Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats? Can This Pretty Holiday Plant Be Harmful to Your Cat?

Young Cat Sitting On A Couch Decorated With Ponsettias
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Poinsettias are a staple of the Christmas season. However, this plant can make your cat sick, and it's better to be safe than sorry. Learn more here.

When the holiday season rolls around, you often hear people worrying about buying a poinsettia plant out of fear that they are poisonous to cats—but is this really true? According to the ASPCA and Pet Poison Helpline, poinsettias are not deadly, but they are toxic enough to make your cat mildly sick.

While poinsettias are in a group of toxic plants, they are only mildly poisonous to humans and animals. The white sap in the plant can cause skin or digestive irritation, but it would have to be consumed in huge quantities to be deadly. The bad flavor should discourage eating more than a couple of bites, but it is still worth taking precautions to keep these plants away from your cat or out of the house altogether.

Symptoms of Poinsettia Consumption

Eating poinsettia leaves can cause a cat to drool, vomit, or have diarrhea, but cats rarely eat enough to warrant medical attention. That said, some cats may be more sensitive and have a more extreme reaction.

Skin irritation, swelling, and redness, especially around the mouth, can also occur if the skin comes into contact with the white sap. On rare occasions, if sap gets into an eye, it can cause conjunctivitis and swelling. Poinsettias are dangerous to cats because of the secondary effects of consumption or contact.


Most cats who ingest a small amount of poinsettia leaves don't require any treatment. Veterinary treatment is only necessary in extreme cases. If the symptoms are mild and your cat is quickly improving, you should be able to take care of them at home.

If your cat vomits, remove food and water for a few hours, then reintroduce fluids with bland food. You can wash irritated skin with soap and water, but it will eventually clear up on its own. Remove the poinsettia to keep your cat from chewing on it again.

Other Hidden Dangers

While poinsettias may not be severely toxic for cats, the hype about them has kept people from being aware of other dangers and more poisonous holiday plants. Since poinsettias are so popular, they are often mass-produced at the end of the year. As such, they are sometimes grown with harsh pesticides, which can cause major or fatal damage to your cat if ingested.

Other holiday plants are also more dangerous than poinsettias, especially lilies, holly, and mistletoe. Every part of a lily is considered poisonous to cats, even the pollen and small amounts eaten by your cat can lead to kidney failure.

If you have a curious or plant-loving cat, and you can't place your poinsettia out of reach, it's probably not worth it to have one in your home this year. If you watch out for poinsettias and other dangerous plants as you decorate, you and your cat should have a nice, safe holiday.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most toxic plant to cats?

There are several plants that are toxic to cats, but one of the most toxic plants is the lily. All parts of the lily plant are toxic to cats, including the leaves, flowers, and pollen. Ingestion of even a small amount of the plant can lead to acute kidney failure in cats, which can be fatal if not treated promptly. Other toxic plants to cats include azaleas, rhododendrons, oleander, sago palm, and yew.

Are Christmas plants safe for cats?

Some Christmas plants can be toxic to cats, so it's important to be careful when bringing them into your home. As mentioned above, Poinsettias can cause gastrointestinal upset and irritation of the mouth and throat if ingested by cats. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset, difficulty breathing, and even heart failure if ingested by cats. Holly can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy if ingested by cats. Amaryllis can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, and tremors if ingested by cats. It's best to avoid having these plants in your home if you have cats or to keep them well out of reach.

Do cats know not to eat toxic plants?

Cats are generally curious creatures and may be attracted to plants that are toxic to them. While some cats may instinctively avoid toxic plants, others may not recognize the danger and may try to nibble on or ingest them. Additionally, some cats may be more sensitive to certain toxins than others, and even small amounts of some plants can be extremely harmful. To prevent your cat from being exposed to toxic plants, it's best to keep these plants out of reach.

What Christmas plants are cat friendly?

If you're looking for Christmas plants that are safe for cats, there are a few options to consider. Christmas cactus adds a lovely touch of color to your holiday decor. Spider plants can be a fun addition to your holiday decor. African violet produces pretty purple flowers that can add a pop of color to your home during the holiday season. Christmas rose is also known as a hellebore and is safe for cats. It produces lovely white or pink flowers and can add a touch of elegance to your holiday decor. While these plants are generally considered safe for cats, it's always a good idea to supervise your pet and prevent them from nibbling on any plants, just to be safe.

What plant do cats hate most?

Rue (Ruta graveolens), Coleus canina (also known as Scaredy Cat Plant or Plectranthus caninus), and lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) are all plants that are said to be disliked by cats due to their strong scents. Rue is a herb with a strong, pungent odor that is said to be unpleasant to cats. However, it's important to note that rue can be toxic to cats if ingested in large quantities. Coleus canina is a plant that is often marketed as a cat repellent due to its strong odor, which is said to be similar to that of a skunk. While some cats may be deterred by the smell, others may not mind it. Lemon thyme is an herb with a lemony scent that is sometimes used as a natural insect repellent. While some cats may be averse to the scent of lemon thyme, others may not be bothered by it. Cats may also dislike the strong scent of citronella, which is often used in candles and insect repellents. While some cats may be attracted to the smell of lavender, others may find it unpleasant. The scent of rosemary may be unpleasant to some cats, but others may not mind it. The scent of pennyroyal, a type of mint sometimes used as a natural flea repellent, may be unpleasant to cats.

More on Cat Health

Why Chocolate is Bad for Dogs and Cats
Poisonous Plants to Dogs and Cats
The Most Poisonous Foods for Cats

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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