Five Air Purifying House Plants That Won’t Kill Your Cat


Even though we are only staying in Pensacola for a short while, Jonathan went out and bought me a shopping cart full (literally) of ferns and palms to put on our balcony. Sitting out there with my phonograph horn iPod player, I feel like a proper Southern Belle!

I am a houseplant junkie. At the moment our tiny one room apartment is plant-less, because we’re expecting orders to leave any day now. (The balcony plants are large enough to come with us when we move, smaller house plants we’d just be buying to give away in a month or so. And our budget it like, no way, ain’t gonna happen!)

Anyway, because we’ll be settled into our semi-permanent (4 year-ish) home soon, I have been doing research on plants that work to purify the air of toxins, but are also safe for cats! Because cats like to eat things they aren’t supposed to. Amiright cat people?! So while I’m filling out my “Plants To Buy” list, I thought I may as well share it with you lovely people!

How Plants Purify The Air

The first list of air filtering plants was compiled by NASA as part of the NASA Clean Air Study, which researched ways to clean air in space stations.

According to NASA’s website, Spinoff:

“In 1973, NASA scientists identified 107 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air inside the Skylab space station. Synthetic materials, like those used in construction, give off low levels of chemicals. This effect, known as off-gassing, spreads the VOCs, such as formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene, all known irritants and potential carcinogens. When these chemicals are trapped without circulation, the inhabitants may become ill, as the air they breathe is not given the natural scrubbing by Earth’s complex ecosystem.”

Research by former NASA scientist BC Wolverton suggests that plants are an efficient and cost-effective method of controlling indoor air pollution. These air quality studies tracked common indoor air pollutants such as benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde – chemicals that often leech from paint, carpeting, and treated lumber and are often found at unhealthy levels within the home and office.

After running many thorough and well-documented tests with various plants, NASA found a 45.1% average abatement of toxic indoor air pollutants within a 24 hour time period!

How does it work? The main theory is that biological processes are at work in the ecological exchange – both plants and soil bacteria have several ways of breaking down airborne chemicals and neutralizing them. Basically, the more air that is allowed to circulate through the roots of the plants, the more effective they are at cleaning polluted air.

NASA researchers suggest efficient air cleaning is accomplished with at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.
The study paper from NASA put it plainly: “If man is to move into closed environments, on Earth or in space, he must take along nature’s life support system. Plants.”

Five Plants That Purify The Air


1. Bamboo Palm

We may as well start with the plant my Maine Coon cat Wraith is trying to eat in the picture above! This is one of the top plants recommended for air filtration by NASA, and it is also one of the safest plants for cats. Almost all palm plants are completely safe for cats!

How It Purifies The Air: NASA used this plant to filter formaldehyde in the Skylab, because of it’s unique ability to filter roughly 1385 micrograms per hour. That’s 1/8 of the amount of formaldehyde found in the average American home! (Interesting side fact, that’s roughly the same amount of toxic formaldehyde in just one routine vaccine, with 1795 micrograms. Don’t put that junk in your babies bodies, people. C’mon. Common sense.) In addition to formaldehyde, palms also target benzene and carbon monoxide, which is especially helpful if someone in your household smokes cigarettes. Which they shouldn’t. Cigarettes are nasty.


2. Aloe Vera

There is a LOT of scary sounding warnings circulating around the internet about Aloe Vera being toxic to cats. This is true, but it’s not the all doom and gloom, skull and crossbones as everyone is making it out. First, the thick leaves of the Aloe plant aren’t as appealing to cats, so they are a lot less interested in it than they are with loose, leafy house plants. My cat that eats EVERYTHING growing doesn’t even register Aloe as something to gnaw on. It may as well be a spatula or something as far as he is concerned.

Secondly, the toxic compound in Aloe is saponins, which is a naturally occurring detergent found in various desert cacti and succulents. Saponins work by increasing and accelerating the body’s ability to absorb calcium and silicon, thus assisting in digestion. Saponins are hunky dory for humans, but when a CAT, with a far more delicate digestive system eats Aloe, however, their body can’t handle it.

