Is a christmas tree poisonous to cats?

What symptoms can you notice in your cat?

It’s obviously super cozy and atmospheric to bring a christmas tree into your home. But if you also have one or more cats, you naturally wonder: “is a christmas tree poisonous to cats?” Especially if your cat is nibbling on those twigs or drinking from the water where your christmas tree stands. In this article, we explain the dangers of a christmas tree, including how poisonous your christmas tree is for your cat. We also give you tips on how to keep those curious cat friends away from your tree. That way, we hope you’ll have truly carefree and pleasant holidays, without dangers and poisonings.


a cat is playing with a poisonous christmas tree branch.

Christmas tree poisonous for a cat?

When your cat bites, gnaws, swallows some of it, or drinks the water in which your christmas tree stands, it can ingest certain toxic substances that these trees contain. These substances are also known as “terpenes.” These toxic substances cause damage to their mucous membranes.

Mucous membranes are all the pink layers you see in their little mouth, on their tongue, and in the back of their throat. But also, their esophagus, stomach, and intestines are covered with them. These mucous membranes have an important function, depending on the organ. In the mouth and throat, they make a part of the mucus that allows food to slide more easily; in the stomach, they protect the stomach from the acids inside; and in the intestines, they ensure that nutrients are absorbed and water can pass from the intestinal cavity to the intestinal wall.

If these mucous membranes are damaged, it can prevent the mucous membrane from performing its function. The result is that a cat feels nauseous and starts vomiting or gets diarrhea. Your cat clearly doesn’t feel good from this, but this reaction is handy. Because this way, the toxic substance, in this case the terpenes, is removed from its body in the fastest way.

    What symptoms does a cat get from a christmas tree?

    Now that you have an answer to the question: “is a christmas tree poisonous to cats?”, you might wonder what symptoms your cat gets when it bites, gnaws, or even eats the christmas tree. Fortunately, the chance of your cat dying from eating a poisonous piece of the christmas tree is virtually nil. You can notice the following symptoms in your cat if it has ingested too many toxic terpenes:

    The chance of life-threatening consequences from eating a poisonous piece of the christmas tree is virtually negligible. So you don’t have to worry about that. The amount of toxic terpenes that a cat ingests is never so much that it can die from it or get other severe symptoms such as neurological problems. Also, the fact that cats would get kidney failure or liver problems as a result of eating the christmas tree is incorrect, although you read that on many websites.


    kitten is playing with the ornaments in the christmas tree, which is dangerous.

    Your cat eats, gnaws, or bites a christmas tree

    Because the structure of the christmas tree twigs is damaged in this process, the toxic terpenes can be released. When your cat only gnaws or bites on the twig, its complaints will only arise in its mouth. Then, pain can occur in the days after eating the piece of christmas tree due to inflammations in the mouth. You can also see darker red spots appearing in its mouth. In most cases, this will resolve itself after about 5 days. Very occasionally, an infection can develop in those wounds, and an antibiotic course is needed to heal the inflammations. If your cat is in a lot of pain and suffering, it is better to go to your veterinarian.

    However, if your cat actually eats the twigs or needles of the christmas tree and thus gets them into its gastrointestinal system, inflammations can also occur in its gastrointestinal system. In that case, your cat will become nauseous, want to eat less, start vomiting, and/or get diarrhea. Very annoying, of course, but certainly not deadly for your cat. Is a christmas tree poisonous to cats? Yes, they are. But certainly not to the extent that it is life-threatening for them.

    cat is chewing on a christmas tree branch that is poisonous for a cat.

    Your cat drinks from the christmas tree stand

    If you put the christmas tree in a container with water, the christmas tree will release toxic terpenes into this water. However, the amount the christmas tree releases depends on several factors:

      • You can refresh the water for the christmas tree. The longer the water has been in contact with the christmas tree, the more toxic terpenes it will contain.
      • If the water is warmer, the amount of toxic terpenes released will be higher.
      • Try to make the water of the christmas tree inaccessible to cats (and dogs). But by refreshing it every few days, you also prevent high doses of toxic terpenes in the water. The chance that your cat will get gastrointestinal problems from drinking the christmas tree water is then even smaller than it already was. Or simply buy a christmas tree with a clod. Then it can’t drink it at all. Each type of christmas tree can release more or less toxic terpenes, so not every type of christmas tree is equally poisonous to cats.
      • If the christmas tree has just been cut, it will release more toxic terpenes than if it was cut a longer time ago.
    Cat might have an allergic reaction from a christmas tree

    Can a cat have an allergic reaction to a christmas tree?

