The widely held rumor that poinsettias are toxic to cats and dogs is greatly exaggerated, according to toxicologists at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. Experts at the center say that cats and dogs that eat the plants experience only mild reactions.
“In reality, ingestions typically produce only mild to moderate gastrointestinal tract irritation in pets, which may include drooling, vomiting and diarrhea,” Dana B. Farbman, a toxicologist with the ASPCA, said. Farbman recommended keeping the plants out of reach of cats and dogs, but said it need not be banished from pet owners’ homes.
Poinsettias first entered the United States in the early 1820s, when the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, J. Robert Poinsett, brought one into the country. Rumors of the plant’s toxicity started when a 2-year-old child allegedly died from eating a poinsettia leaf.