Once a cats system notices there’s a toxin wreaking havoc from inside the belly, it goes into “detoxify” mode.. aka, it throws up green goop all over your carpet. That’s the long and short of it. Upset tummy, vomiting, maybe some diarrhea and temporary loss of appetite. That’s it. Long and short of it: It won’t kill your cat.

BUT! If your cat KEEPS nomming on the Aloe, get it out of your home! (The plant, not the cat.) Repetitive digestive stress on a feline can cause anorexia and a wealth of other problems. Most cats learn their lesson the first, sometimes the second time. If your cat is dumber than mine (wow.. no seriously, wow) then make your home an Aloe-free sanctuary.

How It Purifies The Air: Even with the making-your-cat-throw-up properties, Aloe is one of THE most useful indoor plants, and is well worth adding to your home. Aloe helps clear formaldehyde and benzene, which can be a byproduct of chemical based cleaners, paints and more. And beyond its air clearing abilities, the gel inside an aloe plant can help heal cuts and burns, too!


3. Spider Plant

This plant is harmless to cats, although excessive ingestion could trigger mild nausea as feline digestive systems have to work a bit harder to digest it. And this is a plant that is prone to excessive nomming. According to the North Dakota State University Extension Service, cats may be especially fascinated by spider plants, in the same way that they are attracted to catnip. Also, the plant may function as a subtle hallucinogenic to felines – how crazy awesome is that?! Not that I recommend intentionally doping your cat up, of course, especially when there’s a potential tummy ache involved. But if your feline insists, rest assured that this plant is harmless.

How It Purifies The Air: With lots of thin bladed foliage, the spider plant battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries.


4. Snake Plant

This is another plant that sparks a bit of controversy on the web in regards to feline safety. Some maintain it is evil evil evil! And others are like, naw man, it’s cool. I’m in the latter group. Again, we’re back to those pesky saponins. When ingested by pets, it can result in gastrointestinal upset (aka, vomiting). Part of the reason why the saponing = barfing link doesn’t overly concern me in regards to cats health, is because cats primarily eat plants to induce vomiting and to aid in eliminating hairballs, or other foreign matter, from their digestive tracts. Once again, snake plants will make your cat vomit, yes. And that’s not always a bad thing. It could actually be good for them.. and it certainly won’t kill them.

How It Purifies The Air: Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, this plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom — it’ll thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants!


 5. Boston Fern

I am a fern LOVER. I mean, seriously. Ask my husband. I love ferns, ferns, ferns, and more ferns! COLLECT ALL DA FERNS! So the good news is, ferns are not poisonous to cats. At all! Like, 100% edible. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s Animal Poison Control Center lists the Boston fern as non-toxic to both cats and dogs. Which shows how safe it is, since they list plants that’s only crime is that it looked at a cat wrong. Of all the ferns, I’m especially partial to Boston ferns because they make great hanging plants, so they can be hung out of the feline’s reach to prevent grazing.

How It Purifies The Air: An exotic plant that has gracefully arching fronds and frilly leaves, the Boston fern also acts as a natural humidifier. By releasing moisture into the air, it removes nasty air pollutants such as toluene, formaldehyde and xylene, targeting most chemicals found in household cleaning products and paraffin candles.

Do your cats eat your houseplants? Share your crazy cat stories with me below. I know you have them!
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Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman
Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls.

Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at or via the contact form on her website at

Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls. Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at or via the contact form on her website at

30 thoughts on “Five Air Purifying House Plants That Won’t Kill Your Cat

  • 9 January, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    I should get some plants in here. I just feel bad when they get all crunchy and look at me with a wilted ‘why?’ all accusatory like. 😉

    • 10 January, 2014 at 1:12 am

      You need golden pothos, those hanging plants they sell at the Monday Saleyard. They’re cheap, impossible to kill, and the leaves are so big that cats usually don’t mess with them. They are toxic to cats though. Not highly, but still go-to-the-vetly.

