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My Cat Drank Christmas Tree Water! What Should I Do? Vet Approved Advice

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on January 22, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat playing with ornaments on christmas tree

My Cat Drank Christmas Tree Water! What Should I Do? Vet Approved Advice

VET APPROVED

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Vet, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

A real tree at Christmas time recalls memories of past holidays. Perhaps you even went to cut one down or remember decorating one when you were young. However, while they bring us warmth and joy during Christmas, a real tree can be dangerous to our cats. A time of celebration can quickly turn into one of stress, especially if you see your favorite feline drinking the Christmas tree water.

Drinking Christmas tree water can contain toxins and can make them sick. If your cat has been drinking Christmas tree water, you must monitor their symptoms and get them veterinary care immediately if they show any signs of distress.

But why is that water potentially dangerous, and how can you protect them from it? Read on to learn more.

divider-catclaw1 Is Christmas Tree Water Toxic to Cats?

It is possible that pine sap has leached into the water, and pine sap can be an irritant to cats and result in gastro-intestinal distress. Even sneaking under the tree to reach the water could result in sap from the branches sticking to their fur, which they later clean off while bathing and end up ingesting, making matters worse.

However, the sap is not the only potential danger lurking in the water. The longer the tree sits in the water, it can grow stagnant and start to breed bacteria or fungus. Chemicals used during the growth and harvesting of Christmas trees can also leach into the water, posing even more problems. Any chemicals or fertilizers you add to the water to prolong the life of the tree may also be toxic. These chemicals can include but are not limited to:

  • Fertilizers
  • Insecticides
  • Preservatives
  • Fire retardants
cat sitting near christmas tree
Image Credit: jhenning, Pixabay

Possible Symptoms After Drinking Christmas Tree Water

The signs of pine tree poisoning in cats are the most common, primarily because they can occur not only from drinking the water but also from cleaning sap off of their coats or chewing on branches of the tree. These symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This assumes that pine sap is the only substance in the water. If bacteria or chemicals are present, symptoms could be different or worse.

If Your Cat Is Showing Symptoms

After drinking Christmas tree water, you should monitor your pet for any signs of distress and contact your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. They can guide you on your next steps or tell you what to watch for if your pet needs veterinary care in the immediate future.

Should your pet show more urgent signs, such as intense vomiting or collapse, you should get them to an emergency vet clinic immediately. Call the vet to let them know you are on your way and mention your pet’s symptoms, so they are prepared when you arrive. They may ask questions such as when they last drank the water or if it was more than once. Giving them accurate information can help them provide the best treatment.

yellow sad sick cat
Image Credit: Nikolay Bassov, Shutterstock

3 cat divider

Preventing Your Cat from Drinking Christmas Tree Water

The best way to keep your cat safe from Christmas tree water and other perils of real Christmas trees is to keep them out of the room the tree is in, or replace it with an artificial tree or even a cat-safe tree alternative. If the nostalgia of a real tree is too hard to pass up this year, you can do a few things to help protect your cat from pine poisoning or prevent access to the Christmas tree water.

Christmas Tree Base Covers

One of the easiest ways to prevent access to the water under the tree is with a base cover. This can be a simple makeshift cover made from cardboard, a modified margarine tub lid securely taped down, or a more decorative commercially made option. As long as it keeps your kitty away from the water, a cover doesn’t have to be pretty, but you can use the opportunity to add to the holiday décor.

Cat Repellent

There are many ways to deter a cat from a particular location. Cats don’t like citrus, so a few dabs of essential oil (where they can’t lick it) around the tree may be enough to keep them away. A commercial deterrent spray is also an option. Not all deterrents are based on smell, and you might want to try placing aluminum foil under the tree. As enticing as the shining lights and dangling ornaments are, they probably won’t like stepping on the aluminum foil to reach them.

Cat Repellent_shutterstock_Pashin Georgiy
Image Credit By: Pashin Georgiy, shutterstock

Fencing or Gate

Creating a barrier around the tree is more effective than you might think. It can be fencing used for dog runs or kennels, a child’s playpen gates, or even a more decorative gate specifically designed for a Christmas tree. However you decide to cordon off your tree, this physical barrier may be just what you need to keep the cats away from the Christmas tree water as well as the ornaments, cords, pine needles, and other dangers.

Cat Water Fountain

The water under the tree is very tempting for cats, but you might try giving them something they like even more. A cat’s instincts attract them to running water, so a water fountain naturally encourages them to drink more. This water is constantly filtered and usually stays colder than standing water at room temperature, which may also appeal to them. The fountain could lure them away from the stagnant water under the tree.

divider-catclaw1 In Summary

A real Christmas tree can pose dangers for cats in several ways, just one of which being the water it sits in. If your cat drinks the water, monitor them for any symptoms of distress, like lethargy or vomiting. Call the Animal Poison Control line or get them to an emergency vet immediately if they show any symptoms and you feel like they need to be seen.

The best way to protect your fur baby from the many dangers of Christmas trees is to keep them out of the room that the tree is in. However you decide to celebrate the season in your home, we hope you will take some of the measures outlined above to keep everyone in your home, including your feline family members, healthy and happy.


Featured Image Credit: Myshun, Pixabay

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