Is Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) Toxic to Cats?

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  • 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?

    Family Pinaceae – Pine
    Botanical name Abies balsamea
    Common names Balsam fir, blister pine
    Mature height 60-80 foot (18-24 metres)
    Needle retention Excellent
    Scent Woody, fresh, Christmas
    Native to Northeastern America and eastern Canada
    Toxicity Non-toxic to cats

    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 beginner’s 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

    Norway spruce Picea abies Non-toxic
    Blue spruce Picea pungens Non-toxic
    Serbian spruce Picea omorika Non-toxic
    White spruce Picea glauca Non-toxic
    Nordmann fir Abies nordmanniana Non-toxic
    Fraser fir Abies fraseri Non-toxic
    Douglas fir Pseudotsuga menziesii Non-toxic
    Noble fir Abies procera Non-toxic
    Balsam fir Abies balsamea Non-toxic
    Grand fir Abies grandis Non-toxic
    Scotch pine Pinus sylvestris No information available
    White pine Pinus strobus No information available
    Virginian pine Pinus virginiana Listed as toxic to dogs, no information on cats
    Norfolk Island pine, house pine Araucaria heterophylla Non-toxic

     

    Author

    • Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio