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Are Bonsai Trees Poisonous To Cats?

Are Bonsai Trees Poisonous To Cats?

If you are ready to make the jump into the ancient art of bonsai, you will first need to select the best species to work with. While this is usually a decision based on aesthetics and care requirements, pet owners will also need to take toxicity into account; and one question that gets asked frequently is are bonsai trees poisonous to cats?

While many popular species used in bonsai are poisonous to cats, there are quite a few that are pet friendly. In this article, we will look at some of the most common species and break down which are feline friendly and which will need to be kept away from your furry friends. 

Toxic trees

Let’s have a look at some toxic trees that are popular for Bonsai.

Jade plants

One of the more popular plants for beginner bonsai keepers is the jade plant. These succulents are rather forgiving of poor care and can be trained to have nice thick tree-like trunks and small leaves. Unfortunately, they are also toxic when eaten by cats. 

A Jade plant in a white pot

Ficus

Another popular beginner tree is the ficus. There are several species of ficus that do well being trained as bonsai, but all of them can, unfortunately, make your cat sick if ingested. 

Sago palm

Sago palms are popular as house plants and as bonsai, but they are highly toxic to cats and dogs and should never be kept in a pet-owning home. Even a small nibble from these plants can cause liver failure and death for your furry friends. 

Azalea plant

While these make gorgeous bonsai trees, they are also extremely toxic. The leaves and flowers of azaleas can cause serious issues if ingested and even a tiny amount can result in the death of your pet. 

Safe choices

Ponytail Palm

These plants are pet safe and do very well with wire training. While you won’t get to experience the joys of training your plants through trimming and they are also very slow-growing, it can be fun to train them to grow in different directions. 

Money Tree

The money tree is a very popular plant to grow in the style of bonsai. These plants are very trainable and can be grown to look like incredible mini trees. Not only are they great for bonsai, but they are also said to bring luck when cared for properly. 

Bamboo palm

One of the coolest pet-friendly species used in bonsai is the bamboo palm. These plants can be trained to grow in super cool ways and really thrive when trained properly. 

Keeping Your Cats Away From Your Bonsai

Even with pet-friendly species, you will want to keep your bonsai away from your feline friends. The need to nibble on plants is deeply rooted in the feline psyche and you won’t want your training undermined by your cat. Thankfully, there are some easy methods to keep your cats and bonsai separated. 

Isolation

If you have a room or place your cats aren’t allowed to go, this is the most effective way to make sure your cat won’t damage or come in contact with your bonsai.

If planning on keeping your cat and plant completely separate you can choose a species that is less than cat friendly, but in case of accidents, I would still avoid sago palms. 

Double sided tape

If you want to keep your bonsai in the main part of your house, but also want to prevent your cat from nibbling on it, double-sided tape may be the answer to your problem. We use double-sided tape to keep our cats away from things and find it to be highly effective in deterring our cats.

Simply place the tape around the area you don’t want your cats to reach. They hate the feeling of the tape on their paws and will quickly run away when they step on it. Be sure to keep the tape fresh, as once it loses its stickiness it will no longer be effective. 

Aluminum foil

While I prefer using double-sided tape, I have friends that swear by aluminum foil. Cats and aluminum foil are not friends and, for whatever reason, cats tend to avoid it. Place it around your plant like you would the tape and your cats should avoid the area. 

Cat Plants

Giving your cat its own plants is a great way to keep your plants safe. Cats that have a safe outlet for their chewing instincts will usually leave other plants in the house alone. Our favorite plants to use for our cats are cat grass, herbs, and catnip.

Cat grass is really our favorite and is just a combination of cat safe grasses, but for some variety, we also rotate in herbs. It’s good to have several pots of cat-safe plants at the ready so you can rotate them out once they are thoroughly chewed to allow them time to regrow and get healthy again. 

Be sure when using catnip that your cat is over a year old, as the smell of catnip can sometimes be repulsive to kittens. 

I would always use this method in conjunction with one or more of the other methods until you are sure your cats will be satisfied with just the cat safe plants.

It took one of our cats longer than the others to not want to sample every plant in the house, but once he realized the cat plants were readily available and the other plants were protected, he relented and no longer nibbles on anything we don’t want him to. 

Water bottle

While this method is somewhat controversial and not super effective, you can use a water bottle to deter your cats from nibbling on your bonsai in your presence. Cats are very smart animals, so this method should really only be used in areas your cat can’t access when you aren’t home.

If you want your cat to be able to be in your office with you during the day though, and this is where you keep your bonsai, the water bottle can be a relatively effective method of training. Simply spritz your cat when it gets near your bonsai and it should quickly learn that when you are around the bonsai is off-limits.