How to keep pets away from your plants, according to Georgia experts

If you want healthy houseplants and healthy pets, sharp observation skills are your most valuable tool, says Marietta, Ga. veterinarian Michael Good.

"You have to see what might tempt your dog—think of him like an average 3-year-old human," Good said. "For cats, do even more observation, since they can also jump and are even more curious."

The first rule of housekeeping is simple. "Don't give your pet access to plants you want to keep," Good said.

That makes your second step putting houseplants where pets can't reach them. "Carefully consider each plant," he said. "Really know what is in your home that might be attractive to the dog or cat."

Also, or as an alternative, secure your pets when you can't watch them around the houseplants. In other words, any time you're not home or are sleeping, says Good.

If your pets can't keep away from the plants, see if you can get along without the houseplants that are toxic if they ingest them. For cats, common houseplants that can cause toxic reactions include rubber plants or ficus, various types of philodendron, dumb cane, asparagus fern, snake plants and begonias.

For dogs, just a few of the houseplants considered toxic include weeping fig, lace fern and mother-in-law plant—also called kalanchoe.

CatChannel and Cat Fancy cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger says spraying houseplants with deterrents such as Bitter Apple or lemon can ward off cats. She also recommends that pet owners choose some non-toxic houseplants from ASPCA's list of toxic and non-toxic plants for dogs and cats. She grows non-toxic orchids, for example, so it's not a big deal if her cats munch on the leaves.

The ASPCA maintains lists of plants poisonous for cats and for dogs.

If you're going the route of making the plants off-limits, says Krieger on the CatChannel blog, give your cat something more appropriate to chew on. Spend more time with her, play with interactive toys and activities to do that are more fun than plant nibbling.

Inga Fricke, Director of Pet Retention Programs at the Humane Society of the United States, adds more tips at Apartment Therapy:

  1. Don't put dangling tablecloths or runners under plants—pets might use these as tug toys.
  2. If you have cats, try putting aluminum foil, covered by a layer of soil, inside potted plants. Cats don't like the feeling of foil under their paws.
  3. Line the rim of the planter or the edge of the shelf with double-sided tape, another material cats hate to walk on.
  4. Avoid placing plants on narrow ledges or shelves where your furry friends might knock them over. Toppled plants not only make a mess, but sharp broken edges could cut your pet's paws.

Note: If you think that your animal may have ingested a poisonous substance, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends contacting your veterinarian or calling the AVMA 24-hour emergency poison hotline directly at 1-888-426-4435.

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