  • 10 January, 2014 at 12:32 am

    I go to the clearance section of the plant stores and ‘save’ the poor unwanted wilting plants. Rob makes fun of me, but I think it is genetic. My Mom does it and the other day Owyn begged me to buy a clearance flower because it ‘wasn’t loved’ Lol. He hugged it all the way home.

    • 10 January, 2014 at 1:10 am

      OMG GIRL, stop being me!! lol! All of our plants on the balcony, with the exception of the boston fern, were all “saved” off the clearance rack! And that is so cute about Owyn!! Sounds like you are raising him right. What is your favorite houseplant? Most of my favorites I can’t have because of the cats.. like lily and ivy.

  • 10 January, 2014 at 11:39 am

    I think his favorite plant in general are flowers. He will ask to smell them at the store, even at Michael’s Craft Store when we are walking down the fake plant isle. The one we recently saved is an Amaryllis. Despite its ability to get pollen EVERYWHERE I still love it Lol, so does Owyn. He goes, “Momma, it loves me!” “It not sad no more, it growing!” Lol. He does this about the moon and north star as well. “Momma it came back! It not leave me! It love me! I love it tooooo!” He is at that point where they have that sing-song sound in there voice. As much as I loved him being a baby this is one of the funnest stages so far.

    • 10 January, 2014 at 7:42 pm

      omg, reading this literally made my heart ache. I cannot WAIT for Tessa to talk to me, and share her thoughts, and feelings, and emotions, and joys.. but at the same time I’m like nooooooooo stop growing up so faaaaast!

  • 10 January, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Gyngi, I was just thinking about this the other day! I am so glad you wrote this blog!!! Do you have any idea how much of a headache you saved me?!
    Yeah, you pretty much rock 🙂

    • 10 January, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      Haha, I actually got quite a headache researching it myself so.. yes. Yes I do. Haha! The trouble was finding things that are TRULY toxic / unsafe, and what was just “tummy ache” level. And, of course, finding THE MOST air purifying plants that are cat safe. lol… but yeah, SO buying all of these when I get to my “forever” home in a few months!

      • 11 January, 2014 at 12:41 am

        I’ll have to get one for you for a house warming present.
        I’ve tried looking for purifying plants before, but I kept coming across toxic pants. With my cats that just love “salad”, I try not to get anything toxic, but the research involved is crazy! lol

        • 11 January, 2014 at 3:41 pm

          Yeah, there are more plants that are toxic to cats, than aren’t. And you have salad eating cats too? Haha.. love those little hairy kids!

  • 10 January, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Wish I could have a cat! Husband has wicked allergies to them. You guys are in Pensacola? We’re PCSing to Hurlburt Field soon.

    • 10 January, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      Where is that located?? And you poor girl! I seriously cannot envision a life without cats… it’s kind of a little pathetic that I’m not even joking, haha…

      • 10 January, 2014 at 7:41 pm

        Ft. Walton Beach area. I’m probably going to habe to work in Pensacola so we’re looking around Navarre and Gulf Breeze.

        • 10 January, 2014 at 7:42 pm

          Oh wow, when?! It would be soooo cool if we could meet up!!!

  • 13 January, 2014 at 2:08 am

    We’ve always had aloe since I was a wee one (one of my first memories involves putting aloe on a burn :p ). Our three cats have never touched them. I agree that they’re in the ‘spatula’ category for felines. 😉

  • 12 March, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    There is nothing that one of our orange tabbies WON’T eat… including artificial christmas tree coated with tobasco sauce to try to deter him 🙂 I have been wanting to add some plants around here (since he ate them all) but not sure what to get….

    • 13 March, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      WOW.. that made me LOL pretty hard… cats sure make life interesting, don’t they?!

  • 23 April, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    The snake plant, such a great air purifying plant also for indoors.

  • 25 February, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    “(Interesting side fact, that’s roughly the same amount of toxic formaldehyde in just one routine vaccine, with 1795 micrograms. Don’t put that junk in your babies bodies, people. C’mon. Common sense.)”

