Are Air Plants Toxic to Cats?

Air plants are becoming increasingly popular as attractive little displays – with over 400 different species, they are usually grown indoors and won’t even need soil! However, anyone with curious pets may wonder if these growths are harmful to their furry friends. As cats are adept at climbing, it’s good to be careful – but are air plants toxic to cats?

Air plants aren’t toxic to cats, but they may still hurt them if they’re played around with! Read on for some cautionary tips about displaying your air plants, and on how you can stop your cats from hurting themselves.

Air plants aren’t toxic to cats – but they’re not completely safe

Of all 400 species of air plants, your cat accidentally ingesting one or two pieces likely won’t poison them. However, it’s not necessarily poisoning you need to be careful with. 

If you leave any kind of plant to rot and your cat(s) start nibbling at them, they could come to some form of gastrointestinal harm. However, by providing you water and care for your plants adequately, the chances of this occurring are very rare.

Instead, let’s take a look at a few more likely ways that air plants could pose a problem for your pets. Again, the likelihood of the following occurring will vary depending on your own setup and care schedule.

Be careful with air plant displays

While air plants don’t need soil, many people display them with moss or other plants inside terrariums. If your cat ingests a little bit of air plant, they will likely be fine, but if they swallow moss or another piece of plant material from elsewhere, you may need to take action.

Moss may be slightly toxic to cats depending on what it’s been treated with, and what’s growing in it. Consider any companion plants you’re growing alongside your air plants, too – as these may be toxic to your pets.

Again, it’s very unlikely that swallowing moss will cause your cat much harm beyond a stomach upset, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Choking risks and sharp edges

Tillandsias are famously short and spiky – which means they may harm your pets if they crawl around them or start to nibble. Sharp points may hurt any curious cats looking around your air plants – meaning that they could easily poke their paws, eyes, and mouths. Moreover, there’s a chance of a choking risk.

If you spot that your cat is choking at any point, it’s important to follow emergency procedures such as the feline Heimlich maneuver. In the event of your cat choking or developing throat problems after eating tillandsia, call your vet for immediate advice.

Keeping your air plants out of reach of cats

The best way to minimize the risk of cats getting at your tillandsia is to keep them in containers or terrariums where it’s difficult for paws to access.

Some terrariums, for example, have very narrow necks –  or necks that may be sealed. This is still healthy for the plants, and should stop any curious cats from pawing their way into your tillandsia.

Ideally, it’s worth keeping your air plants well out of pets’ reach. While it’s very unlikely your cat(s) will come to any serious harm from playing around with or nibbling on these specimens, be sure to house them as high up out of the way as you can.

Placing your air plants on high shelves is another great option. Of course, cats tend to get anywhere and everywhere, meaning you’ll need to be creative. Again, you could couple a high position for your air plant with a container, globe, or terrarium that prevents paws or teeth from easily getting into the unit.

Do also consider housing your tillandsia hanging on wire or hanging shelves. Cats are unlikely to try and get to unsteady shelving – but to avoid all risk, again, hang high if you can.

There’s also the option of taking your air plants outside! While we’re all about indoor horticulture here at Houseplant Corner, you may prevent further cat damage by simply stringing up your air plants in the garden or on your patio with a piece of fishing line (as an example).

This may be all the more beneficial if you have an indoor cat that’s unlikely to go wandering outdoors any time soon.

Deterring cats from air plants

You can also deter cats from taking a nibble at your tillandsia simply by creating a smell they dislike.

Lemon and orange pee, for example, are both generally repulsive to cats, as are thyme, lavender, and rosemary. Try and plant a few of these specimens as companions – but again, the safest option is to simply keep your air plants up and out of the way of cats as much as possible.

Potential damage to your air plants

Air plants that get nibbled on by the odd cat may suffer some ill effects – plants can go into shock easily, which means you need to apply a little TLC to bring your tillandsia back to full health again.

However, you can easily revitalize an air plant without much need for concern. To start, simply inspect the plant(s) in question. Do they still have plenty of leaves, and is there still a central stem? If so, it will likely live to see another day. However, a completely ravaged or crushed air plant may not be so lucky.

But, all is not lost. Grab a pair of trimmers or secateurs and carefully scale back your plant’s leaves at the tips. There’s no need to pull these leaves all the way out – just a tip trim will do. This is crucial because tillandsia take in all their nutrients via leaves, rather than roots.

Then, give your plant(s) a little extra care as you revive them from their cat attack! Simply sticking to your watering schedule is likely to be enough to revive them. However, it’s generally good to reposition them elsewhere in your room or home to avoid further damage.

Placing them in too different a spot may result in further shock to the plant(s), so make sure to gradually move your specimen around if you can. Ideally, again, you should house your air plants fairly high up if you can, so your cats don’t take another shot at them.

Recovery time for tillandsia should be fairly swift. Providing you offer recommended care to your air plants, you should start seeing its leaves start to regrow within a matter of days or weeks. After a cat attack, it’s worth giving your air plants a little bit of space and time. It’s been a big shock for them!

Air plants are reasonably hardy, and, while elements such as copper can kill tillandsia, most species will bounce back shortly after a shock.

Why are cats attracted to air plants?

Cats aren’t necessarily attracted to air plants over any other species – if they see something that piques their curiosity, they will generally take a closer look. That doesn’t just mean looking around plants, but also pawing and nibbling at them. It’s the way cats explore, and if you’ve been a cat owner for some time, you’ll know that there are very few items in the home they probably won’t take a shine to.

Another reason why cats may take a fancy to air plants is if they see you spraying water. Thirsty cats may take the opportunity to lick off sprayed water on leaves if they have easy access. As such, the clear answer here is to make sure your cat has access to fresh water throughout the day.

If your cat sees you spraying air plants with water, they may even learn they can get a hydration fix from your tillandsia. You can’t always hide from your pets, of course, but it’s worth keeping a close eye all the same.

Are air plants toxic to dogs?

No – air plants aren’t toxic to dogs, and they also won’t harm humans through poison. Moreover, it’s unlikely that dogs will take a fancy to plants beyond ‘marking their territory’! 

Some stressed or anxious dogs may become destructive, however, and your air plants may get in the way of a doggy ‘display’. Again, tillandsia won’t poison them, but sharp edges aren’t good for any paws or teeth.

The best course of action if you have any pets is to just house your air plants well out of reach. This is nice and easy with dogs, but with cats, there’s the risk of climbing!


There’s no need to worry about air plants poisoning your cats if they ingest any parts. However, keep an eye out for potential choking hazards, as these plants are extremely pointy and may cause harm with their sharp edges.

So, get creative about where you house your air plants – go up high, hanging with wire, or even put them outside – the choice is yours.