Are Pothos Toxic to Cats?

A pothos plant and a domestic cat sitting on a shelf.

Kseniya Ovchinnikova / Getty Images

When it comes to houseplants, few are as popular and widespread as pothos. Pothos plants are incredibly easy to care for, fast-growing, and there are many different varieties available. These tropical plants are known for their lush foliage and trailing growth habit, making them a popular choice for hanging baskets and planters. They do well in a range of lighting conditions and are relatively drought-tolerant too.

For many plant lovers and novices alike, adding a pothos plant to their collection is an easy "yes." However, if you have a cat at home you should be aware that these popular houseplants are considered toxic to cats. Here’s everything you need to know about pothos plant toxicity and keeping your cat safe.

Pothos Are Toxic to Cats

According to the ASPCA, all varieties of pothos are considered toxic to cats if ingested. This is because these tropical plants contain calcium oxalate crystals, which cause irritation upon contact. Signs of pothos toxicity include oral irritation (intense burning of the lips, tongue, and mouth), excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing. Because cats are excellent at masking pain and discomfort, it may be hard to notice some of these symptoms at first. However, if you notice any change in behavior in your cat and suspect that it may have ingested part of a pothos plant you should call your local veterinarian right away to get them checked out.

Why Do Cats Eat Pothos?

Cats are notoriously curious and mischievous animals with a knack for getting into things that they shouldn’t. Creating a cat-friendly home can feel a bit like baby-proofing—except cats can climb, meaning virtually nothing is truly out of their reach. While cats are natural carnivores, they are prone to eating greens like grass occasionally as a way to aid in digestion and supplement any vitamins or minerals they are missing in their diets. So it's not uncommon for cat owners to find their furry friend munching on some of their houseplants. Many cat owners find that trailing or grassy-looking plants are of particular interest to their furry friends. Unfortunately, many common houseplants are toxic to cats and are not safe for them to ingest, including pothos plants.

How to Help Your Cat and Pothos Coexist

So are pothos plants out of the question if you have a cat? Ultimately, the decision is up to you, but if your cat is prone to eating houseplants you should definitely steer clear of pothos just to be safe. However, if your cat is generally uninterested in your houseplants you may wish to keep this tropical plant in your home, with a few precautionary measures in place. 

The easiest way to keep pothos out of a cat’s reach is to display them in a hanging planter. Luckily, pothos look amazing in hanging planters thanks to their vining growth habit, so this is a natural choice for many plant lovers anyway. Ensure that your hanging planter isn’t too close to any furniture or shelves to prevent your cat from reaching it. Also, make sure that you trim the vines regularly so they don’t trail too close to the ground (and you can use the cuttings for propagation). Cats will easily mistake them as fun play toys and may nibble one in the process. 

Another general tip for keeping your cat away from your houseplants is to provide them with plenty of other stimulation, particularly if they are indoor cats. Try adding some scratching posts, cat trees, and dangling toys to a few areas of your home to keep them occupied. Additionally, some cats love to hang out up high and enjoy climbing on wall shelves (just don’t put plants on these shelves).

Lastly, if your cat is determined to munch on some greens you can try growing some cat-safe plants for your furry friend. A great example is cat grass, which grows quickly and is easy to maintain. You can also try growing catnip indoors which will almost certainly keep your cat’s attention away from other plants in the home. Just be aware that catnip can cause hyper behavior in some cats, so limit their exposure to it as needed.

Article Sources
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  1. Golden Pothos. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

  2. Plant Toxicity and Pets. Texas A&M University Agrilife Extension.

  3. Where The Green Grass Grows: Grass Treats for Cats. VCA Animal Hospitals.

  4. Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

  5. Feline Fine: The Benefits of Catnip. Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.