It's hard to resist decking your home with the wonderful array of festive live plants that are available at this time of year. But the festive season brings with it many new dangers for our feline friends and plants that you don't normally have in your home are a big one.
Keep these ten common Christmas plants away from your cat so you can ensure a safe festivities for your feline friend.
1. Christmas trees
Undoubtedly the star of the festive season, Christmas trees can be dangerous to your cat because of their needles. If your feline friend does manage to swallow some needles, they could block, irritate or even puncture their digestive system. A fake Christmas tree is the safest type of Christmas tree to have around pets. However, if you prefer to decorate your home with a real tree, it's important to regularly vacuum up the pine needles that fall onto the floor.
Mistletoe is the plant of love at Christmas. However, you may not think of mistletoe as being quite so romantic anymore. It's a vicious parasite that keeps its green colour by sucking the nutrients from trees. It's highly toxic to cats, and if ingested, it can cause problems with breathing, diarrhoea, vomiting, shock and even in some cases, be fatal. Your cat only needs to eat a small amount of mistletoe to become ill. Meanwhile, larger quantities of it can cause lead to comas and death. If you like to include mistletoe in your Christmas celebrations, keep your cat safe by putting it well out of their reach.
Holly berries may be an important food source for birds during the winter, but they are a plant that's poisonous to cats and dogs. The berries contain toxins that are potentially life-threatening if ingested. Several varieties of holly berries contain saponins which can cause lip-smacking, drooling, head shaking, severe vomiting and diarrhoea. Don't assume that the plant's spikey leaves will put off a curious cat from investigating, so make sure you keep the plant well away from your feline friend.
These beautiful plants with their bright red leaves are very popular at Christmas. Poinsettias originally come from Mexico and reach their full bloom in December, so perfect for the festive season. While they may be a very pretty plant, their red leaves can be mildly toxic to pets. Eating poinsettia leaves can irritate your cat's skin cause oral pain, drooling, vomiting and digestive problems if consumed in large enough quantities. In rare case, it can be fatal. However, this usually only occurs in cats who are very young, elderly or dehydrated. Most pets don't eat anywhere near enough for this to happen. The best advice is to keep your poinsettia out of reach of your cat.
Another very popular Christmas plant is the amaryllis. It can keep its flowers for up to two months if well looked after. However, while they make a pretty gift, they are also very poisonous. The bulbs, flowers and stalks contain phenanthridine alkaloids which are very toxic to pets. Ingesting any part of the amaryllis plant can cause blood pressure changes, vomiting, tremors and seizures.
Lilies make beautiful Christmas bouquets. But as you might have guessed, certain types of lily are very dangerous to our feline friends. Lilies from the Lilium or Hemerocallis species contain highly toxic substances. Even if a cat only ingests two or three leaves or even the water from the vase, it can still prove fatal.
7. Christmas cactus
The Christmas cactus blooms just in time for Christmas, making it a popular yuletide plant. However, while the fibrous leaves may not be toxic to cats, they can cause irritation and mild stomach upset. So keep it well away from your cat.
8. Christmas rose
Despite not being related to the rose and not flowering in December, this hardy plant has become known as the Christmas rose. Originally called the black hellebore, it contains poisonous cardiotoxins. This can cause colic, diarrhoea, lethargy, abdominal pain and drooling if eaten. The whole plant is toxic, so any part of it can be dangerous to your beloved feline.
Ivy is another iconic Christmas plant that adorns many homes at Christmas. But if eaten by a curious cat, it can cause drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. In severe cases, you may spot blood in their faeces or vomit. But it's not just ingesting that can be dangerous to your cat. If ivy comes into contact with their skin, it can cause rashes and conjunctivitis.
While they might be more commonly associated with spring, daffodils can start appearing as early as December in a mild winter. But these pretty sunshine-yellow flowers contain a poisonous alkaloid that can trigger vomiting in cats. Meanwhile, the crystals found in the bulbs are severely toxic and if consumed, can cause cats to develop serious conditions such as respiratory depression or cardiac arrhythmias.
What to do if your cat eats a poisonous plant?
If your cat gets their paws on one of these plants and poisons themselves, call your vet immediately. It would be best for your cat if you got them seen by the vet within two hours of them consuming the plant. In the meantime, keep them hydrated, especially if they've been vomiting or have diarrhoea. It's a good idea to take some of the plant with you to the vet so they can ensure your cat receives the correct treatment.