Are Cypress Trees Toxic to Cats? Your Complete Safety Guide as a Cat Owner
Welcome back, friend! As a fellow cat lover, I know you want the best for your furry companions. And that includes keeping them safe from any plants that could pose a risk.
So if you have cypress trees on your property, it’s natural to be concerned about their safety. After all, we want our homes to be havens for both cats and greenery!
Not to worry – in this guide, I’ll put your mind at ease and explore everything you need to know about cypress trees and cats. You’ll learn:
- Which cypress tree varieties are safest for cats
- What parts of cypress trees could be problematic
- How to recognize signs of cypress poisoning in cats
- Smart ways to cat-proof your cypress trees
- How cypress compares to other plants like lemon trees
Let’s start with the basics on cypress trees and their toxicity.
An Introduction to Cypress Trees and Cat Safety
Cypress trees belong to the large conifer family Cupressaceae. There are many species of cypress trees used in landscaping and ornamental gardening.
Some popular ones include:
- Monterey cypress
- Leyland cypress
- Arizona cypress
- Italian cypress
- False cypress
The ASPCA lists most cypress species as non-toxic to cats and dogs.  That’s reassuring news!
However, cypress trees do contain resins, oils and sharp needles that can irritate cats if ingested. And parts of the trees may cause stomach upset in some felines.
Later, we’ll go over the safety of specific cypress varieties. First, let’s look at which plant parts pose most risks for cats.
Which Parts of Cypress Trees Are Most Dangerous?
While the cypress tree overall is minimally toxic, there are 2 main parts that can be problematic for cats:
- Cypress Foliage and Needles
Cypress leaves and needles contain oils that give them that fresh, piney aroma. But these oils may irritate the mouth and stomach lining when ingested by cats.
Chewed needles also pose a choking hazard and can damage tender gums. Ingesting whole needles could cause internal trauma.
- Cypress Mulch
Mulch made from recycled cypress wood contains natural resins. Large ingestion could irritate the gut. And the fibrous texture poses an intestinal blockage risk.
Mulch also sticks easily to cat paws and fur. So when grooming, cats may swallow pieces. Small kittens are especially vulnerable.
Now let’s explore some specific cypress species and their dangers.
Toxicity of Common Cypress Varieties for Cats
Not all cypress trees pose equal risks for cats. Let’s see how some popular ones compare:
- Monterey Cypress
Native to California, the Monterey cypress is considered non-toxic by the ASPCA.  But its highly aromatic foliage can cause mild mouth and stomach irritation when ingested. The strong scent deters most cats from chewing it.
Overall Toxicity: Low
- Leyland Cypress
A fast growing hybrid, Leyland cypress is also classified as non-toxic. But its leaves and sap may cause gastric upset if large amounts are consumed. The foliage has a mildly unpleasant flavor that puts off some cats.
Overall Toxicity: Low
- Arizona Cypress
This drought resistant cypress has low toxicity, similar to Monterey. Its pungent sap and needles are unpalatable. But monitor chewing as stomach irritation is possible if ingested.
Overall Toxicity: Low
- Italian Cypress
With its tall, columnar form, the Italian cypress is very popular. Considered non-toxic by ASPCA, its resinous foliage can cause mild vomiting or diarrhea if eaten. Limit cat access to prevent ingestion.
Overall Toxicity: Low
- False Cypress
Several false cypress species like Hinoki cypress are also not highly toxic per ASPCA.  But they contain oils that may induce gastritis when foliage or shoots are ingested. Monitor access.
Overall Toxicity: Low to moderate
As you can see, most cypress trees pose only minor risks for cats. Let’s look next at some safety tips.
Smart Ways to Cat-Proof Your Cypress Trees
Here are some handy suggestions to make your cypress trees and landscaping more cat-friendly:
For Outdoor Cypress Trees:
Trim lower branches to prevent climbing and chewing
Add mulch beneath trees using pine cones, pebbles or citrus peels to deter digging
Consider using fencing or mesh barriers to block access
Opt for less aromatic varieties like Arizona cypress if your cat is attracted to scents
For Indoor Cypress Plants:
Place cypress potted plants out of reach to prevent chewing
Choose smaller juvenile plants with softer leaves
Use enclosed planters that cats can’t dig in
Prune regularly to avoid excessive needle drop
Deter cats from nibbling by using citrus peels or cat-safe mulch like coffee grounds around base
Keep watching for signs of toxicity, and please read on for more cypress safety tips for your cat!
Signs of Cypress Poisoning in Cats and What to Do
In the rare instance a cat ingests a toxic amount of cypress, you may notice the following symptoms:
- Drooling and lip smacking
- Pawing at mouth
- Gagging or swallowing difficulty
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Lethargy and weakness
- Loss of appetite
If you see these signs after cypress exposure, contact your vet immediately. Timely treatment greatly improves the prognosis.
For suspected cypress poisoning, your vet may induce vomiting if ingestion was recent. For essential oil toxicity, decontamination and symptom management are key.
With intestinal blockage, surgery may be required to remove obstructions. So don’t delay in getting medical attention.
How Cypress Compares to Other Plants Like Lemon Trees
Lemon trees (Citrus limon) are considered non-toxic for cats according to the ASPCA.  But their thorny branches can scratch playful cats. And lemon fruits may pose a choking risk.
Compared to cypress, lemon trees are less toxic overall. But their prickly nature makes them more hazardous for curious, climbing cats. Proper pruning and supervision are key for safety.
Another popular plant – lemongrass – is also deemed non-toxic for cats by ASPCA. However, its aromatic oils may cause skin, mouth or stomach irritation in some cats if ingested.
So lemongrass may have slightly higher risks compared to the average cypress tree when it comes to cats. As always, limiting access and monitoring for signs of illness is advised.
Handy Tips to Keep Cats Safe Around Cypress Trees
Here are some extra pointers to help safeguard your cats around cypress trees:
Avoid planting new cypress trees near cat play areas or digging zones
Use citrus sprays, coffee grounds or cat repellents around base of outdoor trees
Place cushion/padding on sharp branches if cats are determined climbers
Offer plenty of cat grass and catnip for safe nibbling alternates
Train cats to avoid houseplants with positive reinforcement
Consult your vet about anti-nausea medicine if car travel is needed after cypress exposure
With some simple precautions, your cats and cypress trees can safely and happily coexist! Let me know if you have any other plant safety questions.
The Bottom Line: Are Cypress Trees Toxic to Cats?
Most cypress tree varieties are considered non-toxic for cats, according to the ASPCA. However, parts of the cypress like its leaves, sap and mulch can cause mild mouth and stomach irritation when ingested by cats.
While not generally highly poisonous, it‘s best to limit cats‘ access to outdoor and indoor cypress plants. Trim and barricade trees appropriately. And train cats not to nibble and chew cypress foliage.
Monitor for signs of cypress-related illness like vomiting, lip smacking and lethargy. Prompt veterinary treatment can manage most cases of poisoning.
With proper care and cat-proofing, cypress trees and cats can safely co-exist in your home landscape. I hope this guide gave you a better idea of cypress tree risks and how to avoid them. Let me know if you need any other pet-safe planting advice!