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Why do Pets Lick Clay Plant Pots?

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Licking clay pots is an abnormal behavior that you may have observed your pet doing and the majority of us may be unaware of the reason behind this. 

Pets lick plant pots because they may harbor salts and minerals; it is an act of replenishing nutrient deficiency within the pet’s system. These minerals are present because they are leached from the soil either from applied fertilizer or from the soil itself and become present on the outside of clay pots that pets can access easily.

The most common factor behind pets licking clay pots is the presence of a high amount of minerals that leach out of the soil in the pot to the outside.  

We will be discussing multiple factors associated with this occurrence and will cover all of the things that will clear your ambiguities, which will include 

  • Why dogs or cats lick plant potters
  • The minerals it contains
  • Will the minerals be beneficial or will it harm your pet
  • The symptoms they may show if they do and
  • How to prevent pets from licking plant potters

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Why do Dogs Lick Plant Potters?

Dogs are the cutest pets and curious animals that always want to roam around and want to check everything that is in your house.

Whether it’s a glass vase in the corner of your living room or an acute plant pot in the lobby, they need to explore everything. 

This behavior looks cute at times, but sometimes, it can be dangerous for them because they wanted to eat everything that they find in the house. 

However, if your pet dog continues to lick plant pots, and always wants to go to the place where you put the plant pots, then it can be an alarming situation that you should never take for granted. 

Your pet dog might be suffering from calcium or iron deficiency, and the presence of iron in the clay plant pots seems a wonderful idea to them to overcome that deficiency. 

Other than that, your dog might be suffering from a certain type of eating disorder, and now all he wants is to eat the clay on the pot. 

However, in any case, if you continuously observe such behavior of your dog, then it is necessary to consult a veteran doctor because it is not something to overlook, and you must be aware of your dog’s health. 

Why do Cats Lick Plant Potters?

Pet close to Terracotta plant pot with white residue

Many cat owners are curious about the licking behavior of their pet cats. It seems very normal in the majority of the cats because they usually like to lick everything that is present in the house. 

Whether it be any fabric or furniture, they choose different things that attract them and start chewing or licking them. It is not something to get worried about because these behaviors are considered very normal about pet cats. 

However, if you observe that they are continuously licking the clay pots, then this is something that can be alarming according to their health.

No one other than a veteran doctor can tell you that your pet cat is licking clay pot plants normally or your cat has some nutritional deficiencies. 

Yes, you read that very right. Nutritional deficiency in the body of your cat can be a major reason behind licking clay pot plants.

There are different nutrients like iron and calcium are present in the clay pots, and usually, pets lick them when they are suffering from any sort of nutritional deficiency. 

It is still a mystery how they can be so obvious about the presence of those nutrients in the clay pots, but it is said that they can smell those even from a distant place.

Terracotta plant pot with white residue

The Type of Plant Potter Pets Like the Most and Why

The most common type of plant potter which comes up where leaching is concerned is clay plant potters. 

Clay pots or terracotta plant pots are made from baked clay. The clay is soft and malleable because it has water between the clay particles which gives us the ability to shape the material into any shape. 

When the clay is heated at high temperatures, the water molecules within the clay expand rapidly. This expansion creates pores within the clay as the water turns to vapor and escapes. 

This gives clay plant potters its porous nature which helps potted plants when it comes to soil aeration and water retention. 

Unfortunately, it is also responsible for minerals being leached out of the soil. These minerals move with the water and tend to accumulate on the outside of the pots as the water evaporates. This in turn, creates the white stuff which is commonly seen on terracotta pots.

The white stuff may be powdery in nature which can be easily removed with water. This is because the minerals will easily dissociate and dissolve into the water once again and be removed. 

When a pet licks the clay pot, their tongue acts like a sponge and the minerals will also dissociate and be absorbed into the dog or cat’s system.

Types of Minerals Contained in Potting soil

You might get surprised by reading the word potting soil, and you must be thinking if it’s different from ground soil. Well, yes, it actually is. Potting soil is high-quality soil that has more nutrients than ground soil. 

The reason is, that potting soil is responsible for the production of many different types of plants. 

Also, it must be of high quality so that it can help in the sustenance of young plants even if the fertilizer is not present in the soil. Unlike the ground soil, it is free from certain types of insects, pests, and diseases.

There are multiple types of minerals present in the potting soil. It has nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and potassium. 

These are the key ingredients that play a vital role in the growth of many different kinds of plants.

It is not necessary that ground soil has not any of these minerals, but the only way to get an idea is to send the sample of the soil to the laboratory. 

Also, every plant has different requirements, but if your potting soil has the maximum amount of nutrients, then there is a huge chance that your plant will bloom to its fullest in that soil. 

Soil Minerals

Are the minerals beneficial to pets?

Like humans, animals also need a sufficient amount of minerals for their healthy growth. Minerals are responsible for the skeletal structure like bones and teeth of the animals, so they need to have them for their growth. 

Also, minerals are responsible for the building of soft tissues in the human body, so you need to be very conscious about the intake of minerals for your pets because the lack of minerals can do some serious damage to their internal organs. 

Different types of minerals are helpful to the animals in their bodily functions and promote good skin and healthy fur coats on their body. 

Can Licking Plant Potters Harm Pets? 

The soil in plant pots contains fertilizers that have various types of chemicals in it including an array or mineral salts.

As we studied earlier, pets are fond of licking plant pots, so what about those chemicals? Can they be harmful to pets? These are the questions that are very common among various individuals. 

If you own pets, then there is a chance that you might also be very curious about this.

Well, if the plant pots have soil over it that has fertilizers, and your pet licks it, there is a huge chance that your pet might suffer from significant indigestion. 

Therefore, it is better to keep your pets away from those pots and consult a veteran doctor if they continue to lick those pots. 

We have done a great deal of research on this and have created a detailed article which outlines the what potting soil contains and the symptoms pets show when they ingest it. See article

sick dog

How to Prevent Pets from Licking Clay Pots?

Plant Placement

An easy way to prevent pets from licking the plant pots is to place them so that our pets cannot reach them. 

Plant hangers are the best solution where easy prevention is concerned. However, Plant hangers are best suited for vined plants that don’t grow upwards and so, it can be limited depending on the type of plant you have.  

Having the plant at a height can prevent dogs from reaching it but where cats are concerned, they can climb and still have access to the salts on the side of the pot. 

An additional concern arises as the plants on a height can be pulled down which can cause harm to both plant and cat.  

You can see our article on the safest places to put plants in the home which gives examples of areas in the home where you can safely keep your plants. See the article here

Addressing the Deficiency Issue

The main concern of a pet owner here is not only to stop the pet from licking the clay pots but to reach the main cause so that your pet won’t lick it again.

There are multiple reasons behind pet animals licking a plant’s pot, and the major among them is the deficiency of certain nutrients. 

However, it is also possible that your little pub is teething, and all that he wants is to chew something that he finds. So, in order to stop him, you must reach the main issue. For this purpose, you need to take your pet to a veteran doctor. 

A veteran doctor is specialized in treating animals, and only he can reach the main cause. If your pet is teething, he might suggest some chewable objects to him. 

On the other hand, if your pet has any kind of nutritional deficiencies, the doctor might suggest necessary medications to keep him healthy.

In any case, you need to visit the doctor so that he can suggest the best cure for your pet. 

Symptoms of sick pets after licking clay pot with fertilizer

Fertilizers present in the soil of clay pots can be harmful to your pets. The mild symptoms of that sickening include indigestion.

However, if your pet keeps on licking that soil, then there is a chance of some major symptoms that can be harmful to his health. 

Those symptoms include salivation, fever, urination, anxiety, breathing difficulty, tremors, and much more. 

Therefore, we can conclude that you must never take the pot licking of your pet on a lighter note, and you must immediately meet a doctor if you are observing any of those kinds of symptoms to avoid any serious kind of damage. 

Recommend Plant Potters with Pets Around

Plant potters made of plastic, ceramic and cement are recommended with having pets around. 

These pots do not allow water and minerals to leach through them. As a result, there will not be any build-up of minerals on the outer parts which pets can lick. 

Additionally, these potters can also be made in different modern styles and colors which can blend in with any decor while terracotta pots follow their contemporary design. 

Plant potters which are not made of clay can also be grounded (kept on the floor) without fear that our pets will be licking them in search of deficient minerals.


Now that we have all the required information regarding the pet’s pot licking habits, we can conclude the topic and present a summary so that our readers can recall everything. Pets love to lick everything in the house. 

However, if they are very curious about plant pots, and love to lick them, then you should never take that habit for granted. It can be very dangerous for their health due to the presence of fertilizer in the soil.

Also, this habit is an indication of nutritional deficiencies in their bodies, so you just need to focus on that to keep them healthy. 

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