Before you go on: If your cat has ingested part of a plant or tree that you’ve brought into the home for Christmas or any time of the year, call your vet immediately. If your vet is closed, call a 24-hour clinic. You can read this list afterward.
If you’re here because you’re curious about which plants are safe to bring indoors for Christmas, we’re proud of you for checking first! Here’s what you came for:
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for lovers of twinkling lights, family get-togethers, and shiny presents, and plenty of cats love to get in on the fun of playing with wrapping paper, indulging in treats, and batting at poorly placed decorations, too. But not everything about Christmas is safe for curious kitties, especially when it comes to decorating. Sure, cats can ingest just about any small object and complications can arise from those lapses in feline judgment, but few things pose greater risks to your Christmas cats than the live decorations you bring into the home. Yep, that means plants and flowers, and that certainly includes the main event—the Christmas tree. Let’s start there.
Countless Americans bring live trees indoors to decorate for Christmas and, while they don’t typically last more than a few weeks, that’s plenty of time to pose plenty of risk to your four-legged friends. The good news is that there’s some risk mitigation you can employ if you really want to have a live Christmas tree, but you’ll have to be vigilant if you want to keep your cat completely safe, and there’s no guarantee your cat can’t still put himself in danger. Oils from most firs can be irritating to kitty mouths and stomachs, causing them to drool or vomit, and this is one element you can’t control if you have an explorer on your hand who likes to nibble and chew. The rest of the potential hazards are somewhat more manageable.
As tree needles dry out and fall to the floor, they become firm and prickly If your cat ingests any, intentionally or otherwise, they can cause gastrointestinal irritation, punctures, or even obstruction. If you diligently remove all fallen needles on at least a daily basis, you’re greatly reducing the risk of exposure and ingestion here. Finally, the water that feeds your Christmas tree may also be feeding your cat. Even if your kitty doesn’t often drink from a water bowl, expect them to be more curious about your tree water, which can be noxious for a variety of reasons. The only way to prevent water-related disasters is to ensure that your tree’s water supply is completely covered so that your kitty can’t reach it. If you’re prepared to take as many precautions as possible to bring a live Christmas tree into the house, look at PetMD’s additional tips for making this process as safe as possible first.
Let’s move on to the smaller plants you may be using to decorate other parts of your home now. We’ll start with the least dangerous and work our way up.
These atypical cacti bloom in winter, giving rise to their holiday-centric name. They’re not common Christmas decorations, but we thought we’d bring them up while we were on the subject. Fluffy isn’t likely to suffer any fatalities from exposure to a Christmas cactus, but part of
the fibrous plant is undigestible, so ingestion could lead to internal blockage. Besides, playful kitties may be tempted to explore the plant with paws or mouths, and both are subject to pain from its pokier parts.
If there’s one Christmas plant you already know to be dangerous for cats, it’s probably this one, but you may not know why. That’s why we’re here. Truthfully, the poinsettia isn’t likely to be toxic, but there’s still danger to be found in the plant’s white sap. If ingested, this sap can cause digestive upset and all the icky symptoms that come along with that. But even simple contact can potentially cause skin irritation for your holiday hairball and contact with the eyes has the potential to cause conjunctivitis (though this is admittedly rare).
It’s unlikely you’ll bring a whole holly bush into the house, but sprigs are more common decorations and there are some dangers to be found here, too, unfortunately. The spiny leaves, themselves, can cause stomach and intestinal irritation if ingested, but it’s the toxins within the vibrant holly berries that pose the greatest risk to your impish elf, and there’s no guaranteeing they won’t fall from snipped sprigs no matter how high you place them, so just skip them.
The good news here is that cats are less likely to encounter mistletoe than with other decorative Christmas plants since it’s usually hung over entryways. Still, it ranks higher up on the danger scale because, if your cat does somehow manage to chow down on this festive kiss-inducer, the dangers are more severe than the plants we’ve covered thus far. Small amounts of mistletoe are more likely to cause “only” gastrointestinal irritation, but larger amounts can bring about seizures, collapse, and even death. Fortunately for American kitties, the mistletoe more commonly found in the States is less potent than the mistletoe in Europe, but neither is safe.
Lilies (and other flowers)
You may think of lilies as more of an Easter decoration than a Christmas flower, but they tend to show up in bouquets year-round, and that certainly includes Christmas arrangements. Ultimately, ingesting lilies can lead to kidney failure in our furry friends, and every single part of the lily presents the danger of toxicity. To elaborate, that includes the flower, the stem, the leaves, and even the pollen. Do not ever bring lilies into your home if you own cats, and check over any bouquets you are gifted, or purchase for decorating. While you’re are it, keep an eye out for both hellebores and amaryllis, too. These winter bloomers are popularly used as holiday decorations, both in bouquets and on their own, but they’re both toxic to cats. Keep them all out of the house if you want your holiday to stay merry for the entire family.