Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats? | Almanac.com

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats?

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Busting the Christmas Poinsettia toxicity myth

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Are poinsettias poisonous to cats? Let’s lay to rest once and for all the popular myth that poinsettias are dangerously poisonous to pets—or people.

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Pets?

While sometimes hyped up as deadly poisonous plants, poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) plants are only mildly toxic to cats and dogs.

Poinsettias are members of the genus Euphorbia, which includes many plants known for a white, milky, latex sap that contains chemicals called diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin-like detergents. When animals ingest poinsettia leaves, they may show mild signs of drooling and mild vomiting. Skin irritation can occur from the white milky sap, too. In general, medical treatment is rarely needed.

This is NOT to say that you should go feeding your cats and dogs poinsettia leaves daily, but rather that if Fluffy takes one bite out of a leaf, you shouldn’t feel the need to rush her to the nearest veterinarian ER!

Credit: petpoisonhelpline.com

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Humans?

What about people? Thanks to an urban legend that began circulating in the early 1900s, it’s commonly believed that poinsettia leaves are toxic enough to kill a small child. Years ago, researchers at Ohio State University fed huge quantities of poinsettia parts to rats, and no ill effects were seen. A 50-pound child would have to eat 500 leaves to replicate their test. (That said, people with latex allergies can be sensitive to the milky sap and should be careful when handling the plants to avoid a rash.)

Still, it’s best not to have animals or children eating plants since the sap can cause a mildly upset tummy and skin irritation. Keep plants out of reach, but don’t treat them like poison ivy.

Fortunately, poinsettia leaves have such an awful taste that animals and children will likely have difficulty eating large amounts of them!

Similarly, holly and mistletoe are toxic to children and pets. They will induce vomiting and diarrhea—and can even be fatal in large quantities. 

→ See plants that are poisonous to cats.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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