Is Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) Toxic to Cats?

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  • Is Douglas fir toxic to cats?

    Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is non-toxic to cats. The needles can sometimes cause ulcers or sores in the mouth if your cat has been chewing on them. Some Christmas tree needles also taste bitter, so you may notice your cat licking its lips, excessively salivating, or vomiting. Remember that fertilizers and pest control used on Douglas fir can be potentially toxic to cats, so it may be worth asking the vendor if any chemicals have been applied.

    What is Douglas fir?

    Family Pinaceae
    Botanical name Pseudotsuga menziesii
    Common names Douglas fir, Oregon fir, Oregon pine, Oregon, Green Douglas fir,
    Blue Douglas fir, Columbian pine, Common Douglas, Coast Douglas-fir
    Needle retention Excellent
    Scent Woody
    Native to North America
    Toxicity Non-toxic
    Toxic property
    Toxic parts None

    Douglas fir is an evergreen conifer native to North America. The common name honours Scottish botanist David Douglas who first reported the species’ potential.

    Douglas fir makes a beautiful Christmas tree, with its dark green to blue-green thick, soft needles. This fir is not prone to shedding and often has a citrus-like scent. The versatile timber is used in furniture-making, ship-building, and house frames; the oil is used to make eau de vie, a colourless brandy; and the needles are a popular tea.

    Despite the name, Douglas fir is not a true fir, meaning it is not a member of the genus Abies.

    Would a cat even try to eat part of a Douglas fir?

    It’s possible. Cats do like to chew on sticks, branches, and toys. It’s more likely though that your cat is more interested in climbing your tree, swatting the sparkling lights, and knocking those pretty ornaments off than eating the tree or needles. 


    • Ingestion of large volumes of needles can potentially lead to gastrointestinal obstruction; however, this is unlikely. If you have a cat 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 or ceiling by attaching a wire or fishing line to prevent the tree from accidentally toppling over.
    • Avoid using tinsel in homes with cats as ingestion can cause gastrointestinal obstruction or telescoping of the intestines, which are both life-threatening and require emergency surgery.
    • Place breakable ornaments high on the tree to prevent the cat from pulling them off and breaking them.

    Toxicity of other Christmas trees

    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

    Feature image: Robert Thiemann/Unsplash

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do I keep my cat off my Christmas tree?

    Try to make your tree less tempting to your cat – keeping the very bottom of the tree clear of ornaments lessens the temptations. You can also use cord covers to protect your cat from biting the electrical cords of Christmas lights. Some people put up baby gates around the bottom of their Christmas trees, but this won’t prevent them entirely from jumping over.

    You can also make some changes to your usual decorations to make your Christmas setup safer for your cat. Skip the flocked trees this year – the white stuff sprayed on the tree can cause an upset stomach. Try paper garlands instead of tinsel. Keep glass or breakable ornaments higher on the tree. To keep your cat from drinking the tree water, try wrapping the base in foil.

    Should I get a real tree if I have a cat?

    Your feline companion and your Christmas tree can live in harmony this holiday season – you may just have to make some adjustments to how you secure the tree and how you decorate it. Fake trees can pose a risk as well and aren’t 100% safe – cats can also chew on artificial needles as well.



    • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

      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