Are poinsettias poisonous to cats and dogs?

Is your Christmas poinsettia poisonous to cats and dogs? Experts settle the matter once and for all

Are poinsettias poisonous to cats and dogs?
(Image credit: Stars for Europe)

If you have pets then you may wonder – are poinsettias poisonous to cats and dogs?

One of the best winter house plants, poinsettias are an icon of the holiday season, and are often given as gifts.

There are so many wonderful poinsettias for Christmas to choose from, and you can even make a poinsettia wreath.

However, the last thing you want is to gift or display this beautiful plant and risk it harming pets.

So, we put this important question to those in the know, to find out once and for all if you need to worry.

Red poinsettia in basket

(Image credit: Stars for Europe)

Are poinsettias poisonous to cats and dogs? The experts answer

The consensus is that poinsettias are not poisonous to cats or dogs – or at least not to a concerning degree.

‘Many people still think that poinsettias are poisonous to cats, dogs and people, but they are definitely not, as proven in many tests,’ says Gail Pabst from the National Garden Bureau, a leading authority on horticultural matters.

That sounds like good news for poinsettia lovers. But just to be certain, we also asked Jim Faust, associate professor of floriculture physiology at Clemson University, South Carolina, who has been studying poinsettias for nearly four decades:

‘No, poinsettias are not poisonous to cats, dogs or humans,' he says. 'I’ve eaten a few – they don’t taste great.’

However, founder of Houseplant Authority Naomi Robinson warns that ingesting poinsettias may cause mild side effects to some pets.

'Poinsettias are slightly toxic to cats and dogs, so if your pet ingests some of this plant, you may see some effects such as drooling, vomiting or diarrhea,' she says. 

‘Their milky sap can also lead to some irritation if it touches your pet's skin or eyes. But given that the effects of ingestion or exposure are usually not severe, it's rare for your cat or dog to require a visit to the vet unless these issues persist.’

So while it's safe to keep a poinsettia, if your cat or dog is partial to munching on plants then it's wise to position it out of reach.

Now all you need to worry about is how to care for a poinsettia.

How poisonous is a poinsettia?

A poinsettia is not very poisonous at all. 

'Although other members of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) have highly toxic sap, the poinsettia's own toxicity is quite mild,' says gardening expert Mick Lavelle.

'To put this in context, an average eight year-old child would have to eat around 500 leaves to accumulate harmful levels of these toxins.'

Melanie Griffiths
Melanie Griffiths

As editor of Period Living, Britain's best-selling period homes magazine, I love the charm of older properties. I live in a rural village just outside the Cotswolds, so am lucky to be surrounded by beautiful homes and countryside, where I enjoy exploring. I am passionate about characterful interiors and heritage-inspired designs, but I am equally fascinated by a house's architectural elements – if I spot an elegant original sash window or intricate stained-glass front door, it fills my heart with joy. It's so important to me that original features are maintained and preserved for future generations to enjoy. My other passion is my garden, and I am slowly building up my planting knowledge, and becoming more confident at experimenting with growing my own. As well as editing Period Living, I am also co-editing the Country Channel of Homes & Gardens. In my previous roles, I have worked on Real Homes and Homebuilding & Renovating, writing about modern design and architecture, so my experience is broad – but my heart belongs to period homes.