8 Ways To Stop Your Cat Attacking Your Succulents Once & For All

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has both succulents and cats (as well as dogs), and wants them to live in harmony but can it really be that difficult? After my cat destroyed my very first succulent I’ve tried a variety of different methods to prevent this from happening again and thought I’d share what I’ve discovered with you.

Why is my cat attacking my succulents? Cats generally attack plants (and more specifically indoor ones) out of curiosity but if they like the taste or texture of the plant they will keep coming back to it for another nibble. Both stress and boredom can also result in cats attacking succulents.

It can be really annoying and frustrating when you end up with cat-shaped teeth marks in the leaves of your favorite plants but while this behavior is obviously undesirable it can be downright dangerous for the cat. Some succulents can be highly toxic to cats, so it’s important to stop your cat from doing this as soon as possible.

Why do cats attack succulents?

It’s important to remember that cats, like all animals, aren’t malicious and won’t attack your succulents out of spite. That said though there will undoubtedly be a reason for their behavior and identifying the cause will help you to tackle, and ultimately correct that habit.

Predatory instinct

Cats are curious by nature and will investigate things that intrigue them but when it comes to a plant that moves (such as wavy leaves that move in the breeze) their hunting instincts kick in. They’re also extremely playful animals that can’t resist something that moves.

They like the taste (and/or texture)

I know I’m stating the obvious when I say that cats don’t have hands to investigate things with but this means that, just as babies do, they investigate their surroundings with their mouths and paws. While this might seem like a short-term issue it can become problematic if the cat likes the taste or the texture of the plant because they’ll return to it time and time again.

Cats can attack plants out of curiosity

They’re bored

More common in indoor cats that don’t have anything to occupy themselves with, but boredom can be a factor in why cats feel the need to ‘play’ with your plants. After all, if there’s nothing to entertain them they’ll look for their own fun, which is unlikely to be so much fun for you.

They’re stressed

I know cats give the impression of being very aloof and not caring about anything but they’re a lot more sensitive than you might realize. They can suffer from anxiety and stress just as much as we can and will often turn to grooming themselves excessively or chewing on your plants to relieve some of that tension.

Dirty litter tray

It doesn’t really bare thinking about but to be honest, if your cat’s litter tray is dirty or smelling then they’ll start to look for somewhere else to go. That doesn’t mean they’ll automatically turn to your treasured plants but it is an option for them. The real problem here though is that once it smells like their litter tray they’ll keep going back to it.

How to stop your cat from attacking your succulents

To some extent it’s a little bit of trial and error to find what works best for you and your cats, after all, no two cats are the same. That said though I’ve tried all of the suggestions below and while none of them have worked with every cat they have all worked.

Spray the succulents

Some people use a mist sprayer to spray the cat when they go too near to a plant but I’ve found that this often has the opposite effect as the cat learns to attack the plant when you’re not there. Instead, I’ve found that a bitter or sour-tasting spray deters all but the most determined of cats. You can easily buy an off-the-shelf bitter spray (which is available in most pet shops) or you could make your own for a fraction of the cost.

Each cat is different so it’s better to find the tastes and smells your cat doesn’t like but I’ve found all of these to work.

  • Citrus – A cat’s sense of smell is around 10x stronger than ours so anything that has a strong aroma to us is going to really get up a cat’s nose. With this in mind, you should only use a few drops of essential oil mixed with water and spray it on the outside of the pot, on the soil, and on the leaves too. You can also use citrus juice (such as orange, lemon, or lime) mixed with water, but be careful as this can damage the leaves as well if it’s too strong.
  • Pepper – Regardless of whether it’s cayenne or chili pepper or even Tabasco cats generally hate the taste of it. Like citrus, you should mix one part of pepper with three parts of water and spray it on the soil and leaves. As well as having a strong taste it is also spicy which most cats strongly dislike.
  • Apple cider vinegar – While cats don’t tend to mind the smell of apples they don’t like vinegar which is why apple cider vinegar works so well. The only downside to apple cider vinegar though is that it’s rather acidic (even more so than citrus) which can damage the leaves if you spray too much on them. This is why I prefer to spray a cotton bud and then use that to dab the leaves instead, you can safely spray the soil though.

The idea is that the smell is strong enough to stop the cat from coming too close but if they’re feeling brave and do decide to chew on the leaves or bite them then they’ll be met by a nasty taste. This taste will discourage them from trying to eat the plant in the future and therefore stop their behavior.

