wheatgrass for cats who eat houseplants

wheatgrass at windowsill

This is the story of a domestic love triangle. I love my houseplants and stock at least one in every room, including two giants: a split-leaf philodendron and a dracaena. Plants bring a house to life, especially if they're gifts or inherited and preloaded with memories. I have a pothos hanging over the bathtub, red geraniums on the windowsill, a Japanese Aralia (from my friend Sarah) in the kitchen, orchids on tables and dressers. The plants themselves thrive on all the exhaled mammalian carbon dioxide. I also love my cat, a sweet, chirpy American Shorthair tabby adopted 10 years ago. She, too, goes a long way towards making my apartment feel like home, like a family of two. She likes me, as well, or at least I think that's what her loud motor and habit of hanging out in whatever room I'm in both indicate. She also loves my houseplants—eating them, I mean. Well, really, she only eats one, the big spiky Dracaena marginata in the main room.

This isn't good for the plant, which makes the lower ends she can reach look straggly and snaggled, or the cat since dracaenas, like many houseplants, have been deemed toxic if ingested. Cat owners should know scolding or punishments like spraying water never work on a cat. She will either stare at her owner wide-eyed like an innocent imp, or narrow-eyed like an indifferent sphinx, or run away and hide, returning to her business once said owner has left the premises or falls asleep. 

dracaena jungle
So what keeps my cat from nibbling on the dracaena fronds is a simple box of wheatgrass from the grocery store a block away, organically grown down in Eugene, Oregon. A $2.50 box of grass will last weeks until it finally yellows and wilts, providing excellent cat distraction and possible nutrition, at which point I go buy a new box.

wheatgrass on thrifted vintage handpainted Mexican pottery saucer with water glass

I keep the wheatgrass in a saucer on the front-room windowsill, the sunniest spot in the apartment where she drinks her water from a drinking glass, the most likely ledge at which to spot a stray pigeon out the window, fluttering around in the alley. (Yeah, I know the drinking-glass thing is weird but apparently not uncommon. My cat refuses a water bowl, no matter how fresh, and instead laps up dirty, sudsy water out of the sink or bathtub if I don't dedicate a water glass or mug for her, which also means guests must be on guard because she believes any glass or mug of water left on a table or counter is fair game.) And yes, even with the wheatgrass, she still vomits occasionally, little cat-food-grass-hairball messes on the hardwood floor, but at least it's not from giving the dracaena a haircut.

Not every cat may like wheatgrass or even any grass at all. Some cats may prefer grazing on oatgrass or pots of catnip. Experiment on the cat.

front room, November 2013

Everyone should own houseplants for their health benefits and good looks. Not everyone should own a cat, but for those who do, substituting tempting edible plants can be a simple way to save our decorative, toxic indoor tropical plants from our favorite small, furry, domesticated hunters—and vice versa.

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