Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats?

Updated: 7/7/20242-4 minutes
striped cat sitting on owner's lap during the holidays

When it’s time to deck the halls for the holidays, many are quick to reach for the vibrant red flowers called poinsettias. But if you’re a cat owner, you might want to pause before bringing these festive flowers home. Because if you’re wondering, Are poinsettias poisonous to cats?, the short answer is yes. In this article, you’ll not only learn why the poinsettia is bad for cats, but you’ll also learn: 

  • Symptoms of poinsettia poisoning in cats 
  • What to do if your cat eats a poinsettia 
  • When to contact your vet if your cat ingests a poinsettia

The Origins of the Poinsettia Flower

The poinsettia’s scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima. It’s a plant that originated in Central America and was later cultivated by the Aztecs of Mexico. Nowadays, you can find them in homes all around the world during Christmastime. And while you may be familiar with keeping your cat away from Christmas trees, you’ll also want to keep them away from poinsettias. Continue reading to learn why the poinsettia is toxic to cats.

Causes of Poinsettia Poisoning in Cats

While the poinsettia flower may seem harmless, it is mildly toxic to cats. Within the leaves of this bright red flower, there’s a milky white sap that can irritate your cat if it’s ingested or touches your cat’s skin. The chemical names for this milky white sap are diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin-like detergents. These chemicals can be found in household cleaners. Whether your cat eats poinsettia leaves, flowers or the stem, you may start to see a number of symptoms, which are described later in this article.

What to Do if Your Cat Ate a Poinsettia

Your cat ate a poinsettia? First of all, don’t panic. Remove the poinsettia from your cat’s reach. Finding a safe, secure place to hide a poinsettia might be a challenge as cats love to climb to high places. So, know that a shelf or fireplace mantle may not be the safest place.

Next, know that while the poinsettia is toxic for cats, they need to ingest a lot of poinsettia for the situation to become serious. Typically, a cat will exhibit some symptoms but will eventually recover without veterinary assistance. However, there are cases that warrant a call to your vet. Continue reading to learn about the symptoms and when it is the right time to consult your vet.

Signs of Poinsettia Poisoning in Cats

My cat ate a poinsettia leaf. Now what? Monitor your cat for symptoms. Here are common signs of poinsettia ingestion to watch for.

  • Irritation to the mouth or esophagus 
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea

If vomiting lasts for more than 24 hours, seek veterinary care. Also, if you start to notice your cat is lethargic, appears unsteady or vomits, again, contact your vet. They can conduct a thorough evaluation and recommend the best course of action.

In the hours leading up to your cat’s vet appointment, take note of their symptoms. If they’re experiencing diarrhea, make note of the appearance of their stool and frequency of their bowel movements. Bring these notes to the vet appointment.

In case your vet office is closed at the time your cat needs to be seen, you can also contact the Animal Poison Control Center. They can be reached by phone at (888) 426-4435 and can provide immediate guidance.

Treatment for Poinsettia Poisoning in Cats

If you notice the symptoms of your cat eating a poinsettia getting worse, contact your vet. While your vet won’t be able to prescribe treatment or a cure for poinsettia cat poisoning, they can recommend ways to keep your cat comfortable as your cat’s body works to rid the toxic sap. They could also prescribe medication to induce vomiting, administer activated charcoal and/or provide IV fluids to remove the toxins from your cat’s body.

How to Keep Cats Away from Poinsettias

Now that you’ve learned what to do if a cat eats a poinsettia plant, it’s good to be aware of the preventative measures you can take so that your cat isn’t tempted to get a taste.

Cats and poinsettia plants don’t mix, so it’s best to keep them away from your cat. Your immediate thought may be to place the plant out of reach in a high place, such as a shelf or fireplace mantle, but because cats like to climb, you may end up placing the plant in a location that’s more desirable. It’s better to place the plant behind closed doors so your cat can’t access it. Or better yet, don’t bring a poinsettia home at all. To keep your cat completely safe, it’s not worth the risk. 

Other Holiday Plants to Keep Away from Your Cat

Yes, poinsettia plants are toxic to cats, but there are a number of other holiday plants that are toxic to cats, too. Consider your holiday tree as well as the amaryllis flower, holly, mistletoe, lilies and azaleas. While many people use these plants in their homes during the holidays and throughout the year, in some cases, they pose a risk to cats. And for these reasons, it’s better to stick with cat-safe plants and décor – or opt for artificial plants if you can’t part with them.

You’ve now learned all about whether the poinsettia is harmful to cats, and what to do if your cat does consume all or part of this holiday flower. Consider yourself well-equipped!

For more expert tips on caring for your cat, explore our other cat routine care articles.

 

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