Before you ‘Deck the Halls’ this season, we’d like to remind you that there are many Christmas plants toxic to cats. We recommend that you keep these plants out of your cat’s reach, behind closed doors in another room, or out of the house entirely. It’s always best to err on the side of caution where your cat’s health and safety is concerned.
Holly and Mistletoe
The berries and leaves of holly and mistletoe are extremely toxic. Mistletoe poisoning can be particularly serious, even deadly – it can cause severe falls in blood pressure, low heart rate, breathing problems and collapse. Ingesting holly is likely to lead to stomach problems, lethargy and drooling. To prevent your cat from coming into contact with these popular Christmas bouquets, simply hang your mistletoe and holly securely from the top of a door frame, near the star at the top of the Christmas tree, or somewhere else where your cat cannot reach.
In addition to ornaments and string, tinsel and Christmas tree lights, ingesting pine tree needles is also a very real danger for our feline friends. Cats may be fussy eaters when it comes to dinner but they’ll eat the craziest things when they have a fur ball and need roughage to help bind the hair and bring it up. Pine needles seem a natural solution – but they are also sharp and can cause great pain and serious intestinal issues when swallowed. You also need to pay attention to the tree’s water. Pine needles will fall into the water reservoir, releasing toxic chemicals that create a dangerous cocktail for thirsty cats. The best solution is prevention. Cover the tree’s water reservoir with netting and spray the tree with a bitter, organic anti-chew product.
Poinsettias are often given as Christmas gifts, but their milky white sap contains chemicals that cause cats to drool, vomit, and may result in diarrhoea. The effects are usually short-lived and the toxicity level is mild, but it’s a wise idea to spray any Poinsettia plants in your house with a bitter anti-chew product to keep your cat away.
Lilies, Amaryllis and Christmas Cactus
Houseplants and cut flowers are popular gifts at Christmas, but lilies, amaryllis and Christmas cactus all are known to be toxic or deadly to cats. Lilies are especially dangerous, even a small nibble of the plant or flowers can be fatal for your cat. Keep them out of reach, or in another room.
Signs of Toxic Plant Poisoning
So, how do you know if your cat is having a toxic reaction to eating a plant? Poison warning signs vary from plant to plant and from cat to cat. In mild cases, your cat may just seem a little out of sorts, but in more serious instances, your cat is likely to experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- difficulty breathing
- stomach irritation
- blood in stools
- staggering around
What to Do if your Cat Eats a Poisonous Plant
If your cat shows symptoms that could indicate he’s eaten a toxic plant, or if you know for certain that he has (even if he doesn’t appear to be having an adverse reaction), you need to phone your vet immediately. With the ingestion of any poisonous substances, it’s essential to get your cat reviewed and treated as quickly as possible. Make sure you tell your vet exactly what plant you suspect has caused the problem, as this will allow your vet to prepare the most appropriate antidote if your cat requires it. If you know what your cat has eaten but aren’t sure what the plant is called, take a sample of the plant leaf or flower with you to the vet for identification as this will help determine treatment.
For a comprehensive list of poisonous plants for cats, please refer to the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants Database.