Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Improg word: Jungle

It’s a jungle out there, they say. But what I’d really like is for it to be a jungle in here.

I used to be surrounded by plants. I bought the little spindly ones that nobody wanted and nursed them to health. I watered, I fed, I trimmed. I rooted dozens of geranium cuttings every winter. I planted seeds. I forced bulbs so that I could have a little bit of spring in my house in the winter.

And then this guy came into my life:


Who knew that when I chose this innocent-looking kitten from the shelter two and half years ago, I was sentencing myself to years of empty pots and vases?

He may look cute, but plants tremble at the mere sight of him. And he’s not interested in eating the plants. No, his crimes are senseless and twisted. He’s been known to bite the heads of gerbera daisies for the sheer fun of it, leaving the poor flowers dying in the soil as he runs off to find his next victim. He scaled the yucca cane plant to tear the leaves apart with his bare teeth. He will climb onto any perch, no matter how precarious, to wreak havoc.

He is sometimes aided and abetted by this terror:


Doesn't she look fierce? At least she seems to be driven by that strange cat instinct to eat plants and then throw them up. If we keep a healthy crop of cat grass growing, she’ll usually leave the other plants alone. Jamie isn’t interested in that grass stuff. It poses no challenge to his criminal mind.

There are three plants (besides the cat grass) left in our house: a lonely spider plant hanging in my office, with every tip that's within reach of a cat standing on the bookcase or filing cabinet gnawed off, and two pokey cacti. Every other plant has either met a grisly death or has been placed, for its own protection, outside. Few of those have survived our winter temperatures.

Spraying Jamie with water works temporarily, but as soon as our backs are turned he strikes again. The same with shouting or banging on pots. The pet store owner recommended a bitter-tasting spray, but within minutes of my spraying the plants, the Plant Slayer was at work again. Thinking there was something wrong with the spray, I tasted the teeniest tiniest littlest bit, and then spent the next hour brushing my teeth and spitting to get the taste out of my mouth.

On the rare occassions when someone sends me flowers, I can’t keep them inside. One unexpected benefit of living with the Plant Slayer is the discovery that flower arrangements placed outside the kitchen window in the cold weather last for weeks.

When we bought this house with its huge yard, I thought I would finally achieve my goal of having a beautiful cutting garden and a house full of flowers all summer—my reward for living in the gloomy gray rain for an average of 154.5 days of the year. And I thought the big windows would be perfect for the jungle of houseplants that would brighten those rainy days. But that’s not to be.

I bought an outside plant cart with a little greenhouse cover, which will hopefully protect our seedlings enough to get them through any late frosts. Now I’m planning to build some window boxes and I’m collecting interesting glass jars to use as outdoor vases during the summer.

It’s funny—I’ve found lots of resources on how to protect your cats from poisonous plants, but I can’t find anything to tell me how to protect my plants from the cats. I would love to have my jungle back. It’s good for the air quality in the house, but more importantly, it’s good for my soul. If you have any ideas, leave a comment!


Hayley Townley, Breast Cancer Survivor Extraordinaire! said...

And Jamie looks so sweet and innocent. That's when you should really be worried - the sweet ones always steal your heart. And in your case, your jungle.


Greg said...

I was searching for whats harmful to a cat that I'm going to get tonight.
I have 3 Yucca canes.
I was worried about the cat, but hmm
now I'm a little worried about my trees. I have put alot of time into them.
The trunks do look a little tempting for a cat. hmm
Thanks for the article and the pics.
The pic and the titles for them made me laugh!

Thanks, and wish me luck!

Lyn said...


a very good remedy for your cats in the plants is to put tin foil or a tin pie plate around the plants

trust me , some of my cats were plant murderers too !