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The Christmas cactus – also known as the Easter cactus or scientifically as the Schlumbergera bridgesii – is a common houseplant, especially during the holiday season. With their bright red flowers and drooping pads, they make a beautiful addition to any home.
However, if you have cats at home, the wonderful aesthetics of a Christmas cactus are the least of your worries. Some houseplants are not safe for cats and can lead to toxicity, making your poor kitty seriously sick. So, before you accept your holiday gift let’s answer this question: Is Christmas cactus poisonous to cats?
Thankfully, unlike many other holiday plants, the Christmas cactus is not toxic. Despite the word “cactus” being in the name, this plant doesn’t have any sharp spines either. Therefore, you don’t even have to worry about its sharp points hurting your curious cat!
With that being said, cats are not supposed to eat plants and so stomaching too much of a Christmas cactus may make your cat a little poorly. In this article, I’ll talk to you more about Christmas cactus toxicity and the toxicity of other common houseplants.
Are Christmas Cactus Plants Safe for Cats?
1. Contains No Toxic Substances
Is Christmas cactus poisonous to cats? According to the ASPCA website, no! The Christmas cactus is entirely non-toxic to cats, meaning you can keep one of these stunning plants in your home without worry. It is also completely safe for dogs and horses, so if you have either of these pets as well you can also breathe a sigh of relief.
2. Has No Sharp Spines
Alongside containing no toxic chemicals, Christmas cacti are also spine-free. This means you do not need to worry about your cat brushing past the sharp spines. Likewise, if she does take a nibble of the leaves, you don’t need to be concerned about her hurting her mouth with puncture wounds from the pointed spines.
3. Can Cause Sickness if Eaten in Excess
With this all being said, this doesn’t mean that you should let your cat munch on the stems and leaves as they please. These plants aren’t 100% risk-free. A Christmas cactus may not poison your cat, but ingesting too much of the leaves and flowers can give your kitty an upset stomach.
As such, you can expect nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if your cat eats a lot of the plant. In healthy cats, these symptoms will quickly resolve by themselves once the plant is out of your cat’s system. However, your cat won’t feel great for a little while and you’ll have to spend time cleaning up the regurgitated houseplant from your floors – ew!
4. Potential Allergies to the Plant
Moreover, some cats are more sensitive to substances than others. Although unlikely, a cat can be allergic to a Christmas cactus plant. These allergies can range from mild to severe and often aren’t discovered until your cat eats the plant. For obvious reasons, a potential allergic reaction is always best avoided as, depending on the severity, could be deadly.
Therefore, as not poisonous, a Christmas cactus is a great option for any cat owner wanting to add some greenery to their home. However, it is still advisable to keep your cat away from your Christmas cactus as much as possible to keep your feline happy and healthy.
Why Do Cats Like Christmas Cacti?
Cats seem to love Christmas cactus plants! If you have a Christmas cactus in your home, you’ve no doubt seen your curious kitty rub up against the leaves, bat the pads with her paws, and perhaps even take a nibble! While this may look cute, it can be problematic for the reasons discussed above.
So, if eating a Christmas cactus causes tummy upset, why do cats seem to like them so much? Although we may never know the truth, there are several theories behind this.
1. Trying to Play
The top theory as to why cats love Christmas cacti is that it sees it as a toy. As a Christmas cactus grows, the stems will start to bend downward and trail toward the floor. When in this dangling position, the pads and the flowers act as a fun new toy for your kitty. They may jump up at the plant and use its paws to bat the flowers in an attempt to play.
In addition to the plant’s captivating shape, its texture also plays a part. Cats are naturally inquisitive creatures and enjoy playing with a variety of different materials and textures. The Christmas cactus plant offers many new and exciting textures that your kitty wants to play with.
2. Rubbing Against The Plant
Cats love to rub their faces and bodies up against things – be that your furniture, your legs, or your houseplants! One reason for this could be that your cat has an itch. The texture of a Christmas cactus is firmer and rougher than many other leafy plants, and so will do a much better job at scratching and satisfying their itch.
Cats also rub up on objects to mark their territory, transferring scented chemicals called pheromones onto the object. If the Christmas cactus is a new addition to your home, your cat could be trying to make it smell like the rest of your house to help them feel at ease.
3. Instinct to Dig Up Soil
Many cats love playing with dirt and soil. Therefore, it might be that your cat doesn’t love your Christmas cactus after all – she loves the soil that it is potted in instead!
Diggin in soil is completely normal behavior for cats that stems from their instinct to dig and bury their urine and feces after going to the bathroom. Although your cat may not be going to the toilet in your Christmas Cactus, the presence of soil often causes this instinctive behavior to kick in.
