Decorating your home for the holidays gets your whole family in the festive spirit, but it's important to be aware of dangerous plants for cats.
It's hard to resist decking the halls with the stunning live plants that are plentiful this time of year! Unfortunately, some of the most popular holiday flora are harmful and even poisonous for cats. Avoid these common holiday plants to ensure a safe season for your kitty.
It seems that no holiday table is complete without a beautiful poinsettia with its dark leaves and velvety red petals. This traditional holiday plant has received a bad rap over the years as being a highly toxic plant for cats, but it's not as dangerous as others, says PetMD. Poinsettias aren't life-threatening, but they may give your kitty a stomachache or diarrhea if she ingests or licks the plant. Stick to admiring other people's flowers, or display the plant out of your cat's reach (if there is such a place in your home!). There are also many faux options available that can bring your holiday display to life without threatening your cats.
Pine trees are toxic for cats, notes Petcha, because they may cause liver damage and can be fatal. If you wish to have a live tree, choose a fir or spruce. Additionally, you should regularly dispose of any stray needles–no matter the tree type–because they're sharp and may be dangerous to your kitty's internal organs. Cover the tree stand so your cat can't drink the water. As with artificial trees, other common hazards include your cat knocking the tree over or ingesting harmful decorations like tinsel, ribbons, string, and beads. Cats can be very mischievous and see all the twinkling lights as opportunities to explore, and nothing is more enticing than the opportunity to climb a tree that mom and dad brought inside. It is always best to secure the tree to the ground or floor if you can to avoid her knocking it over and injuring anyone, herself included. As far as ornaments and other tree decorations, make sure they are not small enough for her to ingest and try to avoid any that contain sharp objects. Try your best to tie your ornaments on the tree so that she is not tempted to try to take them off. Finally, make sure to unplug your lights when you're not around to watch your kitty to help avoid her electrocuting herself.
Mistletoe and Holly
If you're looking to hang mistletoe or holly in your doorway, you'll have to go the artificial plant route. PetMD warns, "Ingestion of small quantities of the leaves or berries may only cause stomach upset. However, larger exposures may result in cardiovascular compromise and may be life-threatening." Because both of these are highly toxic holiday plants for your cat, avoid mistletoe and holly completely. Even if the festive decorations look like they're out of reach of your cat, think again. Cats are nimble, curious little creatures, so they'll find a way to reach them. Plus, you don't need mistletoe to kiss your cat!
The amaryllis is a desirable holiday plant because it's fun to watch the bulb grow into a tall, majestic flower. However, it's a very toxic plant for cats (and dogs) due to the presence of the chemical lycorine. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, possible reactions include vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors. Don't bring this plant into your home.
Familiarize yourself with other potentially harmful or toxic plants, suggests VCA Animal Hospitals. Lilies, for example, are extremely dangerous for cats and are often included in holiday flower bouquets. If your cat ingests toxic holiday plants, contact a veterinarian immediately.
Fortunately, you can buy gorgeous artificial plants that will liven up your home just as beautifully as the real ones (and you don't have to water them!). Peruse the aisles of your local craft or home store for inspiration, or try your hand at DIY decorating. Just be sure that decorations don't contain easily detachable small parts that your fur baby could swallow.
If you have a particularly investigative kitty, find other ways to distract her from your holiday décor–try a new scratching post or cat toy; give her a cat tree of her very own to climb, so she is not tempted to climb your tree. Training her to stay away from your decorations will make the holidays better for both of you. By avoiding dangerous plants for cats, you'll ensure that your kitty enjoys a happy holiday season, too!
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, former English professor, and long-time pet parent whose two Russian Blue cats rule the house. Her work also appears in Fit Pregnancy, What to Expect Word of Mom, and Care.com, where she writes about pets and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien