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Can Poinsettias Kill Your Cat?

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Can Poinsettias Kill Your Cat?

It’s possible that poinsettias get the bummest rap in all of the plant world. They’ve got a bad-girl reputation as deadly beauties, but is the ubiquitous holiday plant actually toxic? About 70 percent of the population will answer yes, and although every year there is a bumper crop of stories explaining otherwise–the myth persists. In reality, ingestion of excessive poinsettia may produce only mild to moderate gastrointestinal tract irritation, which can include drooling and vomiting–kind of like drinking too much brandy-spiked eggnog? The poor poinsettia, so misunderstood…

It all started back in the early part of the 20th century when the two-year-old child of a U.S. Army officer was alleged to have died from consuming a poinsettia leaf. As these things have a habit of doing, the toxic potential of poinsettia has become highly exaggerated–and many a cat-keeper now treat poinsettias as persona non grata (or, as the case may be, poinsettia non grata) in their households. Keeping this plant out of the reach of your pet to avoid stomach upset is still a good idea, but according to the ASPCA, you need not banish the poinsettia from your home for fear of a fatal exposure.

So poinsettias, consider yourself absolved. As for the other holiday fave? Mistletoe has the potential to cause cardiovascular problems (and not just from forced smooches)–however, mistletoe ingestion usually only causes gastrointestinal upset. But there are other common household plants that have been reported as having some serious systemic effects–and/or intense effects on the gastrointestinal tract on animals.

Next page: The ASPCA’s list of 17 top toxic plants to steer your kitty away from.

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Read more: Cats, Christmas, Pets, Safety, , , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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10:25AM PST on Nov 8, 2012

I have to bring my tender plants in for winter or they'll die. My kitties love to chew on the spider plant, it makes them vomit, like regular grass does that cats can eat safely. I have read in one place that spider plant is poisonous to cays, and in another that it is not. If anyone can clarify this for me I sure would be grateful.

2:01PM PST on Nov 6, 2012


2:21PM PDT on Oct 25, 2012

Thanks for posting!

5:01PM PDT on May 16, 2012


11:28PM PDT on Apr 13, 2012

Very interesting!

5:07AM PDT on Apr 1, 2012

good advice! thanks for sharing

8:45AM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

Really informative article!

6:00AM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

I would treat ALL house plants as suspect. Food plants such as herbs are often okay, but check first. Your cat is far more important than having houseplants.

8:31AM PDT on Mar 22, 2012

Thanks for the list. I work with plants and have cats and am constantly clarifying the effects of poinsettias for people at Christmas!

6:46AM PST on Mar 3, 2012

Thanks for the info.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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