Are Pitcher Plants Poisonous to Cats?

Carnivorous plants are one of the coolest houseplant options out there as they are not only beautiful but have a fascinating purpose. One of the most popular carnivorous plant species available today is the pitcher plant. These amazing plants trap and digest many of the bug annoyances that homeowners deal with like flies, gnats, spiders, and more. But what about pets – are they safe around pitcher plants?

Are pitcher plants poisonous to cats? Pitcher plants are not known to be poisonous to cats. In fact, none of the commonly propagated carnivorous plants are considered highly toxic to cats, though some Asian pitcher plant species can cause digestive issues in cats if ingested. 

As with any plants, you do want to avoid allowing your cat to eat these plants as they can cause tummy upset. However, no major side effects or lasting effects have been noted involving felines and pitcher plants. Your pitcher plants and your cat can be harmonious roommates.

Are Pitcher Plants Safe for Cats?

As we have discussed, pitcher plants are not known to be toxic for cats (or anything for that matter) and are considered relatively safe to bring home if you have a cat. Compared to many other common houseplant species, pitcher plants are relatively low on the list of those that you should worry about. The most common interaction after a cat munches on the plant is minor digestive issues.

The one thing you do want to remember, though, is that cats should never be allowed to ingest large amounts of plants, as they simply are not meant for this. 

Essentially, many of these plants have not been highly studied for their effects on cats, and some may be imported, coming into contact with substances that are not safe for felines. Anytime that you have plants in your home, you should be making it a point to stop your cat from chewing on or ingesting large amounts of them.

What Attracts Cats to Pitcher Plants?

The biggest problem you will find with adding a pitcher plant to your home is because your cat will naturally be attracted to them. There is actually no true reason why cats love plants and are attracted to them, but they tend to be. While this is not necessarily a problem, some plants do cause deeper health concerns, and cats can destroy your plants, which can be costly.

As mentioned, vets have yet to agree on the true reason cats are drawn to our plants, but some theories out there are:

  • Cats like the fibrous texture – While cats are known to be omnivores, it may seem odd for your cat to be chewing your plant, especially a pitcher plant. However, cats naturally need fiber in their diet, which plants can provide. Cats who are mainly outdoors can get an adequate amount of fiber from the prey, while indoor cats may turn to your pitcher plant for supplementation. Also, this unique texture can simply be satisfying to your cat.
  • They can aid in digestion – If you own a cat, you probably know that hairballs are one of the things you have to watch out for with cats due to their self-grooming abilities. Additional fiber digested from the plant can help your cat eliminate the hairball or deal with other digestive issues. For example, a surplus of fiber can be an emetic, causing vomiting and essentially the expulsion of the hairball and relief for your cat. 
  • Cats can be overly curious – We have all heard the saying, “curiosity killed the cat.” While we do not want this to come true, having a cat that is not curious is practically impossible. If you have an indoor cat and bring in a new plant, they are bound to become curious. They may investigate the plant, knock it over, or simply take a bite to learn more about it. 
  • Plants can be fun! – Cats love to stalk and attack prey or other enticing objects. The petals and leaves on plants, including pitcher plants, can be a fun game for cats. A slight breeze can wiggle the leaves in the right direction for a good bounce or even attack, causing fun for your cat and fatality for the plant. 

Keeping Your Cat Away from Your Pitcher Plant

If you have a cat or cats and want to keep them away from your pitcher plants, this can be challenging. Unlike dogs, cats are much more capable of climbing and even getting into small spaces. This makes simply moving the plant not always the best option.

Luckily, there are some key ways to keep your cats away from your plants, for their basic safety and for the safety of your pitcher plant. As mentioned, while these plants may not be highly toxic, you do not want your cat to ingest the plant or destroy it. Some great ways to keep your cat out of your plant are: 

1 – Make the Plants Unpalatable

One of the biggest things you will have to worry about when it comes to your plant is if your cat tries to chew on it or even eat it. While pitcher plants are not toxic, they should not be eaten in large amounts and can cause digestion issues, like vomiting or diarrhea. One thing that you can do to keep your cat from eating the plant is by making it less palatable for them.

There are some pet supply stores, or you can even search online to find natural pet repellants that can be sprayed on your plants. A well-known repellent that cats hate but humans do not notice is bitter apple. Another similar option would be to dilute vinegar into a solution and leave it on your plants; this should not harm the pitcher plant but will turn away your cats. 

Of course, these substances do not last forever and will have to be reapplied every few days. Also, some cats do not react to these smells and continue to bother the plant. On a positive note, after some time, your cat may associate the plant with the smell and simply ignore it because of this.

2 – Discipline Your Cat Accordingly

Another way to deter your cat is by making loud noises or simply disciplining them when they begin bothering the plant. While cats are not as easily disciplined as other animals, and you want to discipline them in a safe way, using negative associations can be beneficial. A great way to keep your cat away from your plants or pitcher plant is by clapping loudly or saying “no” loudly. 

Something some cat owners do is stealthily spray their cat with a spray bottle of water. Of course, their natural hatred of water will cause them to run away from the plant, and they will avoid it because of this. You do not want your cat to associate the water spray with you but with the plant, which is why you need to be sneaky when disciplining this way.

Once you have negatively deterred your cat away from the plant, you want to give them positive reinforcement. You can place them in an area that is safely away from the pitcher plant with a toy or treats. If you find that these negative connotations are not effective, you should try a different method.

