Indoor plants

Spider plants and cats: why do cats eat spider plant leaves and can it be harmful?

My mother has several cats, I mean more than 10. All of them are well cared for, and even spoiled, with lots of space to walk around inside and outside (they have a closed cat palace). What is the point of all this? She also likes to grow plants, many of them, and we all know that cats and houseplants don’t always go well together.

Some plants are poisonous to cats and others are simply too attractive to these curious hairballs, especially when it comes to the spider plant. Why are cats so attracted to these plants, and are spider plants harmful to cats? Read on to find out more.

Spider and cat plants

The spider plant ( Chlorophytum comosum ) is a popular houseplant and a common accessory in hanging baskets. As far as the nature of spider plants and cats is concerned, it cannot be denied that cats seem strangely attracted to this houseplant. So what’s the problem here? Does the spider plant emit an odour that attracts cats? Why do your cats eat the foliage of the spider plant?

Although the plant gives off a subtle smell, hardly noticeable to us, it is not what attracts animals. Maybe it’s because cats like all dangerous things naturally and your cat is simply attracted to the plant’s hanging spiders, or maybe cats have an affinity for plant-spiders out of boredom. Both of these explanations are viable, and even true to some extent, but they are not the only reasons for this strange attraction.

No. Cats mostly like spider plants because they’re slightly hallucinogenic. Yes, they are. Similar in nature to the effects of catnip, spider plants produce chemicals that induce obsessive behaviour and fascination in your cat.

Toxicity of spider plants

You may have heard of the so-called hallucinogenic properties of spider plants. Maybe you haven’t. But, according to some sources, studies have shown that this plant actually emits a slight hallucinogenic effect on cats, although it is reputed to be harmless.

In fact, the spider plant is listed as non-toxic to cats and other pets on the site of the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), as well as on many other educational sites. However, it is always advisable to be aware that cats that eat spider plant leaves may pose a potential risk.

Spider plants contain chemicals that are believed to be opium-related. Although considered non-toxic, these compounds can cause stomach upset, vomiting and diarrhea. For this reason, it is recommended that cats be kept away from plants to avoid any toxicity from spider plants, no matter how mild. Like people, all cats are different and what affects one cat slightly can affect the other in very different ways.

Keep cats away from spider plants

If your cat has a tendency to eat plants, you can take steps to prevent her from eating spider plants.

  • As spider plants are often found in hanging baskets, simply keep them (and any other potentially threatening plants) high and out of reach of your cats. This means keeping them away from places where cats tend to climb, such as window sills or furniture.
  • If you don’t have a place to hang your plant or a suitable spot out of reach, try spraying the leaves with a bitter-tasting repellent. Although it’s not foolproof, it may help if cats tend to avoid plants that taste bad.
  • If you have an abundant growth of the foliage of your spider plants, to the point that the spiders hang in the cat’s litter, it may be necessary to prune the spider plants back or split them.
  • Finally, if your cats feel the need to chew on greenery, try planting indoor grass for their personal enjoyment.

If it’s too late and you find your cat eating spider foliage, watch the animal’s behaviour (since only you know what’s normal for your pet) and go to the vet if symptoms seem to persist or are particularly severe.

Sources of information: (question 3)


https:ucanr.edusitespoisonous_safe_plantsfiles154528.pdf (p 10)

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