Air-Purifying Plants: Which are Toxic to Your Cat?

Many people are aware of the fact that having plants indoors can help keep the air clean and make it seem fresh. An article posted on Treehugger back in 2009, which has recently been making the rounds on Facebook, says that NASA published a list of the best air-purifying plants to have indoors. There were 12 different plants exposed to benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde in sealed environments and scientists recorded the amount of each toxin they removed from the air.

While this study was published in 1989 and intended for the purpose of finding better ways to purify the air in sealed space environments, air-purifying plants can also be beneficial in the home because furniture, paint, and other decorating and building materials can produce some of these same toxins as those in the study. So you might consider having some of these plants in your home, however, if you have cats, you should be careful that you don’t choose plants that are toxic if ingested.

So which air-purifying plants did they study?

The 12 plants in the study, along with their toxicity to cats, are listed below:

  • Bamboo palm: According to the ASPCA, this is one of the air-purifying plants that’s non-toxic to both dogs and cats, and is therefore safe to have in your home.
  • Chinese evergreen: This plant is toxic to many animals, including cats. The ASPCA says that symptoms can include irritation, swelling and inflammation of the lips, mouth and throat, which can cause difficulty swallowing, along with drooling and vomiting.
  • English ivy: This is toxic to cats as well. Symptoms include digestive issues such as pain in the belly, vomiting and diarrhea. Drooling or excessive salivation may also be present.
  • Ficus: The Pet Poison Helpline says that ficus can be toxic to pets, including cats. Symptoms are lack of appetite, digestive symptoms, drooling, and redness and inflammation of the skin.
  • Gerbera daisy: Per the ASPCA, this is another of the air-purifying plants that is non-toxic to cats.
  • Marginata: This is toxic to cats and symptoms include dilated eyes, lack of coordination, digestive symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, increased heart rate, general weakness and drooling.
  • Mass cane or corn plant: The corn plant is pretty but toxic to pets. Vomiting with blood may occur, and dilated pupils, excessive salivation and depression are also signs of toxicity.
  • Mother-in-law’s tongue: This is toxic to dogs and cats, with symptoms such as general nausea, and vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Peace lily: and the ASPCA both name lilies, including peace lilies, as toxic to cats and dogs. Symptoms of toxicity are the same as those of the Chinese evergreen.
  • Pot mum: Chrysanthemums in general are toxic to cats, with symptoms ranging from excessive salivation to inflammation of the skin, along with lack of coordination and digestive issues.
  • Warneckei: This is toxic to dogs and cats. According to the ASPCA, symptoms of toxicity are the same as those found during marginata toxicity, including digestive and abdominal problems, increased heart rate, dilated eyes and lack of coordination.

Why do cats want to ruin our wonderful air-purifying plants anyway?

But why do we have to worry about our carnivorous pets eating our wonderful, air-purifying plants in the first place? Dr. Nicholas Dodman of says that it’s possible that cats eat plants for dietary fiber, but whether that fiber aids digestion is unknown. He also thinks it’s possible that cats eat plants because they taste good, or, like catnip, make them feel good.

For this reason, it’s important never to assume that your cat will not sample any plants you bring home, particularly new ones. So to best protect her, stick to plants that aren’t toxic to cats just in case she decides she wants a salad for lunch instead of her usual fare. This list, compiled by the ASPCA, should help you decide on air-purifying plants that are safe for your household and your pets.

If your cat is acting strangely at all and you suspect that she has ingested a possibly toxic plant, call your veterinarian immediately.

Image by genocre, under Public Domain via Pixabay

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