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Are Christmas Cactus Poisonous to Cats? What You Need To Know!

white british cat lying

The holidays are upon us! One aspect of the holidays people enjoy, particularly during Christmas, is breaking out the Christmas greenery—such as the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii). However, plants and pets don’t always make for the best mix.

Before you put out your Christmas cactus (or any other Christmas green), you need to know whether there’s a risk to your pets, just in case they decide it looks tasty and end up chowing down. So, is the Christmas cactus poisonous to cats? Turns out the plant itself is non-toxic, but there could still be a risk to your kitty depending on how the plant was grown.

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What Is Christmas Cactus?

hristmas cactus in bloom
Image Credit: Muecke, Pixabay

Christmas cactus is a plant native to Brazil known for blooming around Christmastime. Because it’s a tropical cactus, it looks a bit different than the stereotypical desert cactus you’re probably imagining. There are similarities, but this cactus actually has stems that arch when they grow, making it look like a crab. Plus, this plant produces flowers that can range from pink to orange to white and more.

Are Christmas Cactus Poisonous to Cats?

Christmas cactus is not poisonous to your cats, according to the ASPCA, making it a safe plant to have around during Christmas. However, chemicals used on the plant during growing, like insecticides or fertilizers, may very well be.

Even if no chemicals were used on the plant, there could still be consequences if your pet gets into it. While it isn’t toxic, eating flowers or stems could have side effects such as digestion issues, vomiting, and diarrhea. And, if you have a kitty who has sensitivities to foods, there is a possibility they could have an allergic reaction.

If you take precautions, though, your pet should be perfectly safe this holiday season.

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How Can I Fix a Christmas Cactus My Cat Broke?

If your Christmas cactus gets its stems broken off by a curious kitty, you can still save the plant! Or, rather, you can make new Christmas cacti by doing what’s called “rooting the stems”.

First, you’ll lay broken stems out for a day or two to let any broken ends develop a callus. Then, you’ll need to plant them in pots containing potting soil for cacti. Place them in an area that has a lot of humidity, as higher humidity will help the stems root. Then, in 3-8 weeks, you should have the beginnings of a new plant!

What Christmas Plants Are Poisonous to Cats?

Christmas cactus may be non-toxic for cats, but there are other Christmas plants that are very bad for kitty. These include:

  • Mistletoe & holly. Mistletoe contains more than one substance that can be toxic to cats. If your cat decides to make a snack of this plant, you could be looking at a pet with abdominal pain, vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, hallucinations (which will appear as strange behavior), issues with breathing, sudden & sharp drop in blood pressure, seizure, and death. This is one plant that’s best left out of your home.
  • Jerusalem Cherry. Jerusalem cherry, or winter cherry, is a part of the nightshade species and can be quite toxic for animals. Your cat eating this plant can result in gastrointestinal issues, diarrhea, respiratory depression, seizures, and shock.
  • Lilies are particularly deadly to cats if ingested. Even eating just a couple of leaves could be fatal for your pet. If your kitty has gotten into this plant, you’ll see vomiting and dehydration, which could lead to kidney failure if left untreated.
  • Fir Christmas tree. Fir Christmas trees can be harmful to your cat in numerous ways. Not only does the tree contain oils that can cause lots of vomiting and irritate your pet’s mouth, but when eaten, the needles of the tree can cause internal punctures and obstruction. That’s not all, though. The water your tree sits in can contain fertilizer, mold, and bacteria that can make your kitty ill after only a couple of sips. If you have a Christmas tree, be sure that it’s blocked off so your cat can’t get in to play.

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Why Do Cats Eat Plants Anyway?

grey tabby cat eating spider plant
Image Credit: Beatrice Abrahamsson, Shutterstock

If cats are carnivores, why do they eat plants anyway? There are a handful of reasons our feline friends get into our greens.

One reason they do so is to get rid of internal parasites. They don’t really need to eat plants to do so since we give them medication that accomplishes this, but it seems to be an ingrained instinct. Big cats in the wild often eat plants to rid their bodies of parasites.

Other reasons cats like to chow down on greenery? The ever-present kitty curiosity, plus boredom. They may also accidentally ingest plant matter in the process of playing with enticing looking plants.

How Can I Keep My Cat Away From Plants?

Now you know what to keep your cats away from this Christmas, but the question remains — how do you keep them away? Cats like to get into everything they can get their tiny paws on, so keeping them away from specific items can be difficult. The best and easiest way to keep your pets away from toxic greenery is to keep the plants far out of reach. Placing plants in planters you can hang from the ceiling should keep them plenty high enough.

If you aren’t able to keep your plants in hanging planters, then you can try the use of a deterrent spray to keep your cat away. There are plenty you can purchase, but you can also make one from either vinegar and water or citrus juice and water. Spray a bit on the leaves, and hopefully, it will do its job. Just don’t pour any deterrents directly into the pot, as it could cause your plant to die.

Finally, if you’re able to keep a close eye on your pet, you can use a good, old-fashioned spray bottle with water to deter them from getting into anything dangerous.

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Conclusion

Christmas cactus isn’t a poisonous plant for cats, but it can still make them ill if chemicals were used on it. So, keep your pet safe during the holidays by being careful with what plants you have in your home and keeping things out of reach when possible. But, overall, Christmas cactus is one of the safer plants you can have this Christmas.


Featured Image Credit: EleniaPhoto, Shutterstock

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