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Why Cats Eat Plants

By Linda Hall and Rita Reimers

Is your peppermint plant looking less than peppy? Is your lemongrass disappearing before your eyes? If your valerian root is gone before you get the chance to use it yourself, you’re probably wondering if you have a plant infestation going on.

If you are regularly finding chew marks on your plants, it might not be a gardener that you need to fix your plant problem. Chances are, if you have cats, they are the ones who have been nibbling on your plants.

Cats eating greens from plants isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are some plants that are actually good for your cats and they are naturally attracted to, such as peppermint, lemongrass, valerian, and catnip. Of course, you may discover that your cats are also chomping on your spider plant or enjoying a taste of your fresh cut flowers as well. This can be frustrating if you are trying to grow and enjoy flowers and plants around your home.

So just what is it that attracts cats to chew on plants in the first place?

One of the ways your cat explores his world is with his mouth. Just like babies, cats tend to taste their way through the world, putting things in their mouths that really don’t belong there in the first place. Perhaps the scent of the peppermint and lemongrass catches kitty’s attention and gives him the desire to take a taste. Once cats get a taste of something they like, they’ll go after it again and again. It’s important to note that some popular flowers and plants, such as lilies and orchids, are very toxic to cats, so careful research is needed before you bring plants into your home.

Another thing that might attract your cat to a certain plant is its movement. A plant with dangling vines, such as a spider plant, would definitely attract your cat’s attention. Those tender green shoots may look absolutely delectable swinging gently while a breeze catches them, creating a movement that is completely feline irresistible. Luckily, the spider plant won’t hurt your cat if eaten.

Boredom may also be a reason that your cat to decide to play with and eat your plants. If your cat is alone for many hours a day without any other stimulation, he will most likely get into many things, your plants being one of them. Providing your cat with a stimulate-rich environment, which could include some cat-friendly plants such as those mentioned above, may help remedy him of his boredom.

After your cat has eaten your plants, even those plants that are non-toxic to cats, you may find that he later throws up. There is no need to worry, as long as you know it was a non-toxic plant that was ingested. Cats systems are unable to digest all of the plant therefore they will throw up to rid their bodies of the undigested part. If you are in any doubt about what your cat ate or why he is throwing up, call your veterinarian immediately. It’s better to err on the side of safety.

Cats and plants can happily coexist in your home. It will just take some careful research and planning to ensure your home is filled with beautiful plants for you, and healthy ones for you cat.

Have a question about cat behavior that you’d like answered?
We’d love to hear from you!
Send us an email at questions@stopcatlittersmell.com

For information or help with your cat’s behavior, visit The Cat Behavior Alliance​