Are Ponytail Palms Toxic to Cats?

Are you looking to decorate yours indoors with a gorgeous, vibrant ponytail palm? Except… you remember hearing that they’re toxic to cats and are concerned for the well-being of your furry pet. So let’s take a look at whether or not you need to be worried – are ponytail palms toxic to cats?

Ponytail palms, also known as Elephant feet, are not toxic to cats. In fact, they’re one of the safest indoor plants you can get if you own pets. However, there is a minor choking hazard when it comes to kittens.

Let’s examine ponytail palms, discuss their toxicity, and find out how you can make your indoor environment as safe as possible for your cats. Keep reading to find out more.

Ponytail Palms and Cats

As mentioned, ponytail palms are among your best options when it comes to getting an indoor plant in a house that accommodates pets such as cats and dogs.

If you’re a cat owner, you usually have to be extra careful when getting a plant. Cats love exploring every nook and cranny of their surroundings, so it’s not unlikely they’ll run into it.

And if it happens to be toxic to cats – as is the case with a fair number of indoor plants – you could have a major problem on your hands.

Thankfully though, ponytail palms are entirely non-toxic to cats, meaning they won’t hurt the pet if it comes in contact with or decides to nibble on it.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), ponytail palms are not only non-toxic to cats but also to dogs and even horses.

So you can rest assured that you won’t accidentally poison your cat by getting a ponytail palm. However, there are still a few secondary concerns you may want to account for before deciding to get the plant.

What Happens When Your Cat Eats a Ponytail Palm

Although this is rare, some more curious cats may nibble on the leaves of your ponytail palm. They probably don’t consider the plant a snack; rather, this is just a means of exploring their surroundings.

This can be an issue for three reasons:

It Damages the Ponytail Palm

Cats tampering with your ponytail palm can leave the plant damaged. In many cases, this may not be an issue worthy of consideration because the plant will heal up on its own quickly.

However, cats can cause noticeable damage if they really want to. Ponytail’s fragile leaves are no match for your cat’s razor-sharp teeth and claws.

It May Leave Your Cat With an Upset Stomach

While ponytail palms are very much non-toxic to cats, leaves are not a part of cats’ natural diets, and their digestive systems aren’t meant to break them down. In many cases, your cat will throw up shortly after eating the ponytail. In more severe cases, your cat can end up with an upset stomach.

While this is undesirable, there’s no reason to panic. Your cat will likely be just fine. If you’re a cat owner, you know that they eat stuff they shouldn’t all the time.

Eating leaves from a ponytail can be more of an issue for your cat if the leaves are wilted or rotten. I advise you to trim down blackening leaves to eliminate the possibility of this happening.

If you’re concerned, you can get in touch with your vet via a phone call. If your cat shows signs of discomfort or has difficulty breathing, contact your vet immediately and give them a breakdown of what happened.

It Can Be a Choking Hazard

This is a serious concern, especially if you have kittens. While adult cats choking on ponytail leaves is virtually unheard of, tiny kittens are much more at risk because of their innate curiosity and desire to nibble.

Of course, they also have much smaller throats where it’s much likelier for a foreign object to get stuck.

If you own kittens, you should exercise some preventive measures to keep them away from your ponytail palm, especially if they have shown prior interest in nibbling on greenery.

How To Keep Your Cat From Approaching Your Ponytail Palm

Cats have a natural tendency to explore, so instructing them to keep off particular areas can be somewhat of a hassle. Fortunately, I’ve gathered some practical tips for when your cat just won’t leave the ponytail alone.

Use Cayenne Pepper

Cats have a powerful sense of smell. Naturally, they are sensitive to unpleasant smells. One of these scents is that of Cayenne Pepper. You can discourage your cat from approaching by sprinkling some of this pepper variety around your ponytail palm.

The reason cats hate Cayenne Pepper so much is because of the capsaicin inside. It makes sense to think that you can use food items containing capsaicin as an alternative to Cayenne.

And this happens to be the correct line of thinking – you can use chili peppers for this purpose too. They will look out of place positioned around a plant, though.

Cats also despise smells from acidic substances, such as lemon and citrus. As an alternative to Cayenne or chili pepper, you can leave lemon or orange peels around your ponytail. It’s not a good idea to squirt lemon or orange juice onto the plant because strongly acidic liquids can damage plant life.

Moreover, the effects won’t last as long.

Essential oils also work to deter cats, but I would advise against it. Essential oils slowly diffuse into the air. A large concentration of their vapor in the air can be toxic to your feline friend. Use this resource to learn more about the harmful effects essential oils can have on the health and well-being of house cats.

Use Attractive Plants

You can use more appealing plants to divert your cat’s attention from the ponytail palm. Examples include lemon balm and catnip plants, which are sure to be much more enticing to your feline than an ordinary ponytail.

You can also use cat grass. This is a particular type of grass that’s safe to eat for cats. It can even be beneficial in helping them pass hairballs.

Make sure you position these plants in another room so that they can effectively keep your cat away from the ponytail.

Grow the Ponytail Palms Outdoors

If you don’t want to do the above, you can simply move your ponytail palm outdoors. As long as the conditions outside aren’t too extreme in terms of temperature and weather, you’ll be good to go.

Ponytail palms are hardy, durable plants that can care for themselves most of the time. If you do shift them outdoors, you want to give them some time to adjust to the increased sunlight by allowing for partial shade for the first few days.

As long as their very undemanding needs are met, ponytail palms can grow up to be several feet tall and make for an impressive sight. Although not a tree, their size is comparable to one when they’re fully grown.

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Should You Get a Ponytail Palm if You’re a Cat Owner?

The final verdict? Yes.

You should get ponytail palms if you’re a cat owner. While there are a few things to watch out for, ponytail palms are generally very safe for cats to be around. They also make for great indoor decorations.

One thing to keep in mind is that your pet cat may use the sturdy trunk of the ponytail palm to sharpen its claws. This is not a dangerous behavior, but if you’d rather your cat didn’t, you can always use one of the above methods to keep your cat at bay.

Fun fact: ponytail palms aren’t palms or even trees. They’re succulent plants that happen to have a lot of features in common with palms.

Ponytail palms are one of the most popular indoor homegrown varieties in the U.S. and for a good reason. They are very low maintenance and tend to last for decades. Some ponytail palms have been known to live for over a hundred years – they might just outlive you!

While ponytail palms are native to the relatively hot and dry climate of Mexico, they are robust and can be grown outdoors without the need for temperature control measures in U.S hardiness zones 10 and 11.

Much of California, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, lies in this hardiness zone.

If you’re unsure about the hardiness zone in your locality, you can use this interactive map provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can drag and move the map or simply enter your ZIP code.


According to the ASPCA, ponytail palms are not toxic to cats. Your cat won’t suffer from poisoning if they ingest this plant. However, they can suffer from an upset stomach, and ponytails may be a choking hazard for smaller kittens. Your cat might also damage your ponytail palm, reducing its glamor and beauty.

For these reasons, you may want to keep your cat away from the ponytail. To do this, you can use Cayenne pepper, get more attractive plants as diversions, or grow the ponytail outdoors. However, owning a cat should not dissuade you from acquiring a ponytail palm.

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