Dangerous Plants for Cats: Holiday Edition

Published by Mary Washburn
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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 all of the stunning live plants that are plentiful during this time of year. Unfortunately, some of the most popular holiday flora are harmful or even toxic to cats. Avoid these common holiday plants to help ensure a safe holiday season for your kitty.

If you suspect that your cat has ingested any of the plants discussed here, contact your veterinarian right away or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.


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.


Amaryllis is a desirable holiday plant because it's fun to watch the bulb grow into a tall, majestic flower. However, it's toxic to pets due to the presence of the chemical lycorine, among other properties. According to the ASPCA, possible reactions include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and hypersalivation. Amaryllis plants may be beautiful, but they're not worth the risk.


With its dark leaves and velvety red petals, it seems that no holiday table is complete without a beautiful poinsettia. However, the ASPCA explains that, while poinsettias aren't life-threatening, they may irritate your kitty's mouth and stomach and can cause vomiting if ingested. This is no fun for your cat, so stick to admiring other people's flowers or put your poinsettia someplace out of your cat's reach — if such a place exists. You can also go with a faux option to bring your holiday display to life without risking your cat's well-being.

Beige and white cat peeking through Christmas tree branches

Christmas Trees

Christmas trees are often pine, spruce or fir trees. According to Texas A&M University's School of Veterinary Medicine, pine needles in particular can cause health complications for your cat. If ingested, pine needles can irritate their mouth and may also lead to gastrointestinal issues. If you wish to have a live tree, choose a fir or spruce. No matter what kind of tree you get, regularly dispose of any stray needles.

Other Christmas tree-related hazards include your cat knocking the tree over or ingesting decorations such as tinsel, ribbons, string and beads. If possible, secure your tree to the floor to help avoid mishaps, and place any choking hazards high enough on the tree so your kitty can't get to them. Cover the tree stand so your cat can't drink the water, too. Tree water may include sap, pesticides or preservatives.

As for ornaments, avoid any that are small enough for your cat to ingest, and be wary of those that contain sharp edges. Try your best to tie your ornaments to the tree so your kitty isn't able to take them off. Finally, discourage your cat from chewing on string lights and unplug them when you're not around to supervise.

Mistletoe and Holly

If you're looking to hang mistletoe or holly in your doorway, opt for artificial plants. The ASPCA explains that mistletoe can cause several health concerns, including vomiting, diarrhea, low heart rate, low blood pressure and even difficulty breathing. Holly berries and leaves can also cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested, as well as depression. Cats are nimble, curious little creatures, so even if these festive decorations seem out of reach, think again. Plus, you don't need mistletoe to kiss your cat!

Again: If your cat ingests any of these toxic holiday plants — or if you think there's even a chance they might have — contact your vet immediately or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Enjoying the Holidays With Your Cat

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 decorations. Just be sure to avoid using easily detachable small parts your fur baby could swallow.

If you have a particularly investigative kitty, find other ways to distract them from your holiday decor, such as by offering them a new scratching post or cat toy. Give them a cat tree of their very own so they're not tempted to climb your tree. Providing adequate cat-safe alternatives is a great way to keep your cat away from holiday decorations. And by avoiding dangerous plants for cats, you and your kitty can enjoy a happy, festive holiday season together.

A cat lies next to a bouquet.