The holiday season often means bringing numerous decorative plants into the home. These may include a Christmas tree, poinsettia plant, holly wreath, lilies, hanging mistletoe bundle, or evergreen garland.
These beautiful living additions to your holiday decorations can be tempting for your cat to investigate. If your cat licks, chews, or eats these plants it’s possible that she could become ill, depending on what she ingests and how much of it.
For this reason, it’s important to consider what plants you bring home around the holidays. and what access your cat might have to them.
Holiday Plants Poisonous to Cats
When we think about lilies and their toxicity for cats, we often think about true lilies (Lilium sp.), which include Oriental, Asiatic, Easter, and roselily. While not part of the true lily group, Hemerocallis sp., or daylilies, are included due to similar concerns if ingested by cats.
True lilies are a group of plants that make beautiful holiday decorations, both potted and in fresh-cut bouquets. They are commonly gifted and purchased for home display during the holidays. Don’t be confused with other plants that also have lily in the name, such as Peruvian lily, calla lily, peace lily, and lily of the valley.
Unfortunately, lilies can cause damage to the kidneys of a cat, sometimes leading to kidney failure and death. Exposure leading to kidney injury can occur if any part of the plant is eaten, if water from the vase or planter is consumed, or if a lily’s pollen is licked from the cat’s fur after contact with the flowers.
If a cat ingests any part of a lily plant, including its pollen or water, contact an emergency veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 immediately.
Christmas trees come in many varieties including pine, fir, spruce, and artificial. While the needles of live trees are only considered mildly toxic, if your cat eats the needles from a live or artificial tree it can still cause health concerns.
The oils of live tree needles can irritate the gastrointestinal tract and can cause stomach upset, leading to vomiting and a decreased appetite. The needles themselves, from both live and artificial trees, are also irritating to the gastrointestinal tract due to their shape and lack of flexibility.
Unfortunately, this means that if your cat eats enough live or artificial tree needles, it may cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, or even an intestinal blockage.
Depending on the severity of their symptoms, treatment at a veterinary clinic may be necessary to get your cat feeling well again.
Yews are evergreen plants that can grow beautiful red berries in the fall and winter months. During the holidays they can serve as an outdoor decoration, potted indoor plant, table centerpiece, or a garland.
Unfortunately, yews can cause significant poisoning if your cat eats nearly any part of the plant other than the red flesh of the berry. Signs of poisoning can include vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty walking, seizures, and abnormal heart rate. If your cat ingests any part of a yew plant, contact your emergency veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline for next steps.
Holly can be found in many holiday decorations, from wreaths to garlands to potted arrangements. It is particularly known for its red berries that contrast with shiny dark green leaves. The holly leaves are waxy and prickly so your cat may not be interested in eating them to begin with.
If he does ingest the plant, your cat may develop mild vomiting or diarrhea. If they eat a large number of the berries, they may develop severe vomiting or diarrhea, loss of appetite, or difficulty walking.
If your cat becomes ill from eating holly, contact your emergency veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline for next steps on what to do.
At the Pet Poison Helpline, you will be connected with trained veterinary toxicology professionals who can help you determine if you need to be concerned about your cat’s exposure to the plant and next steps to take.
If you are looking for a holiday kiss or just a beautiful greenery decoration, mistletoe may be included in your holiday decor. Though this plant does grow berries, it’s often displayed in the home either without berries or with artificial berries.
There are two main types of mistletoe—American and European. Fortunately, the American mistletoe is less of a concern. If your cat eats any part of the mistletoe plant, she could develop symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, and a decreased appetite.
However, if a large amount of mistletoe is ingested, or if any amount of the European variety is ingested, abnormal heart rate and abnormal blood pressure may occur.
It’s recommended that if your cat eats more than just a taste or nibble of mistletoe, or if you suspect a large amount may have been ingested, contact your veterinarian for an exam. This way your vet can ensure the cat’s heart rate and blood pressure are normal and can prescribe any medications to resolve gastrointestinal upset if needed.
Poinsettias are considered a classic holiday plant. They are commonly displayed potted but can also adorn wreathes, garlands, and Christmas trees. The lush green leaves and flowers may cause gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting if ingested by your cat.
The upset may be mild enough to not require a veterinary visit, but some cats can develop on-going vomiting and need veterinary care. Contact your veterinarian if your cat experiences persistent vomiting after ingesting poinsettias.
What To Do If Your Cat Ingests a Toxic Holiday Plant
If your feline family member ingests a potentially toxic holiday plant, move the plant somewhere your cat can no longer access, but do not throw it away, because it may need to be identified.
If there is any residue such as pollen or sap on your cat’s fur, try to gently clean it off with a damp washcloth or towel to avoid your cat ingesting the pollen herself while grooming.
Contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661, where you will be connected with trained veterinary toxicology professionals who can help you determine if you need to be concerned about your cat’s exposure to the plant and if so, what needs to be done to help keep her healthy and safe. They will assess the exposure and determine if your pet needs medical attention or if monitoring at home is sufficient.
If you are certain of the plant that your cat was exposed to, be sure to offer this information during the call. This will help guide the vets to provide the best next steps.
If you notice your cat is having severe signs, such as acting less responsive, having difficulty breathing, or having a seizure—seek immediate emergency veterinary care.
Recognizing potential concerns with common holiday plants can help keep your furry family member safe this holiday season. If you are worried your cat may have ingested a plant, it’s better to be safe and recommended to seek guidance right away. Resources like the Pet Poison Helpline can help ensure your cat has a safe and healthy holiday season.
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