    In principle, every cat can have an allergic reaction to any substance or plant. In a very severe case, it can be an anaphylactic shock, the most dangerous allergic reaction. However, as far as is known, it has never been shown from an autopsy that a cat died as a result of an anaphylactic reaction to the christmas tree. So although it is theoretically possible, we never actually see this in practice.

    Other forms of an allergic reaction are possible. In this case, your cat may have skin inflammations and itching. But we also see this very rarely.

    Generally, you can say that cats that show an allergic reaction to a christmas tree have also previously shown other forms of allergic reactions to other substances.

    What other dangers does a christmas tree pose?

    Falling Tree
    If your cat pulls on a twig or garland in the tree or plays wildly with it, there is a chance that your christmas tree will fall over. Your cat can end up under the tree and get injured in this way. Bone fractures are not uncommon in such cases.

    Sharp Needles
    The needles of the christmas tree can prick the paws of the cat. This can sometimes cause wounds. The needles can also get stuck in the cat’s mouth or between its teeth, resulting in inflammations.

    Small Decorations
    Small decorations, like little balls, can choke your cat. Or they can get stuck in its intestines, leading to death. Some types of artificial snow can also be poisonous to your cat. Sturdy christmas tree chains can get stuck around your cat’s neck, causing it to choke. In addition, your cat can break a glass christmas ornament, stepping on the glass. And finally, ribbons in the christmas tree are also dangerous. They can cause serious problems in the intestines if eaten.

    If your cat chews on the christmas lights, there is a risk of a deadly electric shock if this cord is plugged into an outlet. It is safer for cats if you use lights that work on batteries.

    How to keep your cat out of the christmas tree?

    Now that you have an answer to the question “is a Christmas tree poisonous to cats”, you want to keep your cat away from the Christmas tree. This is often a challenge. Especially young cats love to climb in the tree, and shiny things are also attractive. The following tips will help you limit the danger of the Christmas tree to your cat:

    • Place your Christmas tree as far away as possible from furniture or shelves that your cat can use as a stepping stone to jump into the tree.
    • Use cat-friendly decorations such as plastic Christmas balls and other ornaments. And hang them out of reach of cat paws.


    cat friendly christmas tree decorations
    • Spray citrus scent around the tree on the ground. Cats do not like this. Do not spray it on the tree; it doesn’t like that either.
    Cat repellent
    • Make sure the water in which the Christmas tree stands is covered. If this is not possible, refresh it regularly.


    christmas tree standard cat safe
    • Use aluminum foil or double-sided tape around the base of the tree. Cats don’t like the feeling on their paws.
    • Try to train your cat not to come near the tree. You can do this by clapping your hands loudly or giving a shout so that your cat gets scared every time it comes near the tree. He will probably understand in time that the Christmas tree is not meant for him. There are, however, stubborn cats. Optionally, you can also spray your cat with a plant sprayer with water.
    • Keep an eye on your cat as much as possible when it is near the Christmas tree. This is especially true if you have just set up your Christmas tree and it is new and exciting for your cat.
    • If you really have a stubborn cat, you can use commercial cat repellents to keep your cat away from the Christmas tree.


    PetSafe SSSCAT Spray Pet Deterrent

    Which christmas tree is suitable for cats?

    Unfortunately, these toxic terpenes are present in all types of spruce. So, there is no christmas tree that doesn’t contain terpenes and is thus safe for cats. Therefore, it is wiser to bring an artificial christmas tree into your home. They do not contain toxic terpenes. But of course, this does not eliminate all danger, as an artificial christmas tree can also fall over and contains decorations that can be dangerous for cats. Sometimes it’s wiser to make your home cozy in a different way than with a christmas tree.

    Christmas decoration

    Christmas tree out, cat tree in!

    If you decide to get rid of the christmas tree, whether before or after the holidays, it’s still nice to put a large plant in its place. Then consider this cat tree! Your cat will love this. That way, you don’t have to worry anymore about the question “is a christmas tree poisonous to cats?”. Happy holidays!
    Cat tree