Is Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) Toxic to Cats?

Last Updated on November 28, 2021 by Julia Wilson

Is balsam fir toxic to cats?

Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) is non-toxic to cats and is safe to keep as a Christmas tree or an ornamental plant in the garden.

What is balsam fir?

  • Genus: Abies – Firs
  • Family: Pinaceae – Pine
  • Order: Pinales – Pines and allies, Conifers, Coniferae, Pinophyta, Evergreens, Coniferophyta
  • Class: Pinopsida – Conifers
  • Botanical name: Abies balsamea
  • Common names: Balsam fir, blister pine
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic to cats
  • Toxic parts: None
  • Severity:
  • Toxic principle:

First described in 1768, balsam fir is a North American evergreen fir native to northeastern America and eastern Canada. Mature trees can reach a height of 60 – 80 feet.

Balsam fir is often used as a Christmas tree due to its hardiness and ease of care, making it the perfect beginners tree.

  • Pros: The balsam fir has a strong Christmas tree scent, symmetrical conical shape and doesn’t lose its needles.
  • Cons: The flexible branches are not ideal for heavy ornaments.

Safety

  • While Balsam fir is non-toxic, fertilisers and pest control can be potentially toxic to cats.
  • Ingestion of large volumes of needles can potentially lead to a gastrointestinal obstruction but this is unlikely. If you do have a cat who is interested in eating the plant, consider moving it to another location the cat cannot access and bring in some cat-friendly plants such as catnip or cat grass.
  • Secure the Christmas tree to a wall by attaching a wire or fishing line to prevent the tree from accidentally toppling over.
  • Avoid tinsel in homes with cats as ingestion can cause gastrointestinal obstruction or telescoping of the intestines, which are both life-threatening.
  • Place breakable ornaments high on the tree to prevent the cat from pulling them off and breaking them.

Toxicity of common Christmas plants


Common name
Scientific
name

Toxicity level
Holly
Ilex spp.
Mild to moderate
MistletoePhoradendron flavescens, Phoradendron
serotinum and Viscum album
Mild to moderate

Poinsettia
Euphorbia pulcherrimaMild
Ivy Hedera spp.Mild
LilyLilium spp.Severe
Daylillies
Hemerocallis spp.
Severe
HippeastrumHippeastrum spp.Mild to severe
Norway sprucePicea abiesNon-toxic
Blue sprucePicea pungensNon-toxic
Serbian sprucePicea omorikaNon-toxic
White sprucePicea glaucaNon-toxic
Nordmann firAbies nordmannianaNon-toxic
Fraser firAbies fraseriNon-toxic
Douglas firPseudotsuga menziesiiNon-toxic
Noble firAbies proceraNon-toxic
Balsam firAbies balsameaNon-toxic
Grand firAbies grandisNon-toxic

Feature image, Eli Sagor, Flickr