For those of us who live in large cities, we are constantly reminded of the problems associated with poor air quality and pollution. The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, or DEFRA for short, say that air pollution can cause both short term and long term effects on health. It is only natural, therefore, that many people, and particularly those living in urban areas are concerned about pollutants in the air that they, and their animal companions breathe on a daily basis. One of the solutions to air quality issues in urban areas is to grow plants which are known for their air purifying properties. However, not all plants which purify the air are safe for pets so finding plants which, on the one hand purify the air and, on the other hand are safe for our furry friends is not always easy.
Noggins & Binkles have always been indoor cats. When their humans lived in the Seychelles (in Mr Noggins' case) and Mauritius (in both Noggins & Binkles' cases), the problem of air pollution was not such an issue; instead, the fear of nearby roads was much more on their humans' minds when it came to the idea of letting Noggins & Binkles roam free. That said, whilst Noggins & Binkles did spend most of their time indoors, they did also have the opportunity to don their harnesses and roam in the garden, under close supervision of their humans of course. Our range of cat harnesses was developed specifically to enable humans to give their furry friends a taste of the outdoor life but without the risk that they may run off into harm's way.
Binkles wearing his vegan cork 'leather' cat harness and lead set
Whenever Noggins & Binkles were in the garden, the first thing that they would always do was to have a munch on some of the tropical grasses and plants in the garden. As a rule, cats don't eat grass because they like the taste or because they are hungry. Cats eat grass because they don't have the necessary enzymes to digest more than a very small amount of grass at a time. As a result, eating grass can make them throw up. This is not something to worry about because when a cat throws up it is an opportunity for it to remove any fur, feathers, parasites or other unwanted objects from his or her stomach. This was hugely beneficial to Noggins & Binkles because, given the hot climate, they were prone to shed quite a lot of fur which they would often swallow when grooming themselves.
When Noggins & Binkles moved back to London, their humans moved into an apartment without a garden. Knowing that the cats had previously benefited from eating grass and plants, their humans asked themselves whether it might be possible to grow suitable plants indoors that would not only provide Noggins & Binkles with the opportunity to keep their digestive systems healthy but also help to clean toxins from the London air.
Which Houseplants Are Safe For Cats?
It soon became clear that not all plants are suitable for pets and that some would be extremely toxic to Noggins & Binkles, if ingested. This post has been written to try to help humans to find suitable indoor plants that help to purify the air and that are not toxic to cats. Readers are encouraged to do their own research because different breeds of cats, dogs and other domestic animals react differently to different plants. If in doubt, or if your pet has an adverse reaction to eating plant parts, consult your veterinarian as quickly as possible. One of the most comprehensive and reliable websites for checking whether a plant is toxic to pets is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA for short.
Areca Palm (dypsis lutescens)
At the top of Noggins & Binkles' list of plants which are safe for cats, but which also purify the air, is the Areca Palm (dypsis lutescens). Not only is this a very stylish and on-trend plant at the moment but the palm fronds are quite similar to grass meaning that Noggins & Binkles love to munch on them. The great thing about the Areca Palm is that it is easy to care for which means that you and your furry friends should be able to get years of enjoyment out of it as long as you water it regularly.
Noggins & Binkles enjoying a little indoor gardening with their palm
Spider Plant (chlorophytum comosum)
Next on the list is the spider plant (chlorophytum comosum) which is not only virtually indestructible from a care perspective but which regularly puts out long tendrils that can be cut and planted (in water until roots show and then in soil) meaning that one plant just keeps giving. Noggins & Binkles particularly like the fact that the long tendrils provide hours of endless fun as good as a toy that the humans make! Some humans may choose to put their spider plant in a securely attached hanging basket so that their furry friends can jump and swipe at the tendrils as they grow.
Another staple plant in the Noggins & Binkles household is bamboo. Luckily bamboo comes in all shapes and sizes and it is possible to get potted bamboo that won't take over your house or apartment. Some caution is required when it comes to bamboo because not all plants which describe themselves as bamboo are safe for pets. Noggins & Binkles love to have a small bamboo plant at home but check the ASPCA website before buying to make sure that the specific variety on sale is not toxic to pets.
