3 Reasons Cats Potty in Your Plants & How to Help

Posted on August 28, 2015 under Cat Training and Behavior

A cat stands next to the potted plant in the house where it often goes to the bathroom instead of in its litterbox.By Arden Moore, a dog and cat behavior expert and author of 26 best-selling pet books. She hosts the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio and is a writer for the Pets Best pet insurance agency for dogs and cats.

You may be proud of your green thumb when it comes to growing an array of potted plants indoors until you discover your cat’s own feline “gardening” habits. Yes, some indoor cats view your indoor greenery as opportunities to munch on leaves and deposit “feline fertilizer” in the soil rather than using their litter boxes.

The consequences can be messy and smelly. Your cat’s urine inside the rich soil will emit a strong odor and his digging will spill dirt all over your floor. Aggressive digging cats can even uproot your prized plants and cause them to wilt and die.

I’m happy to report that you can have the best of both indoor worlds: a contented indoor cat and thriving potted house plants. First, it is important to understand why some cats do this.

Here are three top reasons behind this unwelcome cat behavior:

1. Some cats like the feel of soft dirt to dig out places to urinate or defecate.

2. Some cats are giving you a less-than-subtle signal that they view that their litter boxes are not clean enough to use.

3. The litter boxes you select may be too small for their liking or in locations that some cats wish to avoid – such as next to a noisy washing machine.


To keep your indoor garden out of access to your cat, here are some tactics to consider:

1. Layer the soil surfaces with objects not appealing to cats, such as rough-edged decorative rock or prickly pinecones.

2. Put double-sided sticky tape around the top of the pot to prevent your cat from hopping in to dig. You will still have small open slits in which to water the soil and spritz the leaves.

3. Look up. Hoist some of your favorite potted plants on ceiling hooks to keep them out of paw’s reach. Position the hooks so that your clever cat cannot leap from a high shelf or bookcase and land into the hoisted potted plant.

4. Make the plants less inviting and tasty to your cat by spritzing them with vinegar, citronella, bitter apple or Tabasco sauce.

5. Reach a compromise. If your cat enjoys nibbling on greens, treat him to a tray of cat grass (Avena sativa), also known as the common oat grass. A tray of cat grass takes about a week to reach a good nibbling height.

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