Is Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) Toxic to Cats?

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
  • Needle retention: Excellent
  • Scent: Woody, fresh, Christmas
  • 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

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