Mistletoe Meows

It’s Mistletoe Kitten Time! Mistletoe Diary has been a little inactive this season, largely due to colds, coughs and similar delights, but I’m easing back into it now starting with the easy-win of cats and kittens – as they’re always popular online (as I understand it).  There is no immediately obvious mistletoe link, so I could just fill the page with some pictures of cute kitties with mistletoe, like these (left).  But I can’t leave it at that, this is a serious(ish) blog so maybe some deeper stuff would be worthwhile.

The most obvious angle, which comes up every year, is toxicity – everyone will have seen those scare stories that crop each Christmas about how toxic your holly, Christmas tree, mistletoe, poinsettia, cyclamen etc are for your cat, dog, hamster, goldfish, boa constrictor etc or even your fellow human beings.  Some is very exaggerated, though perhaps it is better to be cautious than sorry.

For mistletoe toxicity issues  the first point that I always stress is to consider what you mean by mistletoe. Differing countries have differing mistletoe species, and toxicity varies a lot between those species. So an account like this one on wagwalking.com is specifically (and to its credit says so) about American Mistletoe and cats. So that account isn’t necessarily relevant to the situation in Britain.  But do note, if you read it through, that despite the lengthy article full of gloom and doom warnings, it is prefaced with the words “a large amount of plant material needs to be eaten for this to take place”. Indeed. No cats I’ve ever known (and I’ve known quite a few) ever eat large amounts of vegetation, so the chances of cat poisoning are, actually, very low.

That caveat, unlike the specific species advice, does apply across all mistletoes; to be actually poisoned a large amount needs to be eaten. And that applies very well to European mistletoe, Viscum album, the mistletoe we have in Britain. This species is toxic, no doubt about that, but not toxic enough to cause problems in small amounts. You (or your cat) would really need to eat lots of it to be badly affected. You could, of course, extract the toxins and concentrate them – that would be very toxic. And also very illegal.  Because if you did that you’d be committing an offence under the the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 where one of the Viscum album mistletoe toxins, a complex lectin protein known as Viscumin was added (in 2007) as a toxin in Schedule 5. Mistletoe is toxic enough, if the toxins are extracted, to be a potential weapon (as Loki knew long ago, but that’s another story entirely).

So don’t do that at home. What you can do at home though, just to prove that unconcentrated mistletoe is not toxic enough to worry too much about, is to sit down and brew yourself a nice refreshing drink of mistletoe tea (above left) or, if you want something stronger, a glass of Biska (above right), an Istrian Brandy infused with mistletoe. Much of this has been mentioned here in the mistletoe diary before.

This is all, you might think, digressing from cats. But it isn’t entirely. Mistletoe, as a herbal remedy, is known for its calming properties and, as has also been discussed in the diary before, is an ingredient in herbal calming remedies for both dogs and cats. So maybe, if kitty does eat a little bit of mistletoe, kitty will just relax a bit. Dorwest herbs can supply you with tablets to do just that, if you want to try it out. Mistletoe is the second ingredient (though doesn’t make it to the description) in their  “Scullcap & Valerian Calming Tablets for Dogs and Cats“:

Getting back into full kitty mistletoe mode, I think I’ll finish with the story of Mistletoe, the Green Cat, a friