Anyone whose cats take an interest in the plants grown in the home will know the concern about adding new blooms, but that might leave you wondering “are orchids safe for cats?” After all, these amazing plants do look like they could be quite poisonous, with somewhat alien flowers and foliage.
Fortunately, orchids are not toxic to cats, and while they may not be part of a balanced feline diet, they shouldn’t do your cat any harm if it does choose to nibble them a bit. On the whole, cats are more likely to ignore orchids than eat them, but it’s better to check than to have a tragedy on your hands.
Are Orchids Poisonous?
Although there are more than 25,000 different kinds of orchids, the general consensus is that orchids are not dangerous to cats.
You may wish to check about your specific variety, but your cat should be perfectly safe in a home that has orchids, and you are unlikely to notice any negative effects, even if your cat does choose to snack on the plant. The plant will probably be the only one to suffer significantly from this behavior!
However, it is thought that some of the modern hybrid orchids may not be as safe for cats as the traditional varieties. If you bring one of these into your home, you should put it out of your cat’s reach to be safe and reduce any risk that these plants could pose to your cat.
It isn’t yet certain that modern orchids are safe for cats, so take precautions with these and the lesser-known varieties in case they turn out to be less safe than previously thought.
On the whole, it seems safe to assume that orchids are fine around cats, and you don’t need to be concerned if your cat takes an interest in your orchid and treats it as a snack bar.
Why Do Cats Eat Plants?
You may have heard the phrase “obligate carnivore” about cats, and that’s because cats must eat meat to survive. They cannot get the things they need from a plant-based diet or even a vegetarian diet; certain nutrients that they require are contained in meat, and there is no way around this.
However, cats in the wild do usually get some greenery in their diets, even if they don’t choose to eat it. They feed on herbivores, which often have grass (or other foliage) leftover in their stomachs, and the cat is likely to ingest some of this at times.
A domestic cat is not likely to be chasing down antelope, and therefore doesn’t get the benefit of this greenery in their food in most cases – and this might prompt them to eat a plant leaf or two. This may help them to digest the rest of their food.
If your cat is allowed outside, you may notice it chewing up grass leaves from time to time, but if your kitty is an indoor cat, it will probably take an interest in your plants on occasion.
Cats also eat plants as a means of making themselves sick if they have eaten something that doesn’t agree with them. This isn’t very pleasant, but it helps them remove things from their digestive system, and is an instinctive behavior.
If your cat does this a lot, you may wish to get it checked out by a vet to make sure there is nothing wrong, but most cats do this on occasion.
What Happens If My Cat Eats Orchids?
If your cat just tastes a leaf or two, it’s likely that nothing at all would happen. If your cat decides the orchid is good to eat and devours more of the plant, it’s possible that the cat could suffer from diarrhea or vomiting as a result, although there are unlikely to be any long-term effects and you probably don’t need to worry.
However, if your cat has got sick from eating orchids, it may be worth a call or visit to the vet to be safe. While orchids shouldn’t be harmful, it is better to check when something seems wrong.
How Can I Stop My Cat Eating Orchids?
You probably don’t want your cat to eat your orchids even if it’s safe. After all, you don’t grow orchids for your cat to munch on them; you grow them to enjoy the beautiful flowers. Orchids are sensitive plants and they won’t appreciate having their leaves chewed off.
So, what can you do about it? Let’s look at some of the options you can try.
Put Orchids Out Of Reach
The best option is to put your orchids out of reach of your cats, as this is the securest method of stopping them from eating them. However, cats are often good climbers and this may be harder than it sounds.
Some people opt to hang their orchids from the ceiling as a good way of making them extremely hard to reach. Your orchid won’t mind being up there, as long as it gets enough light, water, and fertilizer, but this might not be ideal for you, depending on your setup.
It can make orchids hard to tend and may stop you from properly enjoying their beautiful flowers because they won’t be at eye level. However, if you have a plant that your cat just won’t leave alone, this is one possible solution to the problem.
Alternatively, consider keeping your plants in one room of the house, and keeping the cats out of this room. This is a good way to minimize contact between your cats and your plants and can make it easier to prevent unwanted nibbling. It also makes it easier to care for your plants all at once. Again, though, this solution won’t be practical for everyone.
Give Your Orchid Unpleasant Associations
Another option is to ensure your cat doesn’t want to go near your orchid because something bad happens when it does. There are a few choices here.
You can deter your cat from going near your orchids by flicking water at the cat when it approaches. This method does require you to be present and watching, but your cat will hopefully soon get the message that approaching the orchid results in getting wet, and this should put it off doing so.
Alternatively, sprinkle the plant with something that cats dislike the smell of. Some people use cinnamon to deter them.
You could also try rubbing the leaves with chili. If the cat finds that they taste unpleasant, they are less likely to try them again in the future, although it may take several applications to convince them to leave the plant alone.
Another option is to coat the leaves in diluted vinegar or spread citrus peels around the base of the plant. Your cat won’t like any of these things, so they will help to keep your plant safe from munching.
You will probably have to do this consistently for a while until your cat stops trying to eat the plant, but once you have dissuaded it, this is likely to last for some time, possibly for good.
If your cat is really determined, there probably isn’t much you can do to stop it from eating orchids unless you can move them out of reach, but hopefully one of these methods will work for you.
What Else Should I Be Aware Of?
It’s worth noting that although orchids themselves don’t pose a danger to your plants, fertilizer is somewhat dangerous, and the chances are that you fertilize your orchid frequently (or, at least, you should do so!).
That means you do need to be careful if your cat is very interested in the plant and its container. Make sure that you always put fertilizer bottles away, well out of reach of your cat, after each use.
You should also move your plant out of reach or keep your cat out of its room when you have recently fertilized it. While fertilizer poisoning isn’t as dangerous as some toxins, it is unpleasant for the cat and its severity will depend on how much fertilizer the cat has consumed.
You may find it useful to place seashells or small stones around the base of your plant, on the surface of the orchid bark. This can help to keep your cat away from the bark, which is where the fertilizer will be.
If your cat has got fertilizer poisoning, you may find that it is drooling, vomiting, panting, and in pain. You should take your cat straight to the vet so that they can treat your cat, and take the fertilizer too so they know what the cat has ingested.
So, orchids are perfectly safe for cats and you don’t need to worry if your cat has eaten some of your orchids unless it is showing signs of poisoning. However, you probably still want to keep your plants and your cats separate, so hopefully, you now have some good ideas about how to do that effectively.