Is Norway Spruce (Picea abies) Toxic to Cats?

Last Updated on November 30, 2021 by Julia Wilson

Is Norway spruce toxic to cats?

Norway spruce (Picea abies) is non-toxic to cats and is safe to keep as a Christmas tree in homes with pets with care.

What is Norway spruce?

  • Genus: Picea
  • Family: Pinaceae
  • Botanical name: Picea abies
  • Common names: Common spruce, European spruce, Christmas tree
  • Popular cultivars: ‘Pumila’, ‘Witches Brood’, ‘Gold Drift’, ‘Little Gem’
  • Mature height: 15 – 22 metres (50-75 feet)
  • Needle retention: Prone to needle loss
  • Scent: Pine and citrus
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic to cats
  • Toxic parts: None
  • Severity:
  • Toxic principle:

Norway spruce is the fastest-growing of all spruces, native to the European Alps, the Balkan mountains, and the Carpathians. It is widely planted in North America to cater to the Christmas tree market. The Norway spruce has a distinctive pine scent with a hint of citrus.

The Norway spruce is the original Christmas tree and is still one of the most popular due to its conical shape and strong, upward slanting branches. Every Christmas, the Norwegian capital Oslo provides Norway spruce for London, Edinburgh and Washington DC as a way of expressing gratitude for the aid they provided the country during WWII.

Safety

Despite their non-toxic status, Christmas trees can still pose a risk to cats and dogs in the home.

  • Don’t buy your Norway spruce too early in the festive season as once they have been cut down, they quickly lose their needles. 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.
  • Do not add aspirin to Christmas tree water as cats are unable to metabolise aspirin effectively, which can lead to a fatal overdose in as little as a single tablet.
  • Always secure the Christmas tree to a wall by attaching a wire or fishing line to prevent the tree from accidentally toppling over.
  • Do not use long strands of tinsel (angel hair or lametta tinsel) in homes with cats as ingestion can cause telescoping of the intestines. This life-threatening condition occurs when a linear foreign body becomes lodged in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract while the loose segment travels further down the GI tract. Wavelike contractions (peristalsis) creep up the trapped foreign body and can slide into the section immediately ahead of it (like a telescope). Blood vessels become trapped between the layers, which compromises blood flow and leads to edema (swelling). Strangulation of the blood vessels leads to (necrosis) death of the affected tissue and disruption of the mucosal barrier which allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream(sepsis).
  • Place non-breakable ornaments at the bottom of the tree and delicate, breakables towards the top to prevent cats and children from pulling them down and breaking them.

Toxicity of common Christmas trees

Common name

Scientific name

Toxicity level

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
Scotch pinePinus sylvestrisNo information available
White pinePinus strobusNo information available
Virginian pinePinus virginianaListed as toxic to dogs, no information on cats
Norfolk Island
pine
, house pine
Araucaria heterophyllaNon-toxic