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.