Green Thumbs: 8 Safe Houseplants for Cats

Seniors Guide - 02/09/2021

Your furry feline friend is your favorite companion, but you also love being surrounded by pretty plants; what’s a green-thumbed cat-lover to do? Not to worry! Although there are some plants that can be toxic if ingested by pets, there are a wide variety of safe houseplants for cats – easily digestible green things for little Simba!

Plants have many benefits. They make for simple but elegant décor, and they even clean and purify the air. For some, just the process of maintaining and keeping a plant alive can be very therapeutic. The list of safe houseplants is lengthy and contains a variety of plants for different purposes. Are you a lover of beautiful, aromatic flowers? Do you want your space to feel tropical? Are you a budding chef who enjoys growing herbs in a kitchen windowsill?

1. AIR PLANTS (Tillandsia varieties)

For the wannabe green thumb, why not start with an air plant? The air plant is in the Bromeliad family (along with, believe it or not, the pineapple!). As their name implies, they do not require much more than air – no dirt or fertilizer. They do require water, so set an alarm to remind yourself to soak your air plants in water every week or two. After soaking, simply shake them out, and replace them in their terrarium or planter.

2. AMERICAN RUBBER PLANT (Peperomia obtusifolia)

The American Rubber plant (and its little sister, the baby rubber plant) is not only one of the safe houseplants for cats, but it actually has human health benefits as well. These hard-working plants clean the air by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen by combining the CO2 with hydrogen, which it gets from the water taken in by its roots. That chemical reaction results in oxygen, which is released into the air through its leaves. Pretty amazing, huh? Give this one a large pot and water regularly.

3. SPIDER PLANT (Chlorophytum comosum)

There is a good reason that hardy spider plants are often found in offices or corporate environments – they are easy indoor keepers and air purifiers.


There are a number of fragrant herbs including rosemary, thyme, and basil varieties that are not only beautiful to look at, but great for flavorful cooking. Leave them in direct sunlight, and don’t be afraid to reach for them to use in your favorite recipe – trimming them will help them grow! AVOID chives, scallions, garlic, or anything else in the allium / onion family, as these can be highly toxic to cats.

5. VENUS FLY TRAP (Dionaea muscipula)

I have always been intrigued by this carnivorous Venus Fly Trap, which feeds itself with the pesky flies that you would rather not have in your kitchen – or on your patio or porch. Make sure it gets direct sunlight daily, and water regularly with rainwater or distilled water, since the minerals in tap or even filtered water can kill your plant.

6. FERNS (Tracheophyta)

Not all ferns are safe for pets, so it is important to research the common and scientific names of the type of fern you purchase. Check out these pet-safe fern varieties to see if they’re safe houseplants for cats:

  • STAGHORN FERN – Platycerium bifurcatum

This unique fern, which can resemble a mounted stag head, can be mounted or hung on a wall. This is a fussier fern species in terms of humidity, sunlight, and water, and therefore not recommended for a beginning.

  • BOSTON FERN – Nephrolepis exaltata

The Boston or sword fern is a common houseplant that thrives in a cool environment with indirect light. Misting your fern once or twice a week can help maintain the humidity it needs, especially if you live in a dry environment.


Looking for a larger plant that will fill up empty space and give your home a tropical feel? Try one of these kitty-safe palms (although we make no promises about the temptation your cat may feel to climb it!).

  • PARLOR PALM (Chamaedorea elegans)

These beautiful palms can grow to 1-2 feet tall, if you give them a large enough container. If you are one of those folks (like me) who remembers to water your plants only every week or two, the Parlor Palm is a great choice. In fact, soil should dry out completely in between watering. Indirect sunlight is best.

  • ARECA PALM (Dypsis lutescens)

This popular palm (also known as bamboo or butterfly palm) does best with bright light exposure from a window and are sensitive to over-watering, so let soil dry out before watering again.


  • MINIATURE ROSES (rosa) are a classic that are beautiful, smell delicious, and are safe houseplants for cats and other pets.

  • SUNFLOWERS (Helianthus annuus) are a cheerful bloom that come in many different sizes. Just make sure you have a sunflower, and not some types of daisies, which can be toxic in large quantities to cats.

Colorful African Violets (Saintpaulia), Orchids (Orchidaceae), and Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) are all colorful options for pet-safe flora in your home.

The options are vast for plant-lovers. In addition to these, the ASPCA has compiled this extensive list of plants that are non-toxic to felines to make sure that your treasured pet is safe.

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.