We interviewed a few of our team members that are parents to both pets *and* plants for their top tips about keeping the peace in a jungle-like apartment…
Above is Tweeks, one of our Marketing Director Erin’s cats, sharing her favorite sill with a few potted plants!
MEET ANGELA, PLANT SPECIALIST
NAME: Angela Muriel
PETS: I have 5 cats living in my apartment. I got involved doing some TNR (trap, neuter, return) volunteer work in my Crown Heights neighborhood and in the process found an abandoned litter of kittens. I was able to get a few adopted but a couple still remain in my care so they are now a part of my crew.
PLANTS: I currently have a Boston Fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata), a Grape Ivy (Cissus rhombifolia) and several terrariums. I always keep a flat of grass for all the kitties to enjoy and to provide them with some nature.
TIPS: Cats will find their way into just about anything and are incredible climbers. My large plants are in hanging baskets out of their reach and of course the terrariums are enclosed in glass so they can’t get to those (ha ha!). I am able to enjoy a huge variety of plants in the terrariums, as well as create a whole environment in miniature form.
I have reviewed many poisonous plant lists and quite frankly if one were to adhere closely to them your choices would be really limited (find all our non-toxic plants here). One thing to keep in mind is that with many plants the animal would have to ingest a substantial amount to become ill. It is most important to observe the behaviour of your pet in regards to your plants. Many pets will simply ignore the greenery, where as others may be attracted to certain leaves or growth habits. That said, there are certain plants that can be fatal if eaten i.e. Sago Palm (not a “true palm” but a Cycad which are a primitive group), some plants from the Euphorbia family which produce a milky sap when cut, a few Aroids especially the Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) and any bulb plants such as Lilies, Hyacinth, Daffodil, Amaryllis, etc.
Never assume that an animal will instinctively “know” which plant is “good” or “bad” and this isn’t any measure of their intelligence. Our pets are domesticated animals and so much of nature is just not in their realm of experience. A good pet owner will just have to practice keen observation.
MEET PEGGY, SHOP MANAGER
NAME: Peggy Lu
PETS: I have a 2-year-old French Bulldog, Olivia, and a 10-month-old cat, Mia, who my husband rescued off the street.
PLANTS: I cohabit with probably 40ish plants now. Most of them are air-purifying plants – Fern, Snake plant, ZZ plant, Pothos, Ivy, Philodendron, Spider plant, terrarium plants, and many cacti and succulents – that I bought since I started working at The Sill. Yes, I am that girl who wants to put her plants to work: providing fresh oxygen.
TIPS: My dog, Olivia, could not care less about plants, the one I had trouble with was my kitty, Mia. She is only a baby – she has so much energy in her. She bites and swaps my plants ALL THE TIME. It used to bother me a lot; however, I realized she only does it out of boredom or when she is in a playful mood. I’ve learned some tips that hopefully will help your pet and your plants live in harmony:
1. Buy cat grass. Bonus: you’ve got another plant!
2. Don’t discipline your pet when they’ve chew/attacked you plants. Especially cats will react to negative and positive reinforcement the same. Trust me, they will do it while you sleep. I pretend to not see it while Mia is at it now, and quietly clean up after her while she is not looking.
3. Try a citrus spray! Dogs and cats do not like anything that is in citrus family. Bonus: your home will not only will look nice with plants, but it will smell amazing too!
4. Play with them! Enjoy one-on-one time and tire them out. A happy and tired dog/cat will leave things alone.
5. Live with it. I’ve learned to live with imperfect foliages. Overall, It is your pet’s home too!
6. Do your research before buying a plant – both for the health of the plant and your lovely companions at home.
MEET CATHERINE, OPERATIONS + PLANT SPECIALIST
NAME: Catherine Cummings
PETS: I recently adopted a kitten from the Somerset County Shelter in NJ to grow my little family! Her name’s Lana after the character on Archer. She’s non-stop energy and endlessly curious.
PLANTS: My house is filled with plants of all kinds, including hanging pothos and philodendrons, cacti, succulents, ferns, etc. I’ve completely lost track of how many I have at this point, but they cover every available surface…
TIPS: I keep most plants up out of her reach on shelves mounted on the walls. The plants that take over the windows I always make sure are safe for pets, such as haworthia succulents and bromeliads. She’s never shown any interest in chewing any of them – and I make sure she has plenty to keep her busy while I’m gone by leaving out boxes and new things for her to explore. Luckily she’s more interested in trying to catch my fish than chewing on the plants!