3 – Make Changes to Your Plant Container

If you have multiple pitcher plants or simply have your plant in a large container, this can lead to even more issues. Cats are drawn to containers that resemble their litter box, which a large container of potting soil may do. The last thing you want is for your cat to begin urinating or worse in your plant’s containers.

One way to keep your cat out of your plants, whether they are using them as a litter box or not, is by adding sharp-edged rocks or other materials on top of the soil. This can keep your cat from using the container inappropriately or simply messing with the plant. You should always make sure that the material added does not bother your plant and its growth. 

4 – Prevent Boredom for Your Cat

A big reason why your cat is probably bothering your plants, whether it be destroying them or eating them, is because they are simply bored. When your cat has nothing else to do, playing with the nearby houseplant can seem like a great option for your pet. While we love the beautiful look of pitcher plants, they can also be very intriguing to your cat and a great plaything when you are away.

Even if your cat is not bothering your house plants, you should always do your best to keep your feline entertained to avoid boredom and mischief. Ensuring that your cat is adequately stimulated can also be beneficial to your plants and your sanity. 

Of course, with jobs, family, and social life, you simply cannot play with your cat 24/7, which is why you need to have other sources of entertainment available while you are away.

Provide your cat with a selection of scratching posts, perches, hiding places, toys, and more. You can even go a step further and hide treats around the house for cats to find or set up a birdhouse outside your window for an exciting view while you are away. Essentially, keep your cat’s mind exercised, and they will not have time to destroy your plants. 

5 – Plant Healthy Alternatives Around your Home

As previously mentioned, a big part of why your indoor cat eats your house plants is to add fiber and greens to their diet. While this is not an issue and can be beneficial to your cat, eating your pitcher plant is not the right choice. Instead, add other plants to your home that your cat can eat in areas they can access more easily.

A great option is kitty grass, which is sold in many stores and available online, as well. This is an easy to grow plant that your cat is bound to love and digest safely. The only negative to this is that the grass does not last long and can die easily, but this is a great option. 

A similar plant that you can purchase and grow easily is wheatgrass, which cats enjoy and is considered safe. Most health food stores carry wheatberries that you can plant in the dirt and keep moist. In only a few days you will see blades of grass growing, which you can continue to grow and allow your cat to eat.

Of course, another great option is catnip, which is healthy and not very difficult to grow. You can find catnip in a variety of stores, or online and almost every cat loves it. While this plant can cause some erratic behavior at first, these effects do not last, and it is a great source of vitamins and fibre. 

Regardless of which plant you choose, you want to ensure that they are safe for your cat and aid in its overall diet.

Also, you want to place these safe, cat-friendly plants away from the plants that you do not want to be bothered. This can avoid your cat having mixed signals about what is allowed and not allowed while giving them easier access to those that can be chewed or eaten.

6 – Rethink Your Plant Location

While it may be difficult to keep your plants away from your cat, you do want to make it as difficult as possible for them to access the plants easily.

If you have certain areas where your cat is not allowed or does not frequent, this is ideal for plant location. While most pitcher plants need sunlight, you can place them near almost any window in your home, including in bedrooms or areas your cat does not go.

If you do not have an area where your cat is not allowed, try placing your plants on countertops or higher off the ground. Though cats can jump, they may not go out of their way to explore plants that are not in their normal locations. Some even hang their plants from baskets from the ceiling or similar setups, where cats simply cannot access them.

7 – Consult Your Cat’s Veterinarian

If you try one of the previously mentioned methods and have yet to see a positive difference, you may want to try multiple approaches. However, if you do not see a difference with your cat’s behavior, and they are still eating or bothering your plants, you may want to consult their veterinarian.

There may be underlying issues that are causing your cat to eat your plants that require additional treatment. As mentioned, cats turn to eat plants because they supplement their diet, which may mean that your cat is missing out on important nutrients

A simple diet change can end this issue and provide your cat with the nutrients needed. This can also be a sign of gastrointestinal issues, which your vet can better evaluate and lead you in the right direction for treatment.

What to Do If Your Cat Eats Your Pitcher Plant

As we have discussed, pitcher plants are not known to be poisonous to felines and can be ingested safely. However, they are not meant for eating, and this should be avoided.

If your cat ingests a large amount of your pitcher plant, you may want to look for signs of digestion issues. While the plant is not poisonous, it can affect each pet differently. Some things to look for if you notice the plant has been eaten are:

  • Sudden collapsing or extreme lethargic behavior
  • Repeated vomiting or diarrhea
  • Excessive irritation such as redness, swelling, blistering, or rawness of the skin or mouth
  • Reduced appetite or thirst

If you notice any of the above symptoms, you need to call or visit your cat’s veterinarian immediately. While these plants should not cause more than occasional vomiting or diarrhea, extended symptoms should be addressed. You should also note that it can take several days for the negative effects of plant digestion to show in your pet. 

You should take a piece of the plant or its label with you to the veterinarian. This can help them better assess what your pet is dealing with and how to treat them properly. Even though they are not poisonous, your vet may need to prescribe medication or offer liquids to avoid dehydration. 

If you notice these symptoms after hours, you can contact your nearest emergency clinic for help. There has not been a documented case where pitcher plants have killed or injured cats, but this does not mean that it cannot happen. You can also contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, who may have additional help on what to do for your pet. 

In Conclusion

While you rest assured that your cat won’t die, you’ll still want to discourage your cat from munching on your pitcher plant. Eating any of your plants is a habit you’ll want to steer your pet clear of. If your cat must nibble on something green, make sure it’s catnip or kitty grass, which are both safe snacks.