have overlooked the dangers that could exist in what look like harmless plants. Kish provides some tips about toxicity, play hazards and touching prevention to ensure plants, pets and people can live comfortably together. 

Kish and his dog Hygge (Danish for a mood of coziness and comfort) in Somewhere That’s Green. - CREDIT CHRIS WILLIAMS
  • Credit Chris Williams
  • Kish and his dog Hygge (Danish for a mood of coziness and comfort) in Somewhere That’s Green.

Ways to keep pets away from plants

Place preventatives around the base of the plant:
Some people use herbs to keep pets away from a plant, Kish says. “Some people use cayenne pepper, which I don’t suggest because pets can get blinded with pain in their eyes,” he advised. Instead, Kish recommends friendlier sprays that can be used to deter pets from interacting with plants. 

The higher the plant is off the ground the less contact they’re likely to have with pets, especially dogs and puppies.

John says forks can be “stabbed into the soil line and that will keep pets from using the planter as a litter box.” 

Natural barriers:
Adding moss or fun decorations to the soil can prevent interaction and provide more soil protection. 

Somewhere That’s Green places pet-friendly labels on its plants to ensure safety. - CREDIT CHRIS WILLIAMS
  • Credit Chris Williams
  • Somewhere That’s Green places pet-friendly labels on its plants to ensure safety.

Safe plants, with potential annoyances

Spider plants:
Their fun lanky leaves may be a bit much fun for cats and puppies. Constant pawing and playing with smaller house plants could lead to a premature plant catastrophe when it winds up spilling on the living room floor. Kish recommends “big, broader leaf things—they tend to not like that.” 

Plants with large planters:
Cats may feel that one litterbox isn’t doing the job.

Toxic for pets

Two toxic chemicals for pet owners to watch out for in popular household plants are latex and those containing oxalate crystals.


  • Higher in toxicity.
  • Common within the Euphorbia, or Spurge, family, which includes popular desert plants and succulents. Kish says with desert plants that “the latex is formed for extreme environments… they live in an extreme environment, creating extreme defenses.”
  • When ingested, latex can have a multitude of effects, but is more likely to cause stomach aches. On the serious side, it can cause seizures and potentially death in extreme circumstances.


  • Found in many plants in the Araceae family that includes many lily variations and broad-green-leafed plants, such as Dieffenbachia and Philodendron.
  • Animals release the toxic oxalate crystals through either biting or chewing on the leaves.
  • Common side effects include oral issues such as drooling, oral pain, vomiting and decreased appetite.

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