It’s a cat-owners rite of passage to endure at least one Christmas-tree related incident with their cat.
The tree, the smells, the baubles and the glittering lights are like a playland for a curious cat, and unfortunately our feline friends just aren’t familiar enough with gravity, physics and common sense to understand that jumping onto a tree, or attempting to climb up it, just won’t end well. However, all jokes aside, if you prefer a real fir or pine tree over a fake plastic Christmas tree you may be outing your little furry-friends health at risk.
Are Christmas trees poisonous to cats?
Although the most common Christmas trees, such as real pine or fir trees, aren’t toxic to cats should your four-legged pal simply brush past it, if your kitty should eat pine needles, sap, drink the water or chew on the branches you may find yourself in hot water.
Cat behaviour expert Marilyn Krieger of CCBC told Petcha that “pine needles can be ingested and puncture intestines, and pine is highly toxic to cats, potentially causing liver damage and death. Additionally, the water that cut trees are placed into is toxic. It usually contains pine resin, preservatives and fire retardants.”
Marilyn went of to say that artificla trees are generally safer, but if chewed on the plastic leaves can cause intestinal blockage.
The first signs of pine Christmas tree poisoning in cats include lethargic behavior and digestive issues, vomiting and diarrhea. If your real Christmas tree has been sprayed with fertilisers and chemicals poisoning symptons in cats can include changes in hunger, thirst and frequency or urination, discolouration of the gums, digestive stress, muscle weakness, drooling and unusual breathing. See a vet immediately.
Fir Christmas tree oils can also be irritating to a cats mouth and stomach, causing excessive drooling or vomiting if ingested, reports The Spruce.
Other holiday plants that are poisonous to cats
According to The Spruce Pets, Mistletoe and Holly are also poisonous to cats when you decorate with the real deal. Cat World also reports that Poinsetta flowers are also mildly poisonous to cats if ingested. Call your vet should your pet eat any of these plants.
How you can avoid a holiday disaster
1. Australian retailer Pet Warehouse recommends investing in a faux Christmas tree with in-built lights and soft greenery to reduce the damage the tree can do to your cat.
2. If you have a real tree and the base has water in it, use a cover or tree skirt so your cat doesn’t have access to the water source, which can have adverse affects on your cat if drunk.
3. Consider using an anti-scratch spray to deter your cat from pawing at the tree.
4. PETA recommends keeping your tree away from launching zones, such as tables, chairs and other places your cat usually climbs, and wrapping the tree base in foil or popping a sheet beneath it, as cats supposedly don’t like the feel of foil on their paws.
5. Give your tree a good wash with the hose outside and let it dry off before brining it it.
While there are risks to having a real Christmas tree in your home, there are very few risks to having an artificial tree inside, besides your cat chewing on the branches and pulling it over. Dr Leonie Richards, Head of General Practice at the University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Veterinary Hospital writes that “a serious mishap is as unlikely as waking in on Christmas morning to find Santa stuck in the chimney. You can never say never, but it’s not as high on the cards as just a mess.”
You might also like: