Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 6, 2023 by Crystal Uys


Ever year this time of year, we  hear how dangerous poinsettias are for cats. While they contain a milky sap that can cause digestive upset, such as vomiting, drooling, or rarely, diarrhea, there are other holiday hazards that are far more dangerous.

Top 5 Holiday Cat Hazards

  • Decorations: Tinsel, glass ornaments, spray on snow/flocking, foil, plastic wrap/shrink-wrap, styrofoam peanuts and ribbon can all be life-threatening if eaten by your cat. When lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines, they may require emergency surgery.
  • Mistletoe: The plant, and particularly the berries, are extremely toxic to pets. The most severe cases can cause low blood pressure, stumbling and even seizures.
  • Christmas lilies: All plants in the lily family are are highly toxic to cats. Just one small bite of a flower, leaf, stem or even the pollen of this plant can cause gastric distress, and, if left untreated, can lead to fatal kidney failure.
  • Christmas tree preservatives: Tree preservatives added to the tree stand can harbor dangerous chemicals, and a thirsty or curious cat may decide to use the tree stand as a drinking bowl.
  • Potpourri:  Many liquid potpourri products and essential oils, including oil of cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree (melaleuca), wintergreen, and ylang ylang, are poisonous to cats. Both ingestion and skin exposure can be toxic. Additionally, a cat’s sense of smell is so much more developed than ours, and what smells nice to us can be overpowering for sensitive feline noses.

Never try to pull out a string or object that is protruding from your cat’s mouth. Take your cat to your veterinarian or the nearest emergency clinic immediately.

The veterinarians at VRCC Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Hospital in Englewood, CO, sent me some rather dramatic x-ray images of Hank, a cat who swallowed thread that was used for stringing popcorn – with the needle still attached. Click on the images to enlarge.

x-ray cat needle and thread x-ray cat ate needle and thread

Luckily, Hank’s case had a good outcome: his internal medicine specialist was able to remove the needle and the string using an endoscope.

By taking some common sense precautions, you and your feline family members can all enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.

This post was first published in November of 2011 and has been updated.

About the author