For years I mistakenly thought that the beautiful poinsettia plant is highly toxic for cats and dogs. I have strictly adhered to warnings and steered clear of decorating our home with them. Having a safe and sound environment for our cats is always a priority. Happily, while perusing the ASPCA website the other day, I learned that this is not the case at all. In fact it is an urban legend, according to their poison control experts. The attractive holiday plant, the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) first appeared in the United States in the 1820s. Apparently the myth about toxicity started and spread like wildfire when a two-year old child of a U.S. Army officer supposedly died after ingesting a poinsettia leaf. The fact-of-the-matter is that a 50 pound child would have to eat more than 600 leaves to top the experimental doses which produced no toxic effects. During the last 12 months, the Animal Poison Control Center followed 84 cases of poinsettia ingestion, resulting commonly in an upset stomach. Dana Farbman, CVT, and ASPCA Senior Manager of Professional Communications said, "Ingestion of poinsettias typically only produces mild to moderate gastrointestinal irritation in pets, which may include drooling, vomiting and diarrhea." According to Ms. Farbman, veterinary treatment is generally not needed. Pets generally respond well by giving them a few sips of milk or water which diminishes tummy upsets. You can prevent these digestive problems by keeping poinsettias out of your pet's reach, but with care, you can adorn your home with these festive plants. However, Lilies, another popular holiday plant is highly toxic. Even small amounts ingested of the tiger, Asian, Japanese show, stargazer and the Casablanca varieties can cause kidney failure in cats and so pet people are wise to avoid having these plants in their homes. The ASPCA's hotline is available 24 hours a day should you suspect that your pet has had contact with a poisonous substance. They may be reached at (888) 426-4435. Note: There may be a $60.00 fee applied to your credit card. It is also a good idea to keep the phone number of your local Veterinary ER in a convenient location should your personal veterinarian not be available, especially during the holidays. For more information about toxic and nontoxic plants, please visit Animal Poison Control Center at: http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pro_apcc Will the information provided about Poinsettias alter your plans for using them during the holiday season? Leave a comment and let us know.