Is Serbian Spruce (Picea omorika) Toxic to Cats?

Last Updated on November 30, 2021 by Julia Wilson

Is Serbian spruce toxic to cats?

Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) is non-toxic to cats and is safe to keep as an indoor Christmas tree or garden ornamental, with care.

What is Serbian spruce?

  • Genus: Picea – Spruces
  • Family: Pinaceae – Pine
  • Order: Pinales – Pines and allies, Conifers, Coniferae, Pinophyta, Evergreens, Coniferophyta
  • Class: Pinopsida – Conifers
  • Botanical name: Picea omorika
  • Common names: Bosnian spruce, Omorica, Pančić spruce
  • Cultivars: ‘Nana’, ‘Aurea’, ‘Pendula’, ‘Pendula Bruns’, ‘Peve Tijn’
  • Needle retention: Fair
  • Mature height: 20 – 40 metres
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic to cats
  • Toxic parts: None
  • Severity:
  • Toxic principle:

Serbian spruce is a medium-sized distinctive species native to the limestone mountains of eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. This graceful species has thin arching branches and a slender trunk with 1-2 cm flat needles that are dark blue-green above and blue-white below. When crushed, the needles emit a citrusy odour.

The Serbian spruce was named after Serbian botanist Josif Pančić, omorica is the Serbian word for tree.

Care

Serbian spruce grows in full sun to partial shade and prefers acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, well-drained and clay soils.

Safety

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

  • The Serbian spruce generally holds its needles better than other trees but ingestion of large volumes is still a risk, especially later in the season.  Ingestion of spruce needles can potentially lead to a gastrointestinal obstruction. If you do have a cat who is interested in eating the plant, consider moving it to another location the cat cannot access.
  • Never 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