Choosing the right houseplant can be tricky enough as it is without having to consider other animals such as cats. The ponytail palm is one of the most popular houseplants – I even keep one myself – but are ponytail palms safe for cats or do you need to consider a different type of houseplant?
You’re in luck – ponytail palms are completely safe for cats according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The only associated risk would be from choking on the leaves, which is why it’s advisable to keep your ponytail palm out of reach of your cat.
In this guide, I’ll break down why ponytail palms are actually safe for cats, and some tips for keeping them out of reach to prevent a possible choking hazard or damage to your plant. Let’s get into it.
Why Ponytail Palms Are Safe For Cats
When houseplants are toxic to cats, they usually contain something called calcium oxalate.
Calcium oxalate crystals are insoluble and cause a wide range of difficulties, including irritation of the mouth, vomiting and difficulty swallowing.
Ponytail palms do not contain calcium oxalate or anything else that can is toxic to cats. Whenever in doubt, I always check the ASPCA list as they provide the best resource for quickly searching for toxic plants.
What About Dogs?
Ponytail palms are also safe for dogs as they are completely non-toxic.
They make a great plant to keep with dogs as well as it’s not likely that your dog would show any interest in biting the leaves as a cat would.
Why You Should Keep Your Cat Away From Your Ponytail Palm
Ponytail palms might not be toxic, but they can still be a choking hazard if your cat likes to nibble at houseplants.
Your cat may also like to scratch the plant’s trunk, which will damage the surface and possibly lead to disease.
Cats are curious things and will sniff and chew just about any houseplant you bring into the home. This is why it’s so important to first check if the plant is safe for consumption, as there are a lot of popular houseplants that aren’t such as the neon pothos and fiddle leaf figs.
Ponytail palm leaves can be difficult to chew, however, and your cat may take a big bite that could easily get stuck in its throat.
Most other houseplants don’t have this problem, but ponytail palms can become scratch posts for curious cats if you’re not careful.
The thick woody trunk provides an ideal place for your cat to scratch its claws, sharpening them and keeping them clean as they would on a tree in the wild. This will damage the trunk and can even lead to disease further down the line.
Easy Ways To Keep Your Cat Away From Your Ponytail Palm
Here are a few tips for keeping your cat away from your ponytail palm.
Keep The Plant Out Of Reach
The easiest method is to keep your plant out of reach.
We all know that cats will climb up pretty much everything they can, so I’m talking more about putting your ponytail palm in a different room that is closed during the day. Bedrooms work well for this, as long as the conditions for growth are optimal.
If you have a keep your ponytail palm outside it’s more difficult to keep your cat away from it. If you have an indoor cat you can easily move the plant outside of any catio that you may have.
If you have an outdoor cat, or if you don’t have a room in the house that you can keep closed, then you will need to use a deterrent.
There are two main ways to deter a cat from getting near your ponytail palm:
- Use strong scents – Cats hate strong smells, so you can use a natural cat repellent made from cinnamon, rosemary and a few other things (full ingredients here) to spray on the soil and trunk to deter your cat. Note that things such as cayenne pepper are often suggested on other websites, but this can cause irritation for your cat and should be avoided.
- Change the surface – Another way to keep cats away is to make the surface of the soil less cat-friendly. For example, you could add small rocks (avoid sharp ones) or a delicate layer of mesh or breathable fabric. Be careful using rocks, however, as they can increase moisture content if you cover the soil completely which can lead to overwatering issues.
At the end of the day, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll be able to keep your cat away from your ponytail palm 100% of the time. It really comes down to your cat’s personality, if they are more curious and known to bite houseplants then you need to be aware of the choking risk.
What Other Palms Are Safe For Cats?
Ok, ponytail palms aren’t technically palms (from the family Arecaceae), but for the sake of this point, I’ll include both true palms and those that technically aren’t true palms (like the ponytail) but are often mistaken for them.
Aside from ponytail palms, there are a few other types of palms that can be kept as houseplants and are safe for cats.
- Areca – Areca palms thrive both indoors and outdoors like the ponytail palm and are not toxic to cats. Arecas are quite low maintenance as well.
- Parlor – Parlor palms are similar to ponytail palms in that they are very common to keep as houseplants. They don’t have a woody trunk, so scratching shouldn’t be a problem, and they grow up to 6ft tall as a houseplant.
(Both Areca and Parlos are true palms if you were wondering…)
What Palms Aren’t Safe For Cats?
There are certain palms that you should keep away from your cat as they can be potentially lethal:
- Sago Palm – These can be fatal to cats, and symptoms include vomiting, bruising, liver failure and death. Although not technically a true palm (like the ponytail) these are often kept inside and outside, so you need to check for these plants if you have cats.
- Cardboard Palm – Cardboard palms are highly toxic to cats; 1-2 seeds can be fatal, and symptoms include liver failure, vomiting, dark stools and more. Often known as Zamia plants, these are regularly kept as houseplants.
- Australian Ivy Palm – The Australian Ivy is toxic to cats as well, with symptoms including oral irritation and vomiting.
All of the palms above are not true palms, but share similar appearances and are often mistaken for palms due to their names, so I thought I would include them in the list.
If ever in doubt, simply search for your desired plant using the ASPCA database and check the toxicity profile at the bottom.