Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a flowering plant native to Mexico, which is typically characterized by its green leaves, red bracts, and yellow flowers. On one hand, it is a popular Christmas plant―thanks to its vibrant red and green colors―on the other, it is allegedly poisonous and thus, fatal for pet animals and humans.
Is Poinsettia Really Toxic to Cats?
The rumor that poinsettia plants are harmful for children and pets can be traced back to an incident in 1919, wherein a military officer's child died due to poisoning and the death was wrongly believed to be caused due to poinsettia leaf poisoning. Since then, poinsettia plants have a earned a bad reputation and are considered as extremely poisonous. According to some researchers, a child will have to eat more than 500 to 600 poinsettia leaves and exceed experimental doses to show any signs of toxicity. As for cats, it can be a little harmful, but not fatal.
The parts of poinsettia that can harm your cat are leaves and stem. The plant contains milky sap that can cause irritation in mouth and stomach. Diarrhea, vomiting, and drooling are some health ailments caused due to the ingestion of this sap. If experts at the Animal Poison Control Center are to be believed, poinsettia plants can cause mild reactions, like gastrointestinal tract irritation in animals, and therefore, pets should be kept away from them. There is no need to banish the plant from indoors though.
How to Prevent Your Cat from Eating Poinsettia?
If your cat is old or if it suffers from some illness, then it may show severe symptoms after ingesting poinsettia sap. So, it's wise to ensure that the cat doesn't go anywhere near the plant. One of the simplest methods to do so, is to keep the plant out of your cat's reach. Since, it's an indoor plant, you can place it in a room that is inaccessible to the cat. Another method is to add plants like cat grass, which are liked by cats. In this way, your cat won't be attracted towards the poinsettia. And if the cat continues to roam around the poinsettia plant, then you will have to keep an eye on it.
What to do if Your Cat Eats Poinsettia?
You don't need to panic if your cat ingests poinsettia sap, as it is not a medical emergency. Remember, poinsettias won't kill your cat! If the cat has eaten just one or two leaves, you don't even have to worry about its health. Usually no treatment is necessary, but it is recommended that you limit the cat's water and food intake for at least two days. However, if the cat has ingested the sap in a large quantity, it is wise to consult a veterinarian. The symptoms of poinsettia poisoning, like vomiting, nausea, and depression, are observed only when large quantity of leaves or sap is ingested.
So, feel free to have your favorite poinsettia in your house. But do ensure that your cat does not munch on it, because even if it is not toxic, it can cause stomach and mouth irritation and affect your kitty's health. Poinsettias show similar symptoms in dogs as well, and therefore, it is better to keep your pet dog away from it.