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Holiday guide to cats and plants

From Amaryllis to Christmas Cactus, here are common holiday plants and the potential risk they pose to curious cats.

Holiday guide to cats and plants

The holidays are a time for family, friends, feasting, and fun. But for our feline companions, some of the plants we most often associate with holiday festivities can be dangerous—or even deadly.

To help you and your cats have a safe and worry-free holiday season, we’ve assembled this quick checklist of plants that may present a risk to cats.


A popular holiday plant, the Amaryllis is a showy flowering bulb native to the Western Cape region of South Africa. Despite its beauty, all parts of the plant (bulb, stem, leaf, and flower) contain the chemical lycorine and are toxic to cats (and dogs) if ingested. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and in extreme cases, death. Because of the high risk and given the easy availability of artificial alternatives, we recommend not exposing pets to this plant.

Note: lilies in general present a health risk to cats if ingested and should be avoided. If you believe your cat has ingested Amaryllis (or any member of the lily family), contact your vet immediately.


While not the most dangerous of holiday plants for pets, the colorful and instantly recognizable Poinsettia remains a “don’t” if you have cats. Curious felines that lick or ingest parts of the plant are known to experience gastric symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea, as well as skin and eye irritation, though these usually resolve without veterinary treatment in adult animals.

Note: If the plant has ben treated with a pesticide, however, there could be an added exposure risk, especially to young kittens. So the Poinsettia stays on the “naughty list” for another year.

Mistletoe & Holly

Both these holiday mainstays are more toxic than the Poinsettia and present a significant risk to cats if ingested. Mistletoe contains toxalbumin and phoratoxin viscumen—both of which are highly toxic to cats Ingestion can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as respiratory problems and a sudden and dangerous drop in blood pressure. In severe cases, seizures and death have occurred following ingestion of mistletoe or holly berries. It’s recommended that you keep both these plants out of your home if you have cats.

Christmas Cactus

This may be the only holiday plant to make the “nice list” as it is not toxic to cats (or dogs). Ingestion of any unfamiliar plant matter by cats, however, should be avoided, as it may result in stomach upset or other gastrointestinal symptoms.

A Note about Live Trees in the Home

A living Christmas tree can add a lovely holiday aroma to your home, but ingestion of pine needles or sap can be hazardous for cats. The oils from fir trees can cause drooling or vomiting, while the needles present a risk for gastrointestinal obstruction or puncture.

We hope this brief review presents you with useful health and safety information for your pets. As always, the health of our pets depends on the choices we make for them. We hope you’ll consider adding pet insurance to your list of pet-wellness choices and that you and your pets have a safe and joyous holiday season!

Editor’s Note: Decorations can pose a danger to curious cats. Here are tips for pet-proofing your decorations.

Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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