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Are Prayer Plants Toxic to Cats? Risks & FAQ

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Prayer Plants

Cats typically enjoy a carnivorous diet, but they’re not afraid to take a bite out of your houseplants. Although numerous plants are toxic to cats and other domesticated animals, the Prayer plant is relatively safe for cats and dogs. Native to the Brazilian rainforest, the Prayer plant makes an attractive addition to any indoor space. The most common variety, the Red Prayer plant, has prominent red veins and dark green foliage.

Other types, such as the Fishbone Prayer and Neon Prayer plant, are safe for your furball to inspect and even take a nibble. However, like all non-toxic plants, Prayer plants can cause digestive issues if too much is consumed. If you examine ASPCA’s toxic and non-toxic list, you’ll find which species are safe, but since the list is immense, we’ll highlight some of the standouts that can help purify the air and brighten your home.

Top 10 Houseplants That Are Safe for Cats

If your cat experiences an adverse reaction to any species of plant or flower, contact your veterinarian immediately and call ASPCA’s  Animal Poison Control Center or Pet Poison Helpline. To prevent ingestion of pesticide or fertilizer residue from a garden center, rinse the leaves and body of the plant thoroughly, and place the pot in the kitchen sink or outdoor area to drain.

You can find several beautiful and vibrant houseplants to decorate your home that are non-toxic, but here are some of our top choices.

1. Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

Prayer Plant
Image Credit: Maritxu, Shutterstock

Since Prayer plants have tropical origins, they require misting to keep them hydrated, but they’re relatively easy to grow and maintain. During warmer months, they can thrive with indirect sunlight but need brighter light during their dormant period in the winter. Well-draining, moist soil is ideal for Prayers. They’re more vulnerable to drought conditions than other houseplants and cannot survive long when the soil is dry.

During the day, the Prayer plant’s leaves follow the rays of sunlight in the room, and after sunset, the leaves close. This unique trait led to the comparison to human hands folded in prayer.

2. Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea)

Image Credit: Jumpstory

Also referred to as Fishpole Bamboo or Golden Bamboo, Phyllostachys aurea is the most common bamboo species in North America. This bamboo is not the same as Sacred Bamboo, which will be discussed later. Bamboo is the fastest-growing non-marine plant in the world, and outdoor bamboo can grow over 1 foot in 24 hours. Indoor plants only require water once during the week, and they thrive in bright indirect sunlight. If you plan to add bamboo to your yard, remember that it’s an invasive species that can overtake weaker plants unless its growing space is restricted with borders.

Nandina domestica, or Sacred Bamboo, is not commonly used as a houseplant, but it’s poisonous to cats and dogs. If your pets visit the backyard, you should choose another evergreen shrub that’s safer for animals.

3. Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)

Image Credit: RainerBerns, Pixabay

How would you like to care for a carnivorous plant? Venus Flytraps require sunlight and water like other plants, but their diet is supplemented with protein from ants, flies, moths, and even tiny frogs. Native to Wilmington, North Carolina, the Venus Flytrap has been introduced to other states in the south, but its status remains vulnerable due to habitat destruction. It’s unlikely that your pet will attempt to bite the strange plant, but a curious feline will undoubtedly enjoy watching the plant grab and consume unlucky houseflies. Flytraps require moist soil and bright indirect sunlight, but the only fertilizer it needs to live up to 20 years is insects.

4. Baby Tears Plant (Soleirolia soleirolii)

Baby Tears are Mediterranean plants that grow as perennials in warmer climates and annuals in colder regions. Their name comes from the tiny bean-shaped leaves on the plant’s long stems. They’re ideal for amateur gardeners because they’re easy to maintain and propagate. They prefer humid conditions indoors and are vulnerable to dry conditions and temperatures below freezing. If you mist them weekly and keep the soil well-watered, they can survive in low-light conditions. They grow quickly, and most homeowners keep them in hanging baskets to highlight the long, fleshy stems.

5. Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra Elatior)

If you’ve killed multiple houseplants and contemplated giving up on plants altogether, you can try keeping a Cast Iron plant to make up for the previous tragedies. As its name implies, the Cast Iron plant is hard to kill. They thrive in low-light areas in the home, and you only have to water them when the top 2 inches of soil are dry. Killing the plant is not impossible, however. If placed in direct sunlight, the plant can wilt, and too much water can kill it. The top of the leaves can grow over 12 inches long and 5 inches wide.

6. African Violet (Saintpaulia spp.)

African Violets
Image Credit: Kourilek, Pixabay

Since the 19th century, the African Violet has been one of the most popular houseplants in the world. If it’s cared for correctly, the plant will bloom all year and live up to 50 years. The flowers can last 3 to 6 weeks and include a variety of colors like purple, white, pink, red, and blue. They grow best in warm rooms with indirect sunlight, and they should only be fed with warm water. Cold water can cause white spots on the leaves, and most homeowners use a bottom waterer to avoid hitting the leaves. Although they’re popular, African Violets in the wilds of Tanzania are declining rapidly from deforestation.

7. Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum)

Burro's Tail
Image Credit: tirex59, Pixabay

Native to Southern Mexico, the Burro’s Tail or Donkey’s Tail is an attractive succulent with thick, tiny gray/blue leaves. Fortunately, the plant is safe for cats because the leaves and stems break easily. Unlike most houseplants, Burro’s Tail requires direct sunlight to stay healthy. In the summer, it needs water when the top of the soil is dry, but you can water it once a month in the winter. If you move the plant outdoors during warmer months, it’s more likely to make blooms.

8. Money Tree (Pachira aquatica)

money tree plant
Image Credit:SimoneVomFeld, Pixabay

In the swamplands of Central and South America, the Money Tree can grow up to 60 feet tall. As a houseplant, it will only grow 3 to 6 feet high. The braided trunk of the plant is created when cultivators tie the young plants’ stems together before they harden. They grow well in humid rooms like bathrooms and only require indirect light to thrive. Having a money tree may be a wise investment because the plant is considered a good luck token that brings wealth and happiness.

9. Banana Leaf (Musa acuminata)

Banana Leaf
Image Credit: Jumpstory

Banana Leaf plants rarely produce fruit indoors, but the massive dark green leaves give your home a tropical feel when you keep them in large pots. They can grow 6 to 8 feet if you provide them with plenty of direct sunlight and keep them away from drafts. Since the plant grows so tall, you may have to position it away from your pet’s cat tree. A bored feline on the top platform of a cat tree may consider a nearby Banana plant’s leaves as tempting targets for its sharp claws.

10. Old World Orchid (Bulbophyllum appendiculatum)

Attractive flowers like tulips and lilies are poisonous to cats, but you can keep an Old World Orchid in your home without worries. Native to Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, the Old World Orchid is one of the oldest known flowering plants. It grows best indoors with indirect light and high humidity. Although it’s sometimes difficult to detect, the plant’s flowers emit an unpleasant odor that may convince your pet to turn around. The Orchid’s smell is responsible for the nickname Stinking Bulbophyllum.

Houseplants To Avoid

You can find several vibrant houseplants that are safe for cats and other pets, but we advise that you avoid any plant on the ASPCA’s toxic plants list and these species in particular:

  • Tulip
  • Yew
  • Hyacinth
  • Lily
  • Oleander
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Peace Lily
  • Narcissus
  • Devil’s Ivy
  • Sago Palm
  • English Ivy
  • Spanish Thyme

Final Thoughts

Prayer plants are colorful, unique species that slowly direct their leaves to follow the light and close at night. Numerous houseplants are toxic to cats, but the Prayer plant is pretty safe. If your cat prefers to attack the leaves rather than bite them, you can hang a Prayer plant in a basket, or place it on a high shelf to protect it from damage. When shopping for new additions to your plant collection, make sure to  refer to ASPCA’s toxic plant list to ensure the garden store’s plants will not harm your feline friend.

Featured Image Credit: Firn, Shutterstock

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