    Thanks for ruining the article with your totally unrelated anti-vaccine nonsense. People like you should have a child die from a preventable illness so you can see how backwards your politics are.

    • 25 February, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      Anti-vaccine nonsense? Is what I said about the amount of formaldehyde in vaccines untrue? If it is a verifiable fact, how does that make it nonsense?

      As to wishing death to my daughters, shame on you. You really should be ashamed. I can take anti-science attacks from a faith based ignorance in Big Pharma, but when it comes to attacking a 17 month old and a newborn? That’s just so weak. Taste your words before you spit them out. You have a right to be angry (even when it’s at something as silly as sound science), but you NEVER had a right to be cruel. That’s just common sense.

      • 25 February, 2016 at 9:06 pm

        Don’t worry, your girls will be fine. Mine is going to be 11 soon, is vaccine free and healthier than every vaccinated child I know.

    • 2 March, 2015 at 9:15 am

      ‘People like you should have a child die from a preventable illness so you can see how backwards your politics are.’
      That is purely evil…people like you will undoubtedly have some kind of blow back from the putrid words you spew. Depending on the school of thought, hatred like that usually comes back three or tenfold. How dare you take your blind faith so far as to wish an innocent child ill. God forgive me for the white hot anger I feel for this ignorant cretin.

  • 1 March, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    “(Interesting side fact, that’s roughly the same amount of toxic formaldehyde in just one routine vaccine, with 1795 micrograms. Don’t put that junk in your babies bodies, people. C’mon. Common sense.)”

    You’re an idiot. I feel bad for your children and all the kids they will encounter in life.

    It’s too bad, when I first came across your blog today, I thought I’d really like you as I share many interests (and I really liked your banner!) But now I realize you’re too stupid to be heard. I hope your blog gets taken down as spam.

    • 2 March, 2015 at 12:27 am

      Dear Lord, where ARE these vaccine zealots coming from? This post has been up for nearly a year now, without so much as one brainwashed pro-vax comment, and here I get TWO hate filled pro-vaccine spam posts in one week? Looks like I got under someone skin, and the circle jerk of Big Pharma propoganda bullying had begun. LOL! Keep it classy pro-vaxxers. 😉

      • 2 March, 2015 at 9:20 am

        There is NO WAY two of them ‘just happened to find’ this one post! Take it as a compliment, you scare them with the facts they can’t explain or ignore. It’s like shining a light on cockroaches…they skitter and scurry and run into each other trying to find their darkness to hide in. Squash em with the truth!

        • 2 March, 2015 at 2:54 pm

          “They” are probably the same person, lol. While trolls do travel in packs, they also tend to get obsessed, what with their lack of any kind of constructive or healthy social or family life. I’ll probably get another comment from a new anonymous person who “happened” to find my blog in a day or two, and just loves loves loves me, but then they read a single line that threatened their faith, and now they just can’t be friends! Oh woe! And our little friend here will sit back and think, “Yay me! My opinion sounds like three people! I’m so clever!” Yes. Yes you are. Clever troll. Clever. *pats you on the head* LOL!

    • 2 March, 2015 at 9:17 am

      Oh heck no. I smell a TROLL! Yeah Gingi, you got on somebody’s list for sure. Yeah…this blog is ‘spam’…right. Little creature, go climb back under the ignorant rock you crawled out from. You have nothing to add to this or any other forum. Do the world a favor, stay with your own kind.

  • 20 March, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    I know I’m a year late in seeing this but came upon your helpful article while searching for cat friendly plants.

    I appreciate the plant info but not as much as I appreciate the vaccine connection! Bravo!

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people are making conscious and informed decisions about plants, etc… but freak out if anyone points out how inherently unsafe vaccinations are. How can they not see that it is not ok to inject known neurotoxins into humans?!? They want to make sure not to poison their cat but intentionally injecting poison into babies is not just ok it is the responsible thing to do and those of us who refuse to do it are the crazy ones… ok then…

    Anyway, thanks!

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