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COLUMN: Which plants are safe for pets

Rosanne LoParco
Sentinel columnist
Posted 11/27/22

The holidays are upon us and potted plants make perfect gifts. They can also serve as decorations around the home while bringing good cheer.

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COLUMN: Which plants are safe for pets


The holidays are upon us and potted plants make perfect gifts. They can also serve as decorations around the home while bringing good cheer. However, if you or a loved one has a pet, you need to take extra care when selecting which plants to bring into the home. Many cats and dogs just can’t pass up investigating a new plant or an arrangement of plants. If you have a curious cat or dog who might want to sample the plants you receive or bring home for the holidays, be sure that the plants are not known to have toxic effects on your pet family.

Some of the most popular holiday plants can be quite toxic to cats and dogs if ingested. Just how poisonous they are depends on the size of the animal and how much is ingested. If eaten, many plants can cause abnormal behavior, vomiting or diarrhea.

The following common holiday plants are toxic and should be avoided if you have pets: Holly (Ilex), azalea (rhododendron), yew (taxus), boxwood (buxus), amaryllis, cyclamen, kalanchoe, peace lily (spathiphyllum), mistletoe, chrysanthemum, gardenia.

Poinsettia is a popular holiday plant. Technically, this plant is not toxic; its sap causes skin irritation in humans. However, pets can also be impacted by this sap, and if enough of the plant is ingested, pets can get sick. It’s best to also avoid poinsettia if you have pets. Be aware that even if a plant like the poinsettia is considered non-toxic, eating it can still cause vomiting or gastrointestinal upset for dogs and cats. Pine tree needles from Christmas trees or other decorations can cause a pet’s mouth to become irritated and may also be toxic depending on the variety of the evergreen.

There are many nice alternative plants to consider during the holidays that aren’t poisonous.

Here are some good choices: Christmas cactus, African violet, phalanopsis orchid, bromeliad, rose, Boston fern, peperomia, prayer plant, spider plant, Swedish ivy, polka dot plant.

Don’t depend on just a list to guide you. When it comes to safety for your pets, it’s always a best practice to keep plants completely out of their reach. Consumption of any plant material may cause upsets for dogs and cats. Always keep your veterinarian contact information handy. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) provides great information and lists of toxic and non-toxic plants, broken out for dogs, cats, and even horses. Visit their website at They also have a 24 hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

Plants make perfect decorations and gifts during Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, be sure your pets as well as your children enjoy the holidays by insuring the plants are safe.


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