Stay Away from the Banana Plant
October 27, 2009 5:13 AM   Subscribe

My cat is slowly killing my indoor banana tree by scratching the hell out of it. Now what?

I live in Central Pennsylvania and in the spring of this year purchased a dwarf plantain plant/tree. It grew very well outside in the summer but now that the weather has taken a turn for the cold, I've brought the plant indoors and have placed it on a small table in front of our large south-facing window. It's continued to thrive and is still sprouting new leaves, but my cat is intent on killing it. He loves to scratch at its trunk and tear at the leaves. He doesn't dig at the soil or eat the plant, so I don't need advice regarding that. Just: how to keep the cat away from the plant? I'd prefer to find a solution that saves the tree while keeping it aesthetically pleasing - i.e., I'd rather not wrap the tree in aluminum foil. My strategy thus far has been to shoot him with water from a water bottle when he gets up in/on the plant, but now it's like he just jumps up there and looks at me for attention. If I don't shoot him, he'll cry and then scratch at the tree until I do shoot him, at which point he runs away. He's a bit challenged in the brain department.

Are there any sprays or anything I can use that would cover the plant in some sort of anti-cat repellent? I did some Googling but came up empty.

Thanks, mefi.
posted by billysumday to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Buy the cat a scratching post.

If not, double sided sticky tape will usually stop cats scratching a surface. They do not like the sensation of having their paws stuck. How practical that might be on the trunk of a banana tree I do not know.
posted by fire&wings at 5:16 AM on October 27, 2009

Cat > banana tree. Cat supercedes flora and fauna - and as bonus the banana tree will survive. Love the cat. Lavish him with love and attention, praise his prowess in knowing which tree to scratch - because banana trees are just so awesome to scratch and smell. Then fertilize the tree in return and make sure it has adequate water. Then don't sweat the small stuff, because in the large scope of things and matters -- this is one that doesn't require excess thought about. Just get a scratching post and make it very attractive to the feline. Be happy. They too will be happy. That's all that counts. Cheers.
posted by watercarrier at 5:31 AM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, forgot to mention that I have a scratching post. But of course the little dude prefers the tree. I've thought of tape but I think that might harm the plant. And would look weird.
posted by billysumday at 5:41 AM on October 27, 2009

PS - I seem to have heard somewhere that cats' scratching of trees actually help the tree ward off insect infestations - in this case spider mites. The frequent scratching and ripping off of the bark will remove the spider mites and their colonies. Cats know what they're doing. There is nothing evil or sinister about their going about *randomly* scratching.
posted by watercarrier at 5:52 AM on October 27, 2009

Some cats dislike the smell of citrus--maybe a little Citrasolv or something in an essential oil diffuser near or in the pot?
posted by pullayup at 6:05 AM on October 27, 2009

While there's certainly nothing sinister to it... I have a cat who loves nothing more than to rip my plants to shreds. All of them. Most plants do not recover. This summer, he very methodically removed every, single, leaf, on my bougainvillea. I caught him doing it a few times: he would grab a leaf between his paws (cute as all get-out), then rip it off with his teeth. I'd spritz him, then he'd go back and do it again when I wasn't looking.

billysumday, if the spritzing isn't helping (and it doesn't with my cat, I've tried for a year, so I can relate), about the only solution is to move the plant out of the cat's reach. I've had to put all my potted plants on a patio table outside. It works pretty well. It's in front of my window so that the few times kitty has tried to jump up and pull down a plant, I was able to spritz him before he finished his feline mischief. No plants in the house. Not even flowers. Especially not flowers, actually... tried it once and ended up with a spilled vase, soaked table, and shredded bits of flowers sprinkled throughout my apartment. He's a very good cat otherwise, has a huge cat tree and two other, smaller scratching posts... and he loves de-constructing plants and always will.

I also tried lemon-scented sprays, by the way. Kitty didn't care. I've sometimes seen hot pepper recommended in these cases, but it's not a good idea since the cat can/will get it on their paws and rub it into their eyes. Ouch.
posted by fraula at 6:31 AM on October 27, 2009

If I don't shoot him, he'll cry and then scratch at the tree until I do shoot him, at which point he runs away. He's a bit challenged in the brain department.

It sounds like it's become a game to him. Kitties, especially indoor kitties, love to play and need people to help with playtime if there aren't other kitties around. Buy him toys (I like the feather on a stick type) and play with him! But don't let him initiate--don't start playing when he's already waiting to be squirted, and ignore the scratching behavior when he starts it. If he's doing it for attention, and you don't reward him, eventually he'll stop.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:54 AM on October 27, 2009

Get a scratching post the cat likes better. Maybe a 3 foot tree limb. Spray catnip spray on the scratching post.
posted by theora55 at 6:55 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, if you have a carpeted scratching post, try a sisal one instead. And rub it with catnip to make it more attractive to him.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:55 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

ALSO also, try squirting him with the water bottle and giving lots of praise and attention when he uses the "correct" scratching post. What you want to do is ignore the bad behavior, and reward the good. If squirting is a reward and not a punishment to him, it's not going to help you much.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:56 AM on October 27, 2009

Could you insert something around the edge of the pot to discourage access? Like I'm looking at a bamboo table runner from Target that's on my desk, it would be stiff enough to stand up in a sort of sleeve around the inside edge of the pot and could be supported on the inside with some chopsticks or something poked in the dirt. You could even make a sort of picket fence out of bamboo plant supports (the ones I use don't break very well, but a little hacksaw or sharp pruners would cut them down to shorter pickets) around the inside of the pot.

That would be a relatively attractive solution that doesn't require you to be there to stop him.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:17 AM on October 27, 2009

I know aluminum foil is out, but you could try wrapping the trunk in a plastic mesh that's similar to the trunk color. My folks did this to various indoor plants to discourage their plant-shredder from scratching at the plant trunks.
posted by burntflowers at 10:05 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cayenne pepper? Make a spicy water solution in a spray bottle and spray the banana tree. The stuff hasn't killed any other plants as far as I know, so the banana tree should be OK. Maybe start with a little bit at first to make sure.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 12:59 PM on October 27, 2009

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