How Can I Keep My Cat From Digging In My Houseplants?

CatChannel expert Jeanne Adlon, professional cat sitter, offers techniques to curb your cat's houseplant-digging behavior.

By Jeanne Adlon | Posted: April 15, 2011, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: How can I stop my cat from digging in my houseplants?

A: Great question. It's frustrating when our wonderful cats claim a favorite houseplant as their own.

Digging is natural behavior for cats. Outdoors, they like digging in the soft, cool soil. We just don't want our cats to dig up indoor plants.

First, if you have houseplants around your cats, I suggest you visit the ASPCA website for their latest list of plants that are toxic for our kitties. You might be surprised by what is on the list.

Next, think about getting them a plant of their own by planting kitty grass, which is sold in pet stores. When two of my wonderful kitties were four-month-old kittens, I planted a large area of kitty grass for them. The kitty grass was so inviting that they wanted to snooze on top of it, instead of digging in it or eating it. Either is perfectly fine for a cat to do. I have now planted the kitty grass in smaller pots so the cats can get a good dig in.

It is also easier to try to cat-proof your plants rather than to enforce a "paws-off" approach. Younger, playful cats seem to get into trouble a bit more than our older kitties, so move your houseplants out of harm's way, perhaps on a high narrow shelf. Try placing objects around the plants to block access. Put smooth stones or pieces of crumpled aluminum foil on top of the soil to discourage digging. You might also place fresh orange peels on the soil — the citrus scent can act as a repellent. Make sure you change the orange peels regularly. Pet stores also sell repellents, but please double check that they are safe for both cats and plants.

As I often say, patience and a little determination can solve nearly any cat co-habitation issue.  As always, I welcome your stories and comments.

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Reader Comments

Kimberly    International

12/17/2013 5:51:48 AM

I suggest and know that this does work very well. Go to your local home store. Purchase some plastic fenching; you know the orange fenching you sometimes see at construction sites, well it also comes in green. It's about $10. - $20. You will also need some kind of spike; they have a heavy metal spike where the fenching can hook onto it but these can be a bit expensive, and too big for smaller plants. If that's the case, you can purchase some bamboo spikes or some of the home stores have long wooden round dowells you can use. Stick the spikes down into the plant's dirt then attach the fenching to it with small green twist ties or weave the small bamboo/ wooden dowells through the fenching and then stick down into the dirt. This works really well with larger potted plants and smaller plants as well. And it doesn't look so bad because the fenching is green and matches the plants better.

regine    entrelacs, QC

2/8/2013 5:08:51 PM

I will try the coffee ground, tried the garlic oil-didn't work for my cats, what worked was the wooden brochette sticks, make sure the prickled end was in the dirt, but had to explain, whenever i had guests, but it worked- mainly using it on outside balcony plants

Burçin    Istanbul, AL

4/13/2012 9:49:08 AM

putting wooden sticks (toothpicks) in the soil solved the problem for me. he can't reach the soil because of the hedgehog like booby trap I made. Totally harmless for the kitty because they are very careful about the strange objects. even after I removed them, he already lost interest on soil.

Sharon    Little Neck, NY

8/18/2011 8:45:59 PM

The only thing that worked for me is putting large rocks in the soil so that they can't see the dirt and dig. Getting kitty grass did not work. He knocked the plant off the table!

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