One of the hottest plants right now is none other than the fiddle leaf fig. These plants are members of the ficus family, which are known for their beautiful foliage and their tendency to be dramatic, often dropping leaves for seemingly no reason. – but are fiddle leaf figs safe for cats?
If you are an experienced keeper looking to jump on board the fiddle leaf train, but you also have pets, there are a few things you should know.
Are Fiddle Leaf Figs Toxic to Cats?
The short answer to this question is yes, fiddle leaf figs are toxic to cats and dogs. Does this mean that if you have cats you shouldn’t have them in your house? Yes, and no.
It’s important that before you add any plant to your home you know the temperament of your cat. Some cats couldn’t care less about plants, and some seem to live to destroy them. I have a mixture in my house, so I tend to keep toxic plants in places they can’t access.
What Makes Fiddle Leaf Figs Toxic?
Fiddle leaf figs produce a chemical called calcium oxalate. This chemical lives in the plant’s cells and forms tiny crystals.
When something bites into the leaf or stem of a plant that produces calcium oxalate, they are immediately stung by these tiny crystal shards. Most cats will spit out any plant matter upon encountering the shards, but some won’t.
Symptoms of eating fiddle leaf fig leaves are excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth, swollen lips, heavy breathing, and even vomiting. If you suspect your cat has ingested a fiddle leaf fig leaf, you will want to immediately call your vet.
If you know the time of consumption and it was in the last 30 minutes, they will likely have you come into the office to induce vomiting. If you don’t know, they may advise you to come in or wait it out at home depending on the symptoms.
Keeping Cats Away From Plants
If you are dead set on having your cats and your plants coexist, there are a few things you can try to keep the peace.
Give your cats their own plants
Providing your cats with their own plants to chew is a great way to deter them from eating other plants in your home. Some great cat-safe plant options are herbs, like basil, thyme, and rosemary, as well as cat grass, and catnip. Be sure with catnip that you only give it to adult cats, as kittens can actually be repulsed by the smell.
Cat grass is a blend of cat-safe grasses that many cat lovers grow for their pets. This mix usually includes alfalfa, oat, barley, rye, and wheat. If you decide to go with cat grass, I would keep several pots of it around and rotate them out as your cats chew them down.
One of the methods I use quite often is double-sided tape. If my cats are determined to get somewhere I don’t want them to I will place double-sided tape around the area and when their paws touch the tape they will immediately jump down.
You can use this over the top of your fiddle leaf fig plant, or you can place it in the area around the plant to deter them from getting near it.
Similar to double-sided tape, cats hate aluminum foil. While many people see success with this method, it isn’t my favorite, but if you want to try it, you would use it the same way as the tape.
Keep them out of reach
If you don’t feel like messing with the above options, you can also simply keep your fig in an area they can’t reach or access at all. I keep many of my toxic plants in my bedroom or office where my cats aren’t allowed, or on high shelves in my living room.
Cat Safe Alternatives
If your looking for a nice statement plant, but don’t want to risk your feline friends, there are quite a few large plants that are cat-friendly and can be the focal point of your room.
While this plant doesn’t get very tall, usually maxing out at about 2-3 feet, it does have a similar leaf shape to the fiddle leaf fig. It grows rather quickly and is completely cat-friendly.
Pygmy date palm
A beautiful tropical plant, the pygmy date palm can be a great focal point in your living room or office. These trees get to be 6-12 feet tall with optimal care and are completely pet safe.
While the ponytail palm is very slow growing it can reach max sizes of up to 6 feet when grown indoors. This process can be very slow though, so if you want a large plant you will likely want to look for a more mature plant to purchase.
Be prepared to pay top dollar for a plant over 3 feet though, as these plants generally only grow a few inches a year.
There are so many beautiful varieties of bamboo and many do well indoors. These plants can add a zen feel to your home and are non-toxic to cats. Be careful when purchasing bamboo, as many types can actually grow through concrete and are very invasive.
Another impressive plant that can be a great focal point in your home is the staghorn fern. These can get absolutely massive and are epiphytic, so you will need to mount them on wood and on your wall for them to be the happiest.
Staghorn ferns can weigh several hundred pounds when mature, so be cautious when mounting them to drywall and make sure you hit a stud.