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Ficus aren’t the best choice of house plant if you have curious, plant-chewing pets, but it’s not impossible to keep them if you take a few precautions.
When it comes to pets and plants it depends a LOT on your pet. Some do not care about eating plants. At all. They’ll leave them alone and it won’t ever be a problem.
There are plenty of people that keep toxic plants around pets because they know they’re not interested in them.
Obviously, it depends on the level of toxicity. Some plants, like Ficus, will likely only give your pet an upset stomach. Others like lilies can cause cats to go into organ failure.
Are Ficus toxic to pets?
Yes. All parts of Ficus contain sap that can be irritating to cats, dogs, bunnies and humans. According to the internet, 850 Ficus species are toxic.
There’s over 1000 Ficus out there, but chances are, any of the ones that are routinely sold as house plants are going to be poisonous to pets.
What happens if my pet eats a Ficus?
Eating any part of a Ficus can cause fatigue, drooling, vomiting, dizziness. The characteristic sign of Ficus poisoning is swelling of the face.
What to do if my pet eats a ficus
Contact a vet. Chances are, your poet will be 100% fine. Ficus leaves are pretty tough and not particularly tasty, so it’s highly unlikely that your pet will have chowed down on a significant amount. However, it’s always recommended that you get in contact with your vet and they can decide what the next course of action is.
Sometimes you’ll just be sent home with instructions to keep a close eye on your plant muncher, but depending on how much they ate and what part they ate, they may need to be given medication.
Taking a bite out of a rubber plant leaf is one thing, but biting the stem, which releases waaay more sap, is quite another.
By the way, it’s recommended that humans wear gloves when doing anything that involves cutting the stem of a Ficus, which is information I could have done with having prior to me lopping of the growth point last Sunday*.
*I already knew. I am bad and lazy, and have very sensitive skin that does NOT deserve to be irritated. Why did I not wear gloves? Couldn’t be arsed. I also didn’t sterilise the scissors.
How to keep pets away from Ficus
There are a few methods of keeping pets away from house plants.
The good news is that there are several pet-deterring methods that you can try.
The bad news is that there is no guarantee that ANY of them will work.
You can try spraying a spray bottle (in the air, not at the pet – we’re going for ‘deter’ not ‘traumatise’) whenever your pet gets too close to your Ficus.
I love the old ‘stick a load of plastic forks tine-side-up in the soil’ method – this works well for a LOT of people. You can also try covering the pots with tinfoil or redirecting them onto something tasty (cat grass) or that gets them high (spider plants).
If you have a particularly tenacious pet, you may have to resort to keeping all your plants in one room and keeping said pet out of that room.
Other issues with pets and Ficus
Digging in the soil
Cats LOVE digging in soil. It’s their favoustie thing. Dogs also quite enjoy it, but that’s less common.
Rabbits weirdly aren’t that fussed about digging in plant pots, presumably because why dig in soil when you can create more tangible chaos by digging in (and destroying) the carpet/baseboards/a pair of human legs.
Honestly, if you can find a way of stopping a cat from climbing a tree you could probably patent it and becomes a millionaire. You can’t stop it. It’s in their nature. You can try redirecting them onto say, a cat tree thing, but redirecting doesn’t work if your cat wants to climb the Ficus but doesn’t want to climb the cat tree. It’s a bit like when your mum tried to redirect you from gummy worms to grapes – an admirable effort but ultimately fruitless (geddit???? fruitless? Grapes? lol lol lol).
Scratching the trunk
I mean, see above. Cats love to scratch stuff. And many, many cats want to scratch the thing they want to scratch, not something specifically designated for scratching.
I will tentatively say that if you have a Ficus with a trunk wide enough for a cat to want to scratch it, it might be established enough that it doesn’t do too much damage BUT I’m sure there are cats out there that love scratching spindly little trunks.
Pet-safe alternatives to Ficus
If you’re after something with a lot of small leaves, a la Ficus Benjamina, then consider something like a Hoya Carnosa. they also come in all green or variegated, and they can be trellised up, or put in hanging baskets.
Hoya aren’t toxic, so if your cat decides to eat them it’ll be fine BUT they are pretty slow growing so if the whole thing gets eaten back to the roots you’re gonna be waiting a long time for it regrow.
If it’s something big and structural you’re after, something like a parlour palm would work well. They have the bonus of not really being climbable (though are liable to snap if anyone tries!) but they are, by all accounts, quite tasty to cats.