Are Christmas Trees Toxic to Cats?

Are Christmas Trees Toxic to Cats?

are christmas trees toxic to cats

Christmas trees, lights, baubles and ornaments make for beautiful holiday decorations but these festive staples can also pose safety risks to pets. From electrical hazards to choking and strangulation dangers, both real and artificial trees can present potential threats for our furry friends. Here, a look at some of the most common risks and how to avoid them.

Aside from the obvious risk of tripping or falling over a tree, both live and artificial trees pose the same threat to cats as they do dogs: pine needles can cause gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting and blockages. They can also puncture or pierce the intestine lining. Artificial trees can also pose a hazard, depending on the type of tinsel used, which can cause intestinal blockages and even death if eaten. Tinsel can also become tangled in a cat or dog’s fur, leading to a choking hazard.

Both live and artificial trees can be a tripping and climbing hazard for cats and can fall over if not properly secured or placed in the room. This can lead to injuries or even property damage if the tree is located near the front door.

Artificial trees aren’t immune to these issues either as they can contain a variety of toxic chemicals that can be harmful to pets, such as lead and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Some PVCs are referred to as the “wrapper” or “foam core” of artificial trees, which can easily cut or injure your pet. Other chemicals in the tree, such as phenols and glycols, can be toxic to both dogs and cats and can cause a range of symptoms including drooling, stomach upset, seizures, respiratory depression and even death.

Live and fake trees can also contain preservatives and fertilizers in the base that can be harmful to both dogs and cats if they ingest the water or lick the needles. To avoid these hazards, be sure to change out the water often and use a container that is pet-safe.

Another problem that can be associated with both live and fake trees is the use of ornaments, which may break or clink against each other and create a tripping hazard. Ornaments with flexible hooks, which are commonly used on Christmas trees, can also cause injury if a cat or dog tries to eat them. They can shard the mouth, esophagus, throat and stomach or puncture the intestine lining. For these reasons, only use shatterproof and non-toxic ornaments on your tree and keep them out of reach from your pet.

In addition to being a tripping hazard, both live and fake trees can be a source of psychological distress for cats and dogs who see the tree as a new invader in their home. This can manifest as marking behaviors, such as scratching and urine spraying, that can be quite upsetting for pet parents.

To help deter your cat from going near the tree, try placing a piece of tin foil around its base. This is an easy and inexpensive solution that will make it difficult for your pet to get close enough to gnaw or claw. Alternatively, try using a barrier such as the Primetime Petz 360 Configurable Gate with Door or one of the many other options available on the market. Or, use a deterrent spray that smells unpleasant to your feline friend, like bitter apple or TropiClean Stay Away Chew Deterrent, which will help teach them that the tree is off-limits.