Enormous toxic houseplants plus new kitten?
October 25, 2017 8:32 AM   Subscribe

I would very much like to get a kitten but our house is full of old, gigantic houseplants that are toxic to cats. What to do?

I'm not overly attached to the houseplants, some of which I've had for nearly 20 years. In that time they have gotten so large that there is no way they can be in hanging containers. It's difficult as it is to find a place for them as it is where they will get enough sunlight and our current, elderly cats won't be able to take a casual nibble. Adding a kitten into the mix means even places like the top of the fridge probably aren't safe.

Should I just pitch the houseplants? As I said, I view them more as an obligation than a source of real interest. I take care of them but am not enthusiastic about them. I've thought about trying to give them away but everyone I know who is a plant person is adamantly not interested. I work somewhere that people are always trying to give old houseplants to and I know how that ends up.

In the summer I just schlep them outside and that works fine, but in the meantime have to figure out where to keep them for the next six months. We don't have any rooms we can shut them away in--our house is not that large to begin with.

The internet suggests coating them with lemon juice or pepper--have these strategies worked for you? I can't be around to supervise all the time, so I don't think the squirt gun method will work.
posted by whistle pig to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
I have crazy plant-eating cats and I have given up on having house plants. It is a fine trade off. Plants do not give good cuddles, I find.
posted by chaiminda at 8:36 AM on October 25, 2017 [13 favorites]

I have a cat who loves greenery so much that I caught him nibbling on a fake Christmas tree - the kind with fiber optics in the branches even (he also loves coffee). Nothing works to keep him away.

Can you give your houseplants away, via a friend, a table on the sidewalk with a sign, or a Craigslist ad?
posted by elsietheeel at 8:44 AM on October 25, 2017

I cannot see any reasonable solution other than getting rid of the plants (or not getting a cat, but I don't see that as a reasonable solution!). It's not fair, ethical, or humane to have accessible poison out when you have pets, or children, or other beings who lack the ability to completely avoid the poison.
posted by lazuli at 8:45 AM on October 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

Different cats are different. Our cats literally never come near our house plants. Maybe get the kitten, then decide? If you do want to get rid of the plants, Craigslist?
posted by latkes at 8:47 AM on October 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

I have three, and neither of them could give a rip about houseplants. I'd say get the kitten first and see if he/she goes for it, then decide from there what to do with the plants.
posted by jhope71 at 8:49 AM on October 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Check your local nursing home or senior center, they won't have any cats but are highly likely to have an older person or several whose lives would be brightened by having a mature plant to care for.
posted by juniperesque at 9:01 AM on October 25, 2017 [18 favorites]

Do you have a Buy Nothing group in your area? People on mine are always giving away plants and those get jumped on really quickly.

My cats really chomp on our plants, and I think kittens are more likely to chew plants than adult cats. The problem with getting the kitten first is that if they DO turn out to be plant eaters, you're then either in a position of having a very sick cat (possibly with very expensive vet bills) or having to get rid of the plants really quickly.
posted by john_snow at 9:07 AM on October 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

When I was in this situation I took my plants to work. My current cats don't mess with plants at all, so it might be worth a try to see if maybe this potential kitten is not interested in them. The one I had years ago was leaping into them constantly, though.
posted by something something at 9:16 AM on October 25, 2017

The plants sound like a burden. Compost them and you'll be returning them to nature's life cycle. If you don't have a compost, your city may have a drop off area or "green bin" setup somewhere. Or you could contact garden clubs and see if they'll accept them for compost.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:22 AM on October 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

You'll feel terrible if the cat ends up at the vet, so don't risk it. Try Craigslist, Freecycle, Nextdoor, any of the neighborhood Facebook groups, etc. Lots of people want large, mature houseplants who them experience sticker shock when they see how much they are at a store.
posted by stowaway at 9:45 AM on October 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Please list them on Craigslist and/or put the word out in your neighborhood. Your best candidates might be a place where new grads are moving in -- they won't have established plants already, and plants can instantly make a place a lot more homey and healthy (make sure you mention that they are not cat friendly).

If you decide to try kittens with plants in the house, provide cat grass so that, when they start craving something green (this happens to a lot of cats), they have something to nibble that's _not_ toxic. Put it in a special location so the kitten is less likely to be confused, and prepare to plant fresh grass every few weeks (I recommend buying wheat berries from the bulk section of the local healthy grocery, and keeping them in the freezer until you're ready to plant them).

If that doesn't work, and if they are large and healthy-looking, you might have some success contacting interior decorators in your area. Buying plants is expensive, especially large old ones, and they really are great accessories.

Also: please consider getting two kittens instead of one. They will be a lot less destructive, bored, lonely, and nocturnal if they can play with each other and use up the seemingly infinite found of kitten energy that way. The rescue org I used to foster with decided to _only_ adopt kittens in pairs because too many people were returning singleton kittens - the nocturnal foot attacks, yowling, etc. can be just way too much.
posted by amtho at 9:46 AM on October 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you keep the toxic plants in one room that the cats can't access for awhile?

They will show you if they are the type to care about plants or not, and then you can either keep the plants or give them away. None of my cats have ever been remotely interested in mine (multiple cats over the course of 30+ years). It seems premature to make the decision one way or the other beforehand, as long as you have enough space to test run the situation.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 9:48 AM on October 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had a bigassed "mother in law's tongue" (I'd look up the real name but my internet is terrible today--I do not endorse this name) for years and years and years, when I walked in the door one day to find my dog, whom I'd also had for years, eating it.

This really scared me, so I decided to get rid of all of my potentially toxic houseplants, some of which were pretty big. I put them on Craigslist and a very happy, very grateful woman came and took the whole lot of them. She was overjoyed and even a little teary.

Since you're not terribly attached, I'd recommend you try that. I felt really great that day.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:23 AM on October 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thanks all...craigslist it is. :)
posted by whistle pig at 10:25 AM on October 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I view them more as an obligation than a source of real interest.

Even without the kitten, I'd say this is a good enough reason to get rid of them.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:22 AM on October 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

Buy Nothing might be another good place. It's a good way for stuff to find its people in general.
posted by chaiminda at 1:43 PM on October 25, 2017

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