Just when you thought you were starting to get a green thumb and managed not to kill off your newest house plant within a week, you find your sneaky little feline friend using the pot as its personal sandbox or as a treat to munch on. What is it with cats and their incessant urge to destroy anything they come across? No matter how many times you have told them not to, they keep attacking the leaves or even turn pots over entirely in their excitement.
However, even though it might sometimes seem like they are doing it just to spite you, your cat is probably bored.
"It's especially young and playful cats who pounce on plants," pet trainer Michaela Asmuss from Germany explains. A cat living in a flat without much change in its daily routine might mistake your plants for toys, while others simply like to snack.
Scolding doesn't help, however, since the cat doesn’t understand what you are talking about, Asmuss says. "Best to clean up the mishap without comment."
As with humans, punishments never work and only scare the cat or make it aggressive, depending on its nature. Instead, you should try to tackle the root of the problem. If your cat is bored, taking it outside is one option.
"Cats who are able to go outside don’t make such a fuss in the house (...) because they can let off steam and gather new impressions,” Lea Schmitz from the German Animal Protection League says. If that's not an option, you should play with it as much as possible.
Even so, there is no guarantee your cat will always keep away from the plants, so make sure not to buy toxic specimens like cyclamen, amaryllis, begonia, coral tree, poinsettia and desert rose, which are a no-go for cat owners, according to the Animal Protection League. Typical symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, tremors, diarrhea, foaming at the mouth and apathy, in which case you should take your pet to the vet immediately.
To keep cats from digging into the soil, you can use large stones or an elastic fabric to cover it up, Schmitz explains.
And of course, there is also the option of getting some catproof plants specifically for your pet to play with. If you are lucky, this will keep it away from more delicate greens.
Another old trick in the book is to put ground orange and lemon peels in your pots or to spray diluted lemon or orange juice on the leaves. You could also cut open a citrus tea bag and sprinkle that onto the soil as well. As cats hate the smell of citrus, this could help deter them in the most natural way possible.