Is Norway Spruce (Picea abies) Toxic to Cats?

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  • 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 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: benjamin_failor/Pixabay

    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