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9 Holiday Plants That Pose a Danger to Cats (With Pictures)

Maine coon cat with green eyes sitting at little christmas tree with lights
Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock
Last Updated on December 8, 2023 by Catster Editorial Team

Part of gearing up for the holidays, other than the obvious baking and gift-purchasing aspects, is decorating. Some of that decorating involves trees and plants, but when you have a cat running around, you must ensure your pet’s safety.

Unfortunately, some of the holiday plants that we might have around the house are toxic to cats. Here’s a list of nine plants that must be kept away from your feline. There’s also information about plants that are safe near your cat.

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The 6 Severely Toxic Holiday Plants

1. Christmas Lily

close up Christmas lilies
Image Credit: Vladnik55, Shutterstock

All lilies are toxic to cats to a certain degree. True lilies are the most toxic, which include Easter, Japanese show, tiger, and stargazer lilies.

Christmas lilies aren’t as toxic as true lilies but are toxic nonetheless. Every part of the lily is toxic, and with the day and true lilies, kidney failure can occur within 72 hours after ingestion.

2. Holly

close up holly branch
Image Credit: Marie C Fields, Shutterstock

Holly contains saponins, which are toxic. If a cat eats holly, they can suffer from severe gastrointestinal irritation, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The leaves are also spiny, which could cause injury to the mouth and esophagus when ingested.

If injured by the holly, your cat might shake their head excessively, smack their lips, and drool.

3. Mistletoe

a bunch of mistletoe hanging
Image Credit: Oleksandr Rybitskiy, Shutterstock

Most of us are familiar with the kissing-under-the-mistletoe tradition. Unfortunately for cats, the American (Phoradendron serotinum) and European mistletoe (Viscum album) are toxic, with the European variety being the most toxic.

When cats eat the berries, they’ll likely experience:
  • Drooling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
If too many berries are eaten, it can result in:
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Uncoordinated
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Death

Keep mistletoe away from your cat!

4. Cyclamen

variegated cyclamen flowers in the garden
Image Credit: Photology1971, Shutterstock

The cyclamen grows around the holidays and is typically bright pink, red, or white. Every part of the plant contains saponins, but the roots (tubers) have the highest concentration.

Signs of cyclamen poisoning include:
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
If your cat eats a large amount, the following signs can result:
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Death

5. Christmas Rose

Christmas rose blooming
Image Credit: weintel, Shutterstock

The Christmas rose contains toxic bufadienolides and glycosides, which cause:

  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Changes in heart rate and rhythm
  • Hallucinations
  • Death

The sap in the Christmas rose can cause:

  • Drooling
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Persistent diarrhea containing blood

6. Amaryllis

close up Red Amaryllis flowers
Image Credit: fon.tepsoda, Shutterstock

The Amaryllis is not a true lily but is still toxic. It contains alkaloids, which are found in all parts of the plant.

Eating a few leaves can cause mild gastrointestinal upset, like vomiting. However, if too many leaves or roots are ingested, it can lead to:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

3 Mildly Toxic Holiday Plants

7. Poinsettia

poinsettia at a flower shop
Image Credit: John de la Bastide, Shutterstock

The poinsettia is the most well-known plant that people associate with Christmas, and unfortunately, it is not good for cats.

That said, it’s only mildly toxic to felines. Poinsettias have a white sap containing saponin-like detergents and diterpenoid euphorbol esters.

When the sap is ingested, you might see the following signs:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (rarely)

Your cat would need to eat a large amount of the sap to come down with poinsettia poisoning. The sap can also cause irritation if exposed to the skin, along with:

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling

Cats can also have an irritated mouth and esophagus after eating a poinsettia.

Poinsettias aren’t overly dangerous, but if your cat is prone to chewing on plants, either put them out of your cat’s reach or avoid having them in the home altogether. They can still make your cat sick.

8. Christmas Tree

rows of Christmas trees outdoor
Image Credit: Happy Hirtzel, Shutterstock

Most Christmas trees are fir, pine, and spruce, and while they aren’t necessarily toxic, the needles can injure the mouth when eaten.

If your cat eats too many needles, it can cause gastrointestinal problems, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Abdominal pain

The tree water can also cause problems if your cat drinks it.

Artificial trees will have the same issue. If your cat eats the plastic “needles,” they will experience gastrointestinal issues. The decorations and electrical lights also pose a risk.

You can try cat-proofing your Christmas tree. The risks are minor, but you’ll also need to judge how your cat will act around it to decide if it’s worth it.

9. Christmas Cactus

potted Christmas cactus on the windowsill
Image Credit: Nadezhda Nesterova, Shutterstock

The Christmas cactus is not toxic, but they do have tiny spines that can injure the mouth and irritate the stomach and intestines. It’s also highly fibrous, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea. This should all resolve within a few hours, but see your vet if the irritation persists.

Like the poinsettia, it should be okay to have a Christmas cactus in the house, but try to keep it out of your cat’s reach.

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What You Should Do If Your Cat Ingested a Toxic Plant

If you know for a fact that your cat ate a toxic plant, you should take them to your vet or the closest emergency clinic. If you’re not entirely sure what kind of plant it is, bring it with you so your vet will know the source of the problem and thus, how to treat it.

Mild nausea and vomiting that get better after a few hours aren’t signs of poisoning, but you should still call your vet to be on the safe side.

If you’re unsure what to do, you can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435 or Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661. There is a charge for calling either.

Safe Plants for Cats

No plant is completely safe, and if your cat eats too much of what is considered a safe plant, they are still likely to get an upset stomach.

That said, the following plants are generally safe for felines, but we still recommend that you keep them out of your cat’s reach, particularly if your kitty loves to chew on everything!

Safe Succulents:
  • Agave
  • Crown of thorns
  • Hoya
  • Jade plant
  • Living stone plant
  • Money plant
  • Sedum
Safe Houseplants:
  • African violet
  • Boston fern
  • Bromeliad
  • Geranium
  • Hibiscus
  • Orchids
  • Peperomia
  • Polka dot plant
  • Prayer plant
  • Rose
  • Spider plant
  • Swedish ivy

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The holidays are full of fun and dangers for cats, which is especially true if you happen to have a cat that eats everything. You can try giving them new things like toys and a scratching post, which might help distract them from the more dangerous items.

Avoid the highly toxic plants at all costs! All it takes is a petal to fall to the floor from a lily, and you then have to rush your pet to the veterinarian.

Cats are sneaky, and it isn’t difficult for a determined cat to reach what you think is an out-of-reach location. Keep the holidays safe for your kitty!

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Featured Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock

About the Author

Kathryn Copeland
Kathryn Copeland
Kathryn was a librarian in a previous lifetime and is currently a writer about all things pets. When she was a child, she hoped to work in zoos or with wildlife in some way, thanks to her all-consuming love for animals. Unfortunately, she's not strong in the sciences, so she fills her days with researching and writing about all kinds of animals and spends time playing with her adorable but terribly naughty tabby cat, Bella. Kathryn is hoping to add to her family in the near future – maybe another cat and a dog.

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