MEET SARINA, PLANT MAINTENANCE
NAME: Sarina Perez
PETS: My chubster, Gideon. I adopted him after a former roommate found a box of kittens in the dumpster three years ago. Back home, we have a dog named Cash who lives in my mom’s country garden on the outskirts of San Antonio.
PLANTS: I have around 30 houseplants, but unfortunately only one window in my LES apartment’s living room. My bedroom is actually subterranean. Thankfully through my time working at The Sill I’ve found there are so many types of plants that can tolerate moderate to low-light situations. I have a lot of philodendron and pothos variations, snake plants, a few broadleaf ferns, and palms.
Being a Texas native – I really miss all the cacti that line the streets, so I cram what I can into the biggest spots on my window. I love large plants, so I have a nice big rubber tree (Ficus elastica), Philodendron vellum, and Monstera deliciosa right by the window. My mom has everything from a prickly pear cactus over 7ft tall, to ivy, to begonias, to elephant ears, to palm trees. Cash pulls some weeds every now and then – but he also loves to nap amongst them.
TIPS: Gideon loves hiding behind the large ones and jumping out to scare me. Also has been known to nap under the wide leaves of my monstera, which I totally understand. Sometimes when he is mad at me though he will dig the soil of the larger plants. I’ve found that if I put a few large rocks on top of the soil, he won’t do it again. If you’re thinking about getting a cat – I would keep small plants off the edges of your shelves and tables, since they’re bound to knock a few over. If you notice your pet going around a certain plant, try surrounding it with a few potted cacti…
MEET JENNA, SHOPKEEPER + PLANT MAINTENANCE
NAME: Jenna Kohl
PETS: I have two Siberian cats named Munch and Finn. I adopted them from the Meow Parlour a few blocks away from The Sill shop. My boyfriend named them after detectives on Law and Order SVU.
PLANTS: I have over one hundred plants the last time I counted; they are everywhere. Luckily, my apartment has space to fill, so it doesn’t look overwhelming – i.e., there is still room for more plants. I have snakes and aglaonema in a hall with low light. Then scattered everywhere else are monstera, ponytail palm, pilea peperomioides, calathea, aralia, a lot of pothos and philodendron, fiddle leaf fig tree, peperomia, fern, and the list goes on.
TIPS: If you’ve got a furry nibbler like mine are, the ASPCA has lists of toxic plants that are worth looking at, and The Sill has a special pet-friendly, i.e. non-toxic, collection page. All my toxic plants live either on high shelves, kitchen cabinets, plant stands, or a wardrobe. My cats aren’t great jumpers so they don’t even attempt to get them. The accessible plants are all pet friendly; if they chew on one I don’t have to worry. I also deter them with wheatgrass which is good for their digestion.
MEET RACHEL, DESIGNER + ACCOUNT MANAGER
NAME: Rachel Lyons
PETS: Peloton Seelyons
PLANTS: My Brooklyn apartment houses a few Monstera deliciosa, Pothos, Bird of Paradise, Agave, Schefflera, Prickly Pear Cactus, Fiddle Leaf Fig, Calathea, Xerographica, Boston Fern, Orchids, Snake Plants, Jade, and much much more…
TIPS: My 1.5 year old barn kitty rescue rarely tries to eat any of the plants. He was raised with them from a tiny kitten, so for Pelo it’s more about using the greenery to get my attention – by rustling leaves, teetering terra cotta, or snapping branches in the early morning hours to say ‘feed me now’. Sometimes he’ll chew my aloe, which is toxic, but he never swallows it or shows signs of distress. Don’t let feline friends ruin the bliss of having houseplant friends. Put up shelving, get creative and wall-mount your greens. Or have one sacrificial non-toxic plant that takes the pouncing each day so that the others can flourish safely.
MEET ROBYN, DESIGNER + ACCOUNT MANAGER
NAME: Robyn Moore
PETS: My dog Disco!
PLANTS: Succulents, Cacti, a Snake Plant, an Avocado Tree (yes…!), an Aglaonema, and assorted Ferns
TIPS: I keep all my plans up high (countertops, planter stands, shelves, etc.) so Disco is less likely to be distracted by them. I have friends who have had issues with their dogs eating more toxic items – like bad foods, or garbage – but plants have never been an issue. Dogs are smarter than cats (sorry…) and will leave it alone once they realize it doesn’t taste good or make them feel good! It’s important to pay attention to your dog’s behavior. Most often, the warning signs of consumption are clear and rarely fatal. But it’s always best to just avoid any occurrence – if your dog is prone to chewing, stay away from plants with a latex-like sap (pencil cactus, rubber plant, ZZ).
P.S. Shop our team’s favorite pet-friendly houseplants.