Does keeping household plants in reach of your cat make you nervous? Are you looking for a plant that will fit on a table or desk without having to fear it being nibbled on? Consider Fittonia plants.
Fittonia (fit-TOH-neeuh), known by more of the common names of the nerve plant or mosaic plant, is a popular member of the Acanthaceae family that can put your mind at ease.
These natives of Peru consist of two accepted species (Fittonia albivenis and Fittonia gigantea), three plants that may be variants or their own species, and several Fittonia cultivars.
They get their name (and claim to fame) from the colorful veins, which may be pink, red, white, or yellow.
But these plants may prove a little scary for cat lovers, as houseplants are often toxic, and the Fittonia’s leaves resemble poisonous plants such as ivy.
Is Fittonia Poisonous or Toxic?
Fear not, because fittonia is a rare example of a popular non-toxic plant that’s safe around cats!
It should be noted that you may find information online about a mysterious species called “Fittonia verschaffeltii,” which is just a nickname for Fittonia albivenis, which is the species most commonly used to create cultivars.
What Parts of Fittonia are Poisonous or Toxic?
No part of this plant is toxic, and humans consume the leaves as remedies for headaches, muscle pain, and even a mild hallucinogenic.
While it’s unlikely your cat will care about any of these uses, it won’t harm them if they happen to nibble on a leaf or two. Fittonias are pet-safe plants.
However, be warned that cats are carnivores, so their digestive tracts aren’t designed to handle large amounts of plant material.
As a result, you may run into a few minor symptoms that could be mistaken for poisoning.
What are the Symptoms of Poisoning?
As mentioned, your cat may exhibit some symptoms similar to poisoning if they consume too much plant matter, although this is due to their digestive system’s design, not due to actual toxic effects.
Of these potential symptoms, vomiting is perhaps the most common issue, followed by diarrhea.
Of course, there’s also the infamous fact that Fittonia albivenis was used for hallucinogenic purposes at one point in history, although there has yet to be a single scientific study on the plant’s chemistry to find out what compounds exist or what actual effects they have.
But then again, if your cat happens to consume some and begins hallucinating, you’ll never notice the difference.
How to Protect Your Cat While Handling Fittonia – or Vice-Versa
Cats will sometimes chew on grasses or other plant matter out of curiosity or to aid in an upset stomach.
However, if they develop a taste for a plant, it can lead to some unpleasant evenings for you, your cat, and the plant that’s suddenly become lunch.
You will want to temporarily move the plant out of reach and consult with a vet regarding this habit, as it may be a symptom of an unrelated illness.
But if your cat has a clean bill of health and still wants to have nerve plant salad, you can wipe down the leaves with something that tastes unpleasant to see if that discourages your cat.
You may also choose to give it a more permanent home out of the cat’s reach.
Disposing of any cuttings you aren’t planning to propagate after a pruning session can also help prevent your cat from remembering they like eating this plant.