Are Christmas Plants Safe for Cats & Dogs? Facts about Poinsettia, Holly & More

The Giving Plants team is crazy about plants, but we know that all plants are not right for all households. Some plants can be toxic to our furry friends. Among the popular Christmas plants, which ones are safe around cats and dogs, and which might cause a frantic trip to the vet?

Poinsettia: The bright red flowers of the poinsettia make it the best-selling Christmas plant year after year. But should pet owners beware? According to the ASPCA, poinsettia leaves are only mildly toxic to cats and dogs. If your cat or dog eats part of the poinsettia plant, some gastrointestinal irritation may follow. Serious illness or death, however, is not a concern. Keep it out of their reach to avoid the mess and discomfort of vomiting and diarrhea, but don’t stress too much if your pets get a few bites despite your best efforts.

Christmas Cactus: Christmas cactus plants bloom during winter with white, red, and pink flowers, so it’s no surprise that they’ve become a modern holiday tradition. Is the Christmas cactus safe for dogs and cats? The stems and flowers are non-toxic to house pets, and the cactus lacks any spiky spines. The ASPCA says the Christmas cactus is not harmful to cats or dogs.

Holly: Known to botanists as Ilex opaca, holly has glossy green leaves and cheerful red berries. It’s been associated with Christmas for over 100 years and is a popular decoration to this day. Pet owners should be careful bringing it into the house, however, because holly is toxic to cats and dogs. The Pet Poison Hotline classifies the toxicity as “mild to moderate,” and severe gastrointestinal distress is the main concern. Not only does the plant contain toxins called saponins, it also has sharp leaves that can irritate your pet’s throat and stomach. Keep holly plants away from cats and dogs.

Mistletoe: A sprig of mistletoe hanging in a doorway is an invitation to kiss your sweetheart. Make sure you keep the plant out of cats’ and dogs’ reach, though. Mistletoe is toxic to pets. If your dog or cat eats a leaf or two, symptoms may be mild, including drooling and vomiting. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, ingesting large quantities can lead to seizures and death.

Christmas trees: Don’t forget the number one holiday plant we bring into our homes: the Christmas tree itself! Evergreen needles and sap are mildly toxic to pets, possibly causing diarrhea and vomiting. Plus, the pointy needles can cause problems inside your pet. Shoo them away from the tree when you can. This should save your ornaments from disaster, too.

For a full list of houseplants and their toxicity, check out the ASPCA’s poison control page. Enjoy a safe holiday season!

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