How to Keep Your Cat Safe from Christmas Cacti
Despite Christmas cactus plants being non-toxic and relatively safe for cats, you should still keep it at arm’s reach. This will help to keep your cat fit and healthy, besides avoiding the discovery of any potential allergies.
However, doing this is easier said than done! Cats love Christmas cacti for all the reasons I have mentioned above and so will try their hardest to get near to your plant. To help, here are a few tips you can implement to help keep your cat safe.
1. Covering Soil with Pebbles
As discussed, one of the reasons cats love houseplants isn’t that they are going crazy for the greenery – they actually love the soil that your plants are potted in. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to deter your cat from going near your Christmas cactus is by covering the potting soil with pebbles.
Not only will this hopefully deter your inquisitive feline, but it will stop you from constantly having to clean up dirt kicked onto the floor as well. Additionally, your plant will appreciate not having its roots disturbed and will also be healthier and flourishing.
2. Use Hanging Baskets
Keeping the Christmas cactus away from the paws of your cat is an obvious solution. However, in practice, it is extremely difficult! Cats love climbing and aren’t afraid of heights. Therefore, putting your houseplants up on the top shelf isn’t enough to keep them away from a determined kitty.
One solution is to put your Christmas cactus in a hanging basket. This means there is no ledge that your cat can use to reach the plant, effectively keeping it out of reach. I also love the look of a Christmas cactus in a hanging planter – the drooping leaves and flowers only look more wonderful when displayed in this way.
3. Increase Playtime
As I have already mentioned, cats may see your Christmas cactus as a toy. However, your cat will find toys from the pet store more exciting, so be sure to stock up on a range of different types. Select toys with different colors and textures that are bound to grasp her attention.
Having bought a range of toys, you need to make sure you and your cat play together each day. As a general rule of thumb, at least 15 minutes daily should be enough to distract your cat from your houseplants while helping to keep them fit and healthy.
If you are an extremely busy owner and can’t fit this into your routine, why not try investing in a selection of automatic cat toys? These are motorized toys that run by themselves, helping to keep your cat mentally stimulated even when you’re unavailable.
4. Use Cat Deterrents
Finally, deterrents can be used to keep your cat away from your Christmas cactus. There are two main types of deterrents you may choose to use – physical deterrents and scent repellents.
Physical deterrents are things such as spiked mats or double-sided tape which feel uncomfortable on your cat’s paws. You can put these on the shelf that your Christmas cactus sits. Your cat will soon associate the plant with this uncomfortable feeling and should stay away.
On the other hand, scent repellants rely on using smells that cats hate to convince them to stay away. Examples include putting coffee grinds in the soil, spritzing the plant with lavender, or adding old orange peel to the pot. Each of these smells overwhelming to cats and should be enough to encourage them to keep their distance.
What Other Houseplants Are Safe for Cats?
While Christmas cacti are popular houseplants, they’re far from the only choice for adding a dose of greenery into your home. However, some of these common houseplants are not as safe for cats! Here is a quick look at four of the most popular houseplants in the US and whether they are poisonous to cats or not:
- Snake Plants: Also known as Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, the Magic Sword, and the Golden Bird’s Nest, snake plants are easy to care for and have striking yellow-edged leaves. Unfortunately, the snake plant is toxic to cats when eaten but is unlikely to cause major harm. Instead, expect nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Spider Plants: Spider plants are popular among plant enthusiasts and new plant owners alike. Thankfully, spider plants are not toxic to cats and so are a great option for pet owners. However, ingesting too much can cause an upset stomach and mild hallucinations. As with the Christmas cactus, it’s best to keep them out of reach.
- ZZ Plants: ZZ Plants have gained popularity thanks to their virtually indestructible nature, making them a great choice for beginners or busy workers. But, are ZZ Plants toxic to cats? Unfortunately, yes! Although unlikely to be lethal, the plants do contain toxic compounds and are best avoided if you own cats.
- Ferns: Known to thrive in low light conditions, ferns are another popular houseplant. However, some ferns can be toxic to cats and should be avoided. Thankfully, others like the Boston Fern are completely safe. So if you’re a fern addict, do a bit of research first and you’ll be able to keep one of these plants worry-free.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
To answer the question “Is Christmas cactus poisonous to cats?”, no it’s not. Within its roots, green pads, and red flowers, you won’t find any toxic substances that could cause potential harm to your cat. Additionally, it is free from pointed spines, making it one of the safest houseplants for cat owners to keep.
However, it’s still a good idea to keep your Christmas cactus out of the reach of your cat. A curious kitty may nibble on the leaves, which can cause sickness and diarrhea. Besides, some cats are more sensitive than others and there is a slim chance your kitty is allergic to the plant. This can cause their throat to swell and make breathing difficult.
Keeping your Christmas cactus away from your cat has benefits for the plant too. Without being played with, bitten, and pawed at, both your Christmas cactus and your cat can flourish in your home together.