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C2003-48

Dear Christopher Cat

We just adopted two cats who are wonderful in every way, except that they like to play with plants. Which Christmas plants can we safely use for decoration?

Christopher Responds

Most of them.

Poinsettias are generally quite safe, despite rumors to the contrary. Those rumors have been traced to a 1918 report of a child’s death involving a plant erroneously identified as a poinsettia.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center reports that vomiting with loss of appetite and energy have been reported after ingestion, but these effects were mild and resolved on their own.

The same signs, along with diarrhea, have been reported after ingestion of Christmas cactus and holly. Again, signs were generally mild and resolved without specific treatment.

The toxicity of mistletoe, a parasitic vine, is influenced by the plant on which it is growing. Serious poisonings, which are infrequent, are characterized by vomiting and decreased energy.

If your cats vomit after eating any of these plants, restrict access to food and water for a couple of hours to quiet their stomachs. If signs persist, call your veterinarian.

To play it safe, keep your eye on the cats. If they chew the holiday plants, remove the plants when you can’t supervise the cats.

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