Using a water and citrus spray can prevent cats from eating your plants

Cover the soil

If your cat likes digging in the soil then you can place cate safe sticky ‘training’ tape over the top of the planter to help deter them. Not only does the tape make it difficult (if not impossible) for them to get to the soil but they also don’t like the sticky surface. You can also use the tape around the rim of the plant base too so that your cat can’t get near it. There are a number of different tapes on the market but I personally like this one, which is available from Amazon. It’s relatively cheap, is available in a variety of sizes but best of all actually works.

As well as using training tape or foil you can also place a selection of decorative rocks on top of the soil. This will enhance the appearance of your succulent but will also make it difficult for your cat to get to the soil. If you find that your cat is able to lift the rocks out still then using heavier ones will make this much harder for them.

Make the succulents unappealing

While spraying your succulents usually works it doesn’t deter all cats which is where vinegar comes in. It’s much stronger than a spray and will stop most cats from getting anywhere near the plant. Due to the high acidity levels of vinegar though you shouldn’t spray it on the plant, even if you dilute it. Instead, soak a few cotton buds in a water and vinegar mixture and then place them on top of the soil, being careful not to touch the leaves. 

As far as I’ve found, the only downside to using vinegar is that the smell is unpleasant to us as well.

Use a decorative cage

Some cats are so determined that using a decorative cage is going to be the only guaranteed way of preventing them from getting to your succulents. Depending on the size of your collection you may be able to find a decorative birdcage to put them in (the plants that is, not the cat).

Hang the succulents 

For an extra layer of security, you can hang the birdcage (or an open terrarium if you’d prefer) in an area that’s impossible for the cat to get to. You may find that your cat sits below the plant and looks longingly up at it but if you’ve hung it away from anything they can use to get to it then they’ll soon get bored and look for something else to do.

Make the succulents difficult to get to

Some people suggest putting your plants on higher shelves but, while this can work, the problem with this is that cats are able to climb pretty well and can often find a way to get to something if they really want to. I’ve found that doing this works best if you combine it with putting something like scrunched-up tinfoil around the soil and base of the planter too. Cats don’t like the texture or the sound of the foil and will normally avoid walking over it. You should make sure you cover an area that’s big enough to stop your cat from reaching over with its head or paw.

If you have a lot of plants then you can also place them close together to make it harder for your cat to get to any of them. Just make sure you place the biggest plants at the edge of the arrangement otherwise your cat will find a way through.

It’s worth also mentioning that the first time I did this my cat decided it would be a good idea to knock the plant to the floor as well, I guess they thought it would be easier to get to next time! As you can imagine I wasn’t best pleased, but I did find that using sticky putty under the planter stopped this from happening again. Thankfully it’s not happened since. 

If you make it harder for your cat to get to your plant they can't attack it

Give your cat their own plant

You might think that giving your cat its own plant will only encourage them to attack your plants more but it actually works as a distraction instead. The idea is that if they have their own plant they’ll play with that and completely forget about yours.

As you might expect, catnip is perfect for cats but so is cat thyme, parsley, valerian, and rosemary. You can also buy pet grass from your local pet shop or on Amazon. Once you’ve got the plant, or plants, place them where your cat loves to go to encourage them to play with it. 

Play with your cat more

Some cats (especially indoor ones) will attack plants out of sheer boredom because they have nothing else to do but if you play with your cat more then they’ll be less likely to turn to your plants for their entertainment. It doesn’t really matter how you play with them but the more tired they get the less chance there is of them ‘playing’ with your succulents instead.

Playing with your cat can stop them getting bored and attacking other things

What plants should you keep away from cats?

If you’ve done everything you can to keep your cat away from your plants or just don’t want the stress of worrying about what your cat is eating you might want to consider removing succulents that could be harmful to them.

According to the ASPCA, these plants are toxic to cats: [source]

  • Aloe vera – While the gel is edible, the rest of the plant can cause vomiting, lethargy, and even diarrhea.
  • Jade plant – As well as causing vomiting and depression they can also affect your cat’s coordination.
  • Snake plant – Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Pencil cactus – As well as causing irritation to the mouth and stomach, the pencil cactus can sometimes cause vomiting.
  • Kalanchoe – They can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in rare cases an abnormal heart rhythm.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

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