Are Ponytail Palms Safe for Cats?

With a ponytail palm, cats aren't in danger. But read on to find ways to deter them, and for other considerations for growing one around pets.

Beaucarnea recurvata and pets


Picking the right houseplants for your living space can be tricky, and finding ones that are pet-friendly is even harder.

While dogs like to laze around in the house, those who love cats know they are rather curious. With a feisty pet that loves to explore every nook and corner, it’s important not to keep any poisonous plants in the house.

Ponytail palms are extremely common houseplants, with their cascading leaves and bulbous caudex. Other common names include Elephant’s Foot Tree and Bottle Palm. They make fantastic home decor as they’re slow-growers, low-maintenance, and can live for decades.

But the question remains: is ponytail palm toxic to cats and other furry friends? Read on to find out.

Is Ponytail Palm Toxic To Cats?

Beaucarnea recurvata and pets
Ponytail palm isn’t poisonous to dogs and cats. Source: Blumenbiene

In many houseplants, toxicity lies beneath their exterior. One houseplant might have toxic sap that oozes out when the stem breaks. Others carry toxins in their leaves, which can make a mere contact poisonous to both dogs and cats. Others require cats and dogs to ingest plant material for the poisonous elements to affect your pet.

Luckily, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), ponytail palm is non-toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. They’re small, light-weight, slow-growing, and fun houseplants that can be kept on coffee tables or near a window for maximum sunlight.

When in doubt, I always turn to the ASPCA for plants safe for cats, because they’ve correlated all common plants (like the spider plant) with available toxicity data to see which truly affect your cats and dogs. And they put it all in one huge list post with tags and names, so you can go back time and time again for reference.

In short: ponytail palm is completely safe around pets and children. With a dramatic, sculptural look, they can easily take center stage in your living room. The leaves, stem, and the trunk are all non-poisonous. Now that we’ve cleared the air, feel free to care for them in your home!

Keeping Cats Away From Your Palm

However, the real question is – how can you protect a ponytail palm from curious cats? Cats often mess with any plant in your home: a fern, a cactus, or pretty much anything that’s green, popular, easy to grow, and makes you happy.

If you’re choosing a ponytail palm as décor pieces around the house, you need to keep these plants in a safe, pet-free zone to keep things green. Here are a few tips to protect your precious palm:

  • Use cayenne pepper or citrus to deter ponytail palm cats by causing an unpleasant aroma
  • Add pebbles or stones to the top of your container
  • Add pinecones or crumbled aluminum foil
  • Buy plants like catnip or lemon balm to attract them
  • If you hear fluttering leaves, lightly spray your cat with water every time it goes near to train it
  • Grow your ponytail palm outdoors to avoid the problem entirely

Cats are extremely sensitive to smell, which is a great plus if you want to keep them away from Beaucarnea recurvata, ponytail palm. There are many ways to make the plant smell “unpleasant” for the cat. Sprinkling some cayenne around the leaves is a safe and effective way to keep away cats. You’ll want to reapply cayenne once per month, though as it tends to fade.

Cats also detest the smell of citrus. If you have any dried orange or lemon peels lying around in the kitchen, simply put some inside theponytail palm plant pot. While this is a pleasant aroma for you, it can successfully deter cats. Make sure not to use a strong acid, like lemon juice as that may cause damage to the ponytail palm leaves.

If your cat treats the ponytail palm pot as a litter box, “watering” it with urine, you can place eccentric objects like large pebbles or stones inside the pot to keep them away.

Another great idea is to put pine cones or crumbled aluminum foil around the container. The sharp or unusual texture will draw the cats away from the windowsill entirely. However, if you’re really desperate, then using a breathable mesh fabric or chicken wire over the ponytail palm soil to do the trick.

If your cat manages to stick their paws in anyways, don’t worry, there’s still something else you can do. If you’re up for the extra effort, you can also buy some “sacrificial plants” like lemon balm or catnip, which divert your cat’s attention. Plant these plants cats love in containers far away from the ponytail palm you want to protect, that way your cats will search for these more attractive plants instead of ruining your beloved palm.

Ponytail palm plants are one of the safest and most aesthetically pleasing plants to keep in your house. Using the sneaky methods mentioned above, you can easily keep your cats away from them. With low upkeep and a long shelf life, you can keep your palm by the window for a fresh ambience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What happens if my cat eats ponytail palm?

A: Not much! Thankfully, ponytail palm is non-toxic to cats.

Q: Is ponytail palm pet friendly?

A: It’s highly pet-friendly and completely safe for cats and dogs! However, your cat might try to use the planter as a litter box.

Q: Can a ponytail palm be a houseplant?

A: Yes! It’s a pretty low maintenance houseplant that thrives on neglect.

Q: How do you care for a ponytail palm indoors?

A: Give it somewhat dry soil, low humidity, fertilizer once in spring and summer, and bright, indirect light.

Q: How do I keep my cat off my ponytail palm?

A: Use cayenne or citrus, pebbles or stones, pinecones or aluminum foil, catnip or lemon balms, spray your cat with water, or grow your pal outdoors.

Q: Should I cut the brown tips off of my ponytail palm?

A: Yes. Remove dead and diseased leaves as needed with sterilized pruning shears to keep the rest of the palm’s lush greenery healthy.

Q: What is the lifespan of a ponytail palm?

A: They live for multiple decades — longer than your cat’s lifespan!

Q: Do ponytail palms like to be misted?

A: No. You can keep them dry and they’ll do just fine! They’re drought-tolerant.

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