Is Potting Soil Toxic to Cats?

by Elle Di Jensen, Demand Media
    Toxic potting soil is a sinister side to houseplants.

    Toxic potting soil is a sinister side to houseplants.

    It seems your cat's favorite thing to is dig up your houseplants, tossing the dirt around like clumps of confetti. And there's always one or two feline jokers who prefer potting soil to the litter you hand-selected for them. It makes you wonder how safe potting soil is for cats.

    Avoid Treated Potting Soil

    Many types of potting soil are available, including some that are supposed to optimize the growth and production of plants. This is done by adding plant food and fertilizers to the soil. So, good news for your plants, but bad news for the kitty whose hobby is digging in the dirt. Fertilizer and chemical plant food are toxic to your cat. Treated potting soil can poison your puss if she gets the toxic substances on her paws or fur and then swallows them when she grooms.

    Certain Kinds Are Safe

    When you're shopping for potting soil that's safe for your cat, look for sterilized potting soil. This is a better option with a plant-obsessed kitty in the house, as it's been sanitized to neutralize most toxic materials. Sterilized soils don't typically have any plant food or fertilizers added, but be sure to thoroughly read labels to ensure they're safe for your feline friend.

    Garden Soil vs. Potting Soil

    Don't think that by taking soil for your plants out of the garden you're using a safer form of dirt than commercial potting soil. At least when you buy potting soil, you can read on the packaging what it contains. Getting dirt from outdoors, though, is like playing Russian roulette. It can bring with it any number of contaminants, from fertilizers to insecticides or poisons and chemicals you aren't even aware of.

    Organic Fertizer Folly

    After you go to the trouble of finding a potting soil that isn't toxic to Thomasina, don't make it hazardous by adding compost. Natural fertilizer might be good for your plants but it can be dangerous to your cat, depending on what you've tossed into the compost bucket. Some fruits and vegetables -- especially if they're moldy -- as well as coffee grounds are toxic to kitties.

    Keeping Kitty Out of Your Plants

    It might not seem likely, but it is possible for houseplants and cats to cohabit regardless of the lure of potting soil. You can cover the enticing substance with large rocks so that your cat can't access the dirt she so loves to dig in. Another option is to cut a circle of weed fabric or screen door wire to fit your plant pots. Cut a slit from one side to the center so that you can slide it into place around the base of your plant. Once it's in place, you can increase the kitty-proofing effectiveness by placing gravel or rocks on top of the screen.

    About the Author

    Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.

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