Is a Money Tree Plant Toxic to Cats?

by Betty Lewis, Demand Media
    If Missy's outside, she may nibble grass; inside, she may snack on your plants.

    If Missy's outside, she may nibble grass; inside, she may snack on your plants.

    Even though money doesn't grow on Pachira aquatica, it's a popular houseplant. Commonly known as money tree plant, it's an attractive, easy-to-grow indoor plant. Proponents of this plant say it brings good luck and fortune. That's not proven, but it's not bad luck for Missy if she eats it.

    Cats and the Money Tree

    Caring for a money tree plant is pretty straightforward: give it indirect sunlight and water it thoroughly, allowing the soil to dry out a bit between waterings. The trunk of a money tree is thin and often braided to enhance it's beauty. Missy probably won't care much about the trunk, but she may be tempted to tug on the leaves as they blow in the wind created by your air conditioning vent, potentially even gnawing on them for a little green snack. Don't panic if she eats this money; it's not considered toxic by the ASPCA.

    Non-Toxic, but Potentially Upsetting

    Though the money tree plant isn't toxic for cats, the ASPCA still discourages allowing your cat to chew on it. Ingesting this plant may provoke some irritation in Missy's belly. Any non-toxic plant can cause stomach upset, coughing and choking if ingested, especially if your cat comes back for a regular green treat.

    Safe, Green House Plants

    If you want to add to your collection of indoor greenery, choose plants that are safe for Missy, like the money tree plant. If you want more greenery, consider bamboo, a pony tail palm or the golden palm; most ferns are safe, too. Lamb's tail, pearl plant and hens and chickens are also green but offer interesting foliage to add some distinction to your gardening space. Christmas cactus and the spice orchid can add a bit of color.

    House Plants to Avoid

    Many plants can harm your cat if ingested, and just because one form of a variety is safe for Missy, it doesn't mean all forms are. Asparagus fern, for example, is mildly toxic. Though not really a fern, Cycad, also called fern palm or sago palm, is very toxic. Not all bamboo is safe for Missy, either; skip lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) and heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica). Dieffenbachia, sometimes called dumb cane, is also toxic to cats. Ivy should be avoided because different types can have varying effects ranging from mild irritations and rashes to vomiting, diarrhea and gas. If Missy eats a plant and you're not sure if it's toxic or she shows sign of distress, contact your vet. Take a sample of the plant to the vet with you to assist in the diagnosis.

    Cats and Plants Coexist

    Cats enjoy snacking on greenery such as your money tree plant for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the leaves are too great a temptation to resist during play; other times, a cat may graze to calm an upset belly. Keeping plants out of Missy's reach may help. However, if she's an acrobat able to reach out-of-the-way spots, try spraying plants with a bitter non-toxic spray. Providing her with her own cat grass or herbs to chew on may redirect her attention. Never hit or punish your cat for eating plants.

    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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