Holiday plants that are toxic to cats include mistletoe, holly berries, lilies and poinsettia. Several types of mistletoe are poisonous, with American mistletoe being the least toxic. Cats that are exposed to mistletoe may experience a drop in blood pressure, drooling, gastrointestinal problems, difficulty breathing and diarrhea. Mistletoe can also cause seizures, collapse and even death, when ingested in larger amounts.
The berries and spiny leaves of the holly plant are both toxic to cats. They contain saponins that when ingested can cause severe abdominal upsets, drooling and head shaking. The spiny leaves may also cause internal injury.
Lilies, such as the Easter lily and Tiger lily used in holiday bouquets, can cause fatal kidney failure in cats if ingested, even in tiny amounts. Cats that have been exposed to the flower’s pollen should be bathed. Symptoms of toxicity include vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, tremors and seizures. Treatment is administered by a veterinarian and may require aggressive IV fluid therapy.
Poinsettias are only mildly toxic to cats. The sap contains chemicals, that when ingested, can cause mild signs of drooling and vomiting. In rare cases, exposure can cause diarrhea. If a cat’s skin is exposed to the sap, redness and itching may develop. Exposure to the eyes can result in mild pink eye. Medical treatment is rarely needed unless a cat is exhibiting severe symptoms.