Hailing from exotic Madagascar, the Majesty Palm (Ravenea Rivularis) is a popular tropical palm. Unfortunately, its low dangling palm fronds and the way it sways gently in the wind make it attractive to cats!
If you’re a cat lover, you may ask if this Majesty Palm is safe for cats.
Thankfully, chewing, swallowing, and ingesting any part of the Majesty Palm, including its foliage, stem, and roots does not harm your cat.
There are no toxins, irritating chemicals, or substances contained within the Majesty Palm that can cause damage to cats. Fur contact with this palm also is harmless.
Nonetheless, nibbling off parts of the Majesty Palm, while okay for the cat, is not so good for your plant 🙂
In this article, we’ll share:
- Why the Majesty Palm is a good houseplant for pets and children.
- How to care for your Majesty Palm.
- Tips on keeping your pets away from the plant.
- A list of houseplants that are pet-friendly.
Let’s dive in!
Is the Majesty Palm (Ravenea Rivularis) Toxic to Cats?
According to the ASPCA, the Majesty Palm (Ravenea Rivularis) is non-toxic to cats. It is also listed as non-toxic to dogs, and humans. All parts of the plant are safe to touch, nibble, play with, and consume.
Do check, however, that your palm is indeed a Majesty Palm. There are a couple of look-alikes, and not all palms are non-toxic. (We’ll cover that off in more detail below!)
Why is my Cat Attracted to the Majesty Palm?
Though it may seem like your cat is just being difficult, it’s not so.
The attraction is genuine 🙂
- The Majesty Palm’s long, finger-like palm fronds, and the way it gently sways in the breeze, entices your cat to play. Or at least, makes your cat curious.
- Your cat looks at the palm as food. Cats are hyper carnivores, meaning that more than 70% of their diet consists of meat. However, in the wild, the remaining percentage often comprises small amounts of plant parts and vegetation. Plant material provides vitamins and minerals (such as folic acid) they may not otherwise get from meat sources.
Of course, some cats are more playful and curious than others. So your cat’s character also plays a role.
How to Keep Your Majesty Palm Healthy and Happy
Did you know that your Majesty Palm is on the IUCN Red List as a vulnerable species at risk of extinction? All the more reason to keep this exotic plant alive and healthy.
In terms of growth rate, when kept as a houseplant, the Majesty Palm grows up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall. But you’ll need to be patient for this plant to grow to its full height.
It grows about 1 foot (30 cm) a year, even under optimal growing conditions.
The Majesty Palm can be a little fussy when it comes to growing conditions. Getting the right balance of light, watering, and fertilizing is important. Here’s how:
Light, Watering, and Growing Medium Tips
- When kept indoors, look for the sunniest spot in your home. Your palm loves bright, indirect light and needs at least 6-8 hours of it to grow well. Placing your Majesty Palm next to Southern-facing windows is a good choice.
- If placing outdoors, avoid direct sunlight, as this causes the leaves to scorch. Once damaged, they can’t heal.
- An acidic but well-draining potting mix (pH 5-6 is optimal) is important for your Majesty Palm.
- We like using succulent potting mix (we love this brand’s), then adding extra perlite for improved drainage and peat moss for extra acidity.
- Watering is the trickiest part of care. Water only when the top 2 inches of soil is dry. Check the soil moisture every few days, and don’t let the entire pot dry out completely (only the topsoil!).
- Water slowly and deeply, then hold off watering until you see that the topsoil is dry again.
- Signs of improper watering: if the leaf tips start to dry out and brown, the palm is too dry. On the other hand, yellow leaves indicate overwatering. Check the soil moisture to confirm.
Fertilizing, Temperature and Humidity Tips
- Very little fertilizing is necessary. Use a liquid succulent fertilizer, diluted to half strength, just twice during the entire growing season (spring and summer months). Don’t fertilize in fall or autumn.
- Average room temperatures are fine. Temperatures between 65-85 degrees F (18-30 degrees C) are ideal for your plant to thrive.
- Average room humidity is fine, but use a humidifier for best growth, and to ward off spider mites. Spider mites love the thin foliage but prefer dry air.
Tips for Keeping Cats Away from Plants
While we’ve established that Majesty Palms are harmless to cats, the reverse isn’t quite true.
Cats can be harmful to Majesty Palms if they bite off large portions of foliage!
Unfortunately, this plant is rather large, so it’s not always possible to place this plant on a high shelf or someplace out of reach of pets.
Here are some ways to keep cats away from your Majesty Palm.
Use a handful of Orange, Lemon, or Lime Peels
One way to keep your cat away is to place a handful or two of citrus peels on top of the plant’s soil. Use fresh peels. My mom uses this tried and true method 🙂
Cats have a strong sense of smell, estimated to be 14 times stronger than humans. So strong smells hit especially hard and are effective in keeping curious felines away.
Change them out for fresh peels every so often, as the smell will fade over time.
However, don’t substitute citrus peels for essential oils. Essential oils are very concentrated and can be absorbed through your cat’s skin. In large doses, these oils can cause liver problems for your cat.
How about Cayenne Pepper?
Some articles recommend using cayenne pepper to ward away cats. However, we personally don’t recommend it.
Cayenne Pepper contains capsaicin, a chemical compound that causes a spicy sensation when ingested by mammals, including pets and humans.
This will deter some cats, who lick it and taste the spice.
However, this compound is not effective against all types of cats. Furthermore, it can cause damage to a cat’s eyes when rubbed with its paws.
Which Palms are Safe for Cats?
Palms come from the Arecaceae (Palmae) family.
Though the spelling is so similar, this family is not the same as the Araceae family, commonly known as Aroids. Aroids include Philodendrons and Monsteras.
Palms that are listed as non-toxic to cats are:
- Areca Palm (Dypsis Lutescens)
- Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea Elegans)
- Cascade Palm Chamaedorea cataractarum
- Belmore Sentry Palm (Howea Belmoreana)
- Chinese Palm (Livistona Chinensis)
- Pony Tail Palm (Beaucarnea Recurvata)
You’re spoilt for choice!
However, take note of these palms that are toxic to cats:
- Sago Palm (Cycas Revoluta). This contains cycasin, which causes liver failure in cats.
- Yucca Palm (Yucca Elephantipes) contains saponins, which cause vomiting and convulsions in cats.
- Not technically a palm, but a look-alike: Dragon Tree Plant (Dracaena Marginata) contains raphides, which causes mouth burns and gastrointestinal issues.
Other Pet-Friendly Houseplants
In addition to palms, there are many other pet-friendly houseplants that you can consider.
To name a few of our favorites, do check out:
- Peperomias, like the easy-going Peperomia Frost. Or the Peperomia Ginny for a pop of color.
- Hoyas. Beginner level Hoyas, the Hoya Bella and Hoya Nummularioides, are a good choice for foliage, and fragrant honey-scented flowers!
- Orchids. For other plants with showy flowers, orchids are a great choice.
You might also consider choosing vining plants if these vines can be kept well away from your pet in a high hanging basket.
Which Houseplants are Toxic to Cats?
Unfortunately, many houseplants are toxic to cats.
There are varying degrees of severity, but our counsel is to avoid them altogether unless you can place them well out of reach:
This is not a full list. Do use the ASPCA website to verify any plants not on the list.
The Majesty Palm is cat-friendly, so don’t worry about having this palm in your home. Though your fur child may play or nibble at its foliage, it’s harmless to your pet.
If you do want to protect your Palm, however, leave some citrus peels on top of the soil. The smell wards away curious cats.
Another pet-friendly houseplant is the Peperomia Frost – check that out next!
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.