Introducing Esther: my sassy plant goblin. She’s to be presented with plants that she will either ignore or destroy. 

Since the beginning of quarantine, or what it has turned into, the amount of time I spend in my bedroom has skyrocketed. This is a shared experience amongst many high schoolers, whose rooms have become a personal oasis especially in busy houses. My room is my happy place. It’s decorated in my style and is set up perfectly for all of my activities. The only thing missing is plant life! I love plants; I love taking care of them, and watching them grow. However, I love my cat Esther more, and she loves to eat plants. I mean, really eat them. She eats the flowers, leaves, and stems of every plant I have attempted to keep in my room (and the rest of the house for that matter). Shooing her away from the plants gets so annoying I often just surrender them to my mom’s garden out back. There, they are safe from my cuddly little plant goblin.

 I would really love to have plants in my room, though. So, I designed an experiment to see if I could find plants that Esther would leave alone to grow and make me happy. The plan was to get three non-toxic plants, place them around my room, and wait to see what Esther would do with them. I realized that I was potentially sacrificing innocent plants to Esther, but I came to terms with it. The show must go on.

This is how it went:

Day 1 – A trip to the nursery and an unfortunate mistake. 

The first day of this little experiment started out well. I informed Esther I was heading to the nursery but she was too asleep to care. I was refraining from replacing the word “plants” with “snacks,” (not that it would have mattered). I didn’t want to manifest plant destruction. I went to the Portland Nursery on Stark, knowing that the selection wouldn’t overwhelm me. I was happily surprised to find a folder full of fliers outlining what plants were non-toxic to furry friends! A friendly employee guided me towards some false aralias and wandering jews that would tolerate the low light of my bedroom. I picked out one false aralia, two varieties of begonia, and a small pot that matched the orange in the leaves of the small begonia. I was so excited, I practically skipped to the cashier. 

I returned home to find an alert Esther, with an active nose, trying to figure out what I had carried through the door. I placed my three new friends on the kitchen table as she hopped up to inspect each one. The false aralia is fern-like in that it has lots of little branches. She watched them wiggle as she sniffed each plant, and took a nibble of each one. I was expecting her to be infatuated with one plant, but she was a little underwhelmed and moved on. I suspected that as soon as I put them in my room, she would locate and attack each one. I watered them (because I’m a great plant mom) and then placed them around my room: one in the window, one on my desk, and one on my bed-side table. There is not a spot in my room Esther can’t access, so I knew I could keep none of them safe. If she decided they were delicious, she was going to eat them. 

The rest of the day unfolded smoothly. She took another little nibble of each one, but wasn’t being too persistent. Fortunately, I am the queen of double-checking and second-guessing, so before I went to sleep, I decided to research the toxicity of the plants one more time. I discovered, to my immediate panic, that begonias are toxic to cats! I promptly started crying, picked up Esther, and practically threw her out of my room. Then I proceeded to remove each plant from my room (even though the false aralia was safe, I was not taking any chances), locking them away in my closet. I still do not know how I managed to make that mistake after my research and conversation with the nursery employee, but there I was, convinced I had poisoned my best friend. It was an awful end to an exciting day. Esther was just fine as she’d only eaten a tiny bit, but I was ready to call the animal hospital. Shout-out to my mom for calmly explaining to me that if begonias were that toxic to cats, there would have been obvious signage. I was inconsolable, and apologized repeatedly to a very confused Esther. 

Day 2 – Second chances!

In the wake of my mistake, I felt like throwing my whole experiment away. I really needed a win (a common feeling), and had met a huge bump in the road that was entirely my fault. However, I knew that I could not let my error be the end of this story, and I was dedicated to having plant life in my bedroom. My mom accompanied me on my second nursery trip, and brought her green thumb with her. We picked out a few plants that would grow in my room, and then consulted both the list of non-toxic plants the Portland Nursery provided and the internet to make extra sure I was not making the same mistake. We decided on two varieties of Peperomia. One had two round, green leaves with a bud (that I was very excited about), and the other resembled a succulent. Esther was less fascinated by these plants, but still made sure to check them out, sniffing and nibbling as a way of introducing herself. I placed the two new plants where the toxic ones shortly lived, and called it a day. 

Day 3 – The first signs of destruction. 

Originally I had thought that she had left the plants alone all day. It’s very cold in my room, so in the late fall and winter, I pull out a space heater for extra warmth. She had spent the whole day curled up next to it, sucking in all the heat, as cats do. I assumed she was too busy napping to pay any attention to the plants. However, as I was doing my rounds, checking to see if the dirt had dried since the initial water, I noticed the bud on the second Peperomia was gone! I found it lying on the floor next to the table, dead and detached. She bit off the new growth and didn’t even eat it! She’s not one to play with her food, so I took this as a personal attack. She was showing me that she has the power to destroy my new friends. I believe she is a bit jealous of them still. 

Day 4 – Nothing. 

Esther avoided both me and my room that day. I figured she had found a little place to sleep and was having a little private time. She’s the least independent cat I know, but like humans, we all have our days. My plants were very happy.

Day 5 – Sneaky lady. 

Esther is a sneaky sneaky lady. She knows what she is supposed to do and what she isn’t, so to avoid annoying talking-tos, she often waits until no one is watching to be naughty. I started day five sleeping peacefully. Esther was with me, probably curled up by the heater at the foot of my bed. Then, at seven in the morning, I rolled over and what did I see? Esther, devouring the false aralia! As soon as I lifted my head to get a better look, she hopped down and fled my room. She looked at me with “I’ve been caught” eyes, but I detected no guilt, obviously. 

The rest of the day went smoothly, until my mom had to bring a large succulent in from the porch, because it was getting too much water from sitting in the rain. Esther took a liking to the succulent, and would not leave it alone. I had begun to worry that she didn’t enjoy eating plants anymore, but her affinity for this succulent was the first sign of success. Maybe I truly had found three plants that she did not want to eat!

Days 6 and 7 – Success!

Esther did not bother my plants once either day. I decided that I had done it!  Esther has devoured entire plants over the course of two days before, so I am confident that this week was enough time for her to show me she wasn’t interested. I will admit I even shook the plants to get her attention, as if to say “Hey! Have you noticed these little branches that shake around? Don’t you want to eat this?” Nothing. I am surprised though, that I picked the winning plants on my first try (technically second). I was expecting to return to the nursery multiple times, hold at least one plant funeral, and to have to defend my green friends day and night. Instead, I am finally able to have plants in my room! 

If you or your friends have little plant goblins in your homes, I highly recommend trying false aralias and peperomias. Esther tested, Esther rejected. 
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