Binkles munching on his bamboo plant in his grey polka dot cat collar
Moth Orchids (phalaenopsis)
Moth Orchids (phalaenopsis) will be familiar to almost everyone and come in a whole spectrum of colours. These beautiful flowering plants are not easy to care for but in addition to their air purifying qualities, make a beautiful statement piece in any home. Noggins & Binkles love to try and remove the flowers from their long stalks so it isn't long before what was once a beautiful flowering plant is reduced to a couple of dark green leaves with long empty flower stalks! Still, it’s not all about the humans is it and anything that provides some entertainment to indoor cats should be encouraged.
Binkles eyeing up the orchid flowers
Boston Fern (nephrolepis exaltata)
The Boston Fern (also known as a Sword Fern or Feather Palm) is another great evergreen additon to any house with its long draping fronds and soft green colour. Depending on the size of the pot you put it in, the Boston Fern can grown quite large and in particular quite wide so really brings the outside in.
Norfolk Island Pine (araucaria heterophylia)
The Norfolk Island Pine (also sometimes referred to as the Australian Pine, House Pine or simply Norfolk Pine) is a beautiful 'tiered' evergreen conifer which is as much at home in a pot indoors, where its size can be limited by the size of the pot it is in, as it is growing in the great outdoors, where some trees can grow to 50 feet in height. A potted Norfolk Island Pine is a great option to use as a sustanable and reusable Christmas Tree. More information on cats and Christmas Trees can be found in this post. Despite the ASPCA listing the Norfolk Island Pine as non-toxic to both cats and dogs, like with most pines, some cats and dogs can experience some mild discomfort if they eat the 'needles' from a Norfolk Island Pine but our experience is that the tough nature of the leaves means that Noggins and Binkles steer clear and prefer to munch on the much softer cat grass (see below) or spider plant (see above).
Chinese Money Plant (pilea peperomioides)
Following a recommendation from a friend, we recently brought a Chinese Money Plant (pilea peperomioides) also commonly referred to as a Pancake Plant or UFO plant into the Noggins and Binkles household. Of course, the first thing we did was to check whether this beautiful (and frankly trendy) plant was cat-safe. We are pleased to report that it is, which is great news because it is such a beautiful addition to the house. One of the great things about the Chinese Money Plant is that it grows 'babies' which you can separate out and pot making this the plant that just keeps giving!
Blue Star Fern (phlebodium aureum)
For something a little different, you could choose the Blue Star Fern (also known as the Hare Foot Fern). Whilst this beautful plant is a fern, it looks different to other ferns that we have had previously (including the Boston Fern referred to above) both in terms of its leaf shape and colour. As the name suggests, the Blue Star Fern has a blue green colour rather than the more vibrant green associated with other ferns and we love the more structured shape of its leaves.
For humans who don't have space for some of the larger plants listed here, another really great idea is to grow some ‘cat’ grass. Cat grass is not actually a specific type of grass but usually refers to grass grown from rye, barley, oat or wheat seeds. Humans can buy cat grass ‘kits’ from pet stores which usually include a packet of seeds, some growing medium or soil and a suitable container. For the more adventurous, it is usually better value to buy the constituent parts separately. The main advantage of this is that once your furry friends have eaten their way through one batch of grass, you can just plant some more. Noggins & Binkles usually have two on the go at any one time; the first for kitty consumption and the other, planted a few weeks later waiting in the wings. Humans will quickly get into a routine as to when to start each batch and from then on you should have a never-ending supply of grass for your cats to enjoy.
Noggins and his variety of cat safe houseplants including some cat grass
The final plant that Noggins & Binkles, but particularly Mr Noggins can't get enough of is ‘catnip’. Catnip is actually a member of the mint family. There are a number of varieties of catnip but Noggins & Binkles love the variety labiatae nepetalcataria. The active ingredient in this variety is nepetalactone, an essential oil which is known to affect the behaviour of cats. Not all cats will react to catnip but it is thought that around 65% of cats will respond to it. Different cats respond in different ways to catnip but typical reactions include licking, head shaking, sneezing, rolling around and generally having a good time. Our range of vegan felt cat toys all include a healthy helping of dried organic catnip which Noggins & Binkles and our kitty customers absolutely love. All of our felt cat toys are made of sustainable and environmentally friendly vegan felt and filled with luxurious and soft recycled polyester fibres meaning that that they are both 100% recycled and completely recyclable.
So why not make this year the year in which you bring the outside in; for your benefit and the benefit of your furry friends.