Hidden Perils: When Cats & Dogs Chew Christmas Trees

Whether fir, spruce, or pine, all Christmas trees can pose a danger to our cats and dogs. Find out which parts are generally safer, and what to keep away.

Updated November 17, 2023
Scottish fold cat and welsh corgi dog under christmas tree

Christmas trees can be a bit of a party pooper for our furry friends. Speaking from experience with our own fabulous four — Peanut, Shadow, Smoky, and yes, Lloyd (I know, it's a quirky name, but it fits him perfectly) — we've got to keep an eye out during the holiday season.

As a pet owner, you're likely cautious about the decorations you place on or around your Christmas tree. But what about the tree itself? Unfortunately, some varieties of Christmas trees are toxic to cats, and all types carry some potential dangers to dogs and cats alike. 

Can Cats Eat Christmas Trees? 

Young cat lying under christmas tree

Let's face it: cats are curious and use their mouths and sense of taste to explore the world around them. But there's a reason the old idiom exists — curiosity killed the cat. Various plants can be highly toxic to cats, and our kitties don't exactly hold off from noshing on the ones that are. But where do Christmas trees fall on the list? 

Fir and Pine Tree Oils

According to Falls Village Veterinary Hospital, "When cats ingest small amounts of a tree's sap by chewing on branches and needles, it can cause GI distress like vomiting, cramping, drooling, and diarrhea. Chronic consumption or a large amount consumed at once can damage kitty's kidneys and liver." While they do note pine and fir trees specifically, any evergreen tree has the potential to cause the other issues below.

Quick Tip

Clean up fallen needles every time you get a chance to reduce the risk of your kitty grabbing them as a snack.

Sharp Pine Needles

If your cat eats a large enough volume, this could lead to a blockage. Intestinal obstructions typically require emergency surgery or an endoscopy to be treated. Due to the pointy ends on Christmas tree needles, it's also possible for a needle to pierce the inside of the intestines and perforate the tissues.

Check in with your veterinarian if your cat or dog eats a moderate or large volume of needles. Then, keep an eye out for concerning symptoms, including vomiting, not eating, lethargy, and constipation.

Tree Water

The water that the tree rests in is also a concern. Not only can bacteria and other harmful parasites grow in standing water, but it can also contain dangerous preservatives. Select only pet- and child-safe products. And beware — even if you elect to use only clean water, it's possible for fertilizers or oils from the tree to leach into it from the tree itself. 

man watering Christmas tree
Quick Tip

Use a tree skirt or stand top to keep your Christmas tree stand (and water) covered at all times. 

Are Christmas Trees Toxic to Dogs?

Although you may not have to worry about your dog climbing the Christmas tree, it's important to take the same above precautions for canines. In fact, dogs may be more inclined than cats to drink tree water or ingest needles. If your dog does consume part of the tree or chews on a pine tree, seek veterinary care. And, of course, you can take steps to dog-proof your tree and decorations to ensure a safe and merry Christmas. 

dog on green sofa by Christmas tree

Deck the Halls Safely This Christmas

Having a safe and merry Christmas with cats in the house is possible. Taking the necessary precautions, like choosing fir or spruce trees instead of toxic pines, covering the tree water, and preventing your pet from munching on the needles, will allow you to enjoy peace of mind while keeping your cat out of harm's way. However, if you know your kitty is bound to get into trouble, an artificial tree may be the way to go.

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Hidden Perils: When Cats & Dogs Chew Christmas Trees