How To Keep Cats Out of Plants

Last Updated on January 16, 2023 by Grow with Bovees

Are you a dedicated cultivator of lovely indoor plants but also a true lover of cats at the same time?

If so, are your cats and houseplants not getting along, and you need to find out how to keep cats out of plants.?

Cats are fun, curious and smart animals. They can, however, also be quite cheeky and make use of your potted house plants as a fun playground for them to play in.

Some cats seem to be quite fond of eating plants as well as defecating into the plant soil, thereby ruining your plant’s bit by bit.

Cats may destroy your plants by digging up their soil, nibbling on the leaves or throwing them over  while striding past their pots. This is not only annoying for you as a grower of plants, but cats eating indoor plants — even though some of them are said to be pet friendly — is not healthy for them.

In this article we will go through some simple steps that you can do in order to prevent your cat from playing in or eating your potted indoor beauties.

But first, let us try and help you and other fellow cat owners understand why cats enjoy interacting with plants and why you could find your cat eating your indoor potted plants.

Why Do Cats Eat Plants?

There are several simple reasons why your cat is not staying away from your houseplants. Some are harmless whereas others need to be monitored for the safety of your pet.

The Movement

Cats are fond of moving objects, so the movement of plant leaves is quite enticing to a cat, causing it to start playing with the leaves and plant.

This is especially relevant for a plant such as the spider plant, which has long soft leaves.

The Taste

Even though we all know that cats are carnivorous in nature, they seem to often find the smell and taste as well as the texture of plant leaves appealing.

If you have a case of your cat chewing on your plant’s foliage, we advise that you keep an eye on the cat. Even though they may be chewing on pet-friendly plants, the cat may still start to experience an upset stomach, nausea and vomiting if it eats too many of the leaves.

There are a few articles that elaborate on plants that are toxic to pets. We advise that you read up on them, simply to put your mind at ease.

Covering Defecate

Some cats dig around in potting soil, causing a big mess around the pot, getting soil all over the surrounding furniture.

The cat might be digging, trying to cover up their kitty litter. This is a natural instinct that felines have in order to cover up the smell, protecting them from predators and prey.


Most cats are often left alone for most parts of the day, due to the owners having to work, run errands or attend extracurricular activities. And even though cats are said to be rather low-maintenance pets, they will start to get bored, causing them to behave badly.

They may start to chew on the plant, deliberately throwing over plant pots or tearing at leaves with their claws. This destructive aggression may cause damage to your indoor garden.

Lacking Vital Nutrients

If you find your cat ingesting the soil of your potted plant, it may be a good idea to take her to the vet for a check-up. This behavior is usually only practiced by cats that lack vital nutrients for healthy living.

How To Keep Your Cat Away From Your Plants

Now that we have a better understanding of why cats do not always get along with your indoor garden, let us look at a few ways to prevent your cat from interacting with or damaging your indoor houseplants.

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Make Your Plant Less Attractive

Cats strongly dislike anything that is citrus. This includes the taste and smell of citrus.

Spraying either the juice of a lemon, orange or lime diluted with some water on the leaves and soil of your plants can be a good way to ward off any felines that might be trying to invade your potted babies. This mixture also happens to be one of the few great natural insect repellents.

Bitter apple spray or cayenne pepper will also deter cats.

If you don’t want to make your own mixture or repellent, Green Gobbler make an Orange oil concentrate spray that you can purchase at pet stores. It is safe to use on your potted greens and is sure to repel your cats from them.

This orange spray works really well, and, another nice thing about it is, you don’t have to use and clean out a general use plastic spray bottle.

If your cat decides that the smell is not strong enough to keep them away from the plant, then the taste will most definitely do the job. That bitter taste will keep your feline friend from returning.

Spraying a solution made of apple cider vinegar on your shrub leaves has also been shown to be an effective method to stop your pets from chewing on them.

Make the Soil Less Attractive

As mentioned before, anything that is citrus, is not a favorite of cats. If you are spraying your plants foliage or plant fronds with a citrus-based solution, you can easily do the exact same thing with the soil as well.

Use A Burlap

Another option is to place a piece of landscape fabric burlap, which has been sprayed with the citrus solution, over the soil in which your plant is growing, to keep your cat from digging.

Not only do you prevent your cat from eating or digging through the plant’s soil, you also keep your house smelling lovely and fresh.

Use Citrus Rind/Peels

Another method is to take pieces of citrus rind, place them in and around the planter, and then cover the soil with aluminum foil. Keep in mind that placing a citrus rind or some citrus peels into your pot may attract garden pests and fruit flies.

Using Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil can also be used if you do not want to use citrus rind.

Cats do not like to walk on aluminum foil, the feel and sound of it is quite unappealing to them. So, this can be an effective obstruction.

Aluminum foil can also work as a deterrent, during the festive season, if you are having trouble getting your cat out of your Christmas tree.

Aluminum foil does, however, not always look very pretty, so choosing small rocks as a deterrent may come across a bit more decorative.

Placing double-sided tape over your pot is another way to stop your pet from digging around in your pot.

Alternative Ways To Cover Soil

There are a few other methods to use when you want to cover your soil and prevent your kitty cat from digging and pooping in it. These options include putting decorative rocks on top of the pot soil, as well as pine cones, faux moss rocks or vase filler pebbles.

Make Sure That the Litter Box Is Clean

Another way to cat-proof houseplants and keep your cat from digging and defecating on your plants soil, is to make sure that the litter box is nice and clean. Cats do not like to ‘go’ in dirty litter boxes.

Apart from scooping out your cat’s poop, also make sure that the entire kitty litter is replaced with fresh product on a regular basis, cleaning the box properly before refilling it.

Also, ensure that you have the correct size litter box, which should be big enough for your feline. They are not fond of boxes that are too small.

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The type of litter used may also play a role in whether your cats prefer to go potty in your plants soil or use the litter box for it.

Make Sure Your Potted Plants Are Unreachable or Inaccessible

There are a few places in your house where you can safely place your plants to avoid any attacks from your fur babies.

Understanding your cat’s abilities will help you place your plant somewhere safe and out of its reach. Whether you hang them from a high platform or put them on a high enough shelf so that even the best leapers can’t reach them.

Make A Barrier

Get a little creative and think outside the box and create a physical barrier of sorts surrounding the entire plant. This method works quite well for smaller shrubs or tiny indoor gardens.

You can make use of an old fish tank for a planter, chicken wire — which can be used as a cute wire plant cover —, a big dome birdcage or a terrarium. Also, try an indoor greenhouse or a decorative glass cloche. They might be a little expensive, but they are a fantastic and easy way to keep plants safe from pets, all while adding some flair to the room.

Always be aware of plants that are highly toxic to cats — one example is the Lily plant. Even the smallest bit of exposure can harm them.

Gift Your Cat With Their Own Safe Plant

Another way to distract your feline friend from your plants — hence, keeping them away — is to give them some of their own plants, which are not toxic, to play with.

This could be cat grass/pet grass or their very own indoor cat garden. Most commonly, these kinds of grass or cat gardens are a seed that consists of either wheat, rye, flax seed, oats or barley, making it safe for your cat.

Catnip is said to be loved by cats, and it is safe for them to nibble on. It is said that felines are attracted to their smell. A pot of catnip should distract your cat enough to stay away from your indoor greens. The oil in catnip may give your cat a euphoric feeling.

Despite this being a relatively safe and even healthy alternative, you will still need to monitor how much your cat ingests. Before committing to this purchase, we suggest you discuss any concerns you might have about cat grass and make sure that it is a safe alternative for your cat.

Train Your Cat

Yes, much like other animals such as dogs, cats can also be trained. It is a massive commitment though, which takes a good amount of time, patience, and consistency, but you can train your cats to do nearly anything you want!

Some people train their cats to do tricks while others may even train their cats to be comfortable on a leash — if they are not already outdoor cats — so they can spend more time outside without disappearing.

Teaching your cat to stop eating or playing with your plants and redirecting them to a different behavior is possible with the correct motivation.

According to Readers Digest, it is proposed to find your cat’s motivation when trying to train them or when teaching them something new.

Treats are a great motivation to use to train any pet. Be sure to use small treats that can easily be consumed by your cat. This way, the training process does not get interrupted, and you can repeat tricks over and over.

Other cats, on the other hand, enjoy affection and praise rather than getting treats. Find out what your cat likes and give it a go.

You can also discipline your cat by using humane ways of startling or distracting them, followed by a reward of treats or affection. If you catch your cat playing on your plants or climbing up indoor trees, spray them with water using a spray bottle or clap your hands to make a sudden loud noise.

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Come Up With Others Ways To Entertain Your Cat

As mentioned above, your fur baby may be attacking your indoor shrub out of sheer boredom. There are a few interactive puzzles or toys that you can purchase at your local pet shop, which will keep your cat entertained for sure.

Try, for example, the indoor hunting feeder produced by Doc and Phoebe. It is a simple toy that can be filled with animal feed which you can then hide around your house. Your cat will naturally try to find the food, by practicing its natural instinct to hunt.

If you do not want to spend money on this toy, you can easily craft your own by using an empty roll of toilet paper.

Get Plants That Are Not Appealing to Cats

There are a few plants that you can get which cats hate and are actually repulsed by. Houseplants cats will not chew on are mainly plants that have a strong smell — even though they may smell great to the human’s nose, cats dislike them and will therefore avoid them — or have thorns or prickles.

List of Plants Cats Will Stay Clear Of

  • Prickly plants — such as roses
  • Lavender
  • Thyme
  • Lemon
  • Rue
  • Scaredy cat plant (Coleus canina)

Beware of Toxic Plants

Until you have trained your feline and are 100% sure that it will not play in or chew on your plants, we suggest that you make sure that the indoor plants that you already have or intend to purchase, are not toxic to your cat.

There are a couple of houseplants that pose a poisonous threat to pets and are therefore risky to keep if you have cats that tend to attack your houseplants.

Ingestion of these toxic plants, may cause gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps in cats. Some species may also be a fatal threat if large amounts are ingested by felines.

Common Indoor Plants That Are a Toxic Threat to Cats

In the list of plants below, find some of the more common plants found indoors that could poison your cat if you are not careful.

  • Pencil cactus
  • Weeping fig
  • Jade plant
  • Begonia
  • Bird of paradise
  • Devils ivy
  • Dumb canes


This brings me to the end of this article about how to prevent your furry friends from playing in and around your plant, avoiding them from chewing on the leaves or making use of the soil as a litter box.

With all the above named methods, especially the one where we mention that you can train your cat, persistence is key. Just like when disciplining children, be patient and persistent when trying to teach your cat new habits and tricks.

Also, when you have pets — or more specific, cats — always be mindful as to which house plants you have growing in your home. The last thing you want is for your furry friend to become poisoned by means of ingesting a household plant that is toxic to the animal.

If you do have plants that are toxic to cats, and you do not want to part with them, make 100% sure that they are completely out of reach to your cats by placing them on a tall shelf or cupboard, still keeping in mind that cats are leapers and are able to jump high and far.

Find a method that suits you best and that works, and I am sure that your floral and fauna friends and your feline friend can coexist.

Good luck!