Plants for pets.
June 9, 2011 5:49 AM   Subscribe

What plant should I get that would be safe for both cats and ferrets?

I have a space about 3'/1m square, with a 7'/2m ceiling, and I want to stick a big leafy plant there. Either something that would reach near the ceiling, or two different plants where the bottom one is ~3'/1m tall and the top one hangs down ivy-like from some kind of base/stand.

Here are some requirements on what I'm looking for, in descending level of importance. Other than these, I'm not that picky:

1. Has to be non-toxic for both cats and ferrets. If you're not sure about this, please suggest anyway and I can do the legwork on researching toxicity.

2. My ferrets, being ferrets, are diggers. Ideally the resulting plant would have as few central stalks as possible, which I could then cut a cover for that would go around the stalks that the ferrets wouldn't be able to get past. So something like bamboo with spread-out stalks would be bad, but something like yucca (toxic) would be good.

3. Big and leafy. I'm trying to make my apartment homier with fresher air, and I also like big and leafy stuff. Maple-ish leaves, or something smaller that looks dense and interesting. I'm not really into the bladed leaves on things like Yucca above, but please, suggest away if you think it would work.

4. Fairly easy to care for. This spot gets medium light, and I'm fine with watering/fertilizing and occasional pruning, but I'm not looking for another hobby. :)

5. I don't know how much this matters for indoor plants, but I'm in Chicago where it gets hot and muggy in the summer (I try to avoid AC as much as I can to save on my electric bill, but it's lower than ~80/27 °F/°C) and friggin' cold and dry in the winter (same with the gas bill, but at least ~60/16 °F/°C). I can humidify in the winter if necessary.

6. Price. Lower is better, but I'm willing to put some extra money into it if I get a better-fitting plant.

I have Menards and Home Depot nearby, and a full-blown nursery a couple blocks away who told me they can order pretty much anything.
posted by Evilspork to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How about a potted palm? Big fronds, central stalk, purportedly non-toxic, and available most places. Though maybe this is what you meant by not liking bladed leaves?
Consider a ficus tree instead; not only more leafy instead of bladed, but a narrower column that might suit your 1m diameter better.
posted by aimedwander at 6:29 AM on June 9, 2011

Response by poster: The potted palms I see on GIS look nice; when I said "bladed leaves" above I was thinking about the yucca that the nursery had suggested, which were more thick and knifey than the palms' long and slender. And ficuses look promising too, thank you.
posted by Evilspork at 7:43 AM on June 9, 2011

With digging kittens in the house, I put some largish rounded river gravel/stones around my large plant, which stopped their digging. I think it was called "egg gravel" or similar, and came in a sack from the local home improvement store's landscaping section.
posted by amtho at 7:45 AM on June 9, 2011

Response by poster: Well, ferrets are like maddeningly devious, and would be able to move rocks 4-5 times their size if they felt the need to. They would look better than the wooden plank I was thinking of, though, so I'll keep it in mind.
posted by Evilspork at 7:48 AM on June 9, 2011

Might want to doublecheck with the ASPCA list as well. (cat-specific list linked here -- alas they do not have a ferret-specific one!) Some plants on the "probably-safe-for-people" list linked above are not infact safe for cats (poinsettias, etc.)

(I have tried to research this topic a bit before and found it slightly maddening -- e.g., most lists are only of TOXIC plants, and I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of what's left in the plant world that would be safe. So hooray for the lists that say what's OK.)

NB: sometimes people cover around plant pots with some kind of screen material, cut to fit in the pot. Don't know if ferrets would be able to just pick that up and move it out of the way (??)
posted by oldtimey at 9:29 AM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: When we had ferrets, we put cayenne pepper in our potted plants. It doesn't cause actual physical harm, but when they snuff that deep into their little, moist noses, they get a very good (and instant) dis-incentive. After a while, we could just sprinkle a few grains of pepper wherever we didn't want the little guys going--the tiniest whiff was enough for them to whip their heads away. Works on squirrels in the bird feeder and rodents in the compst pile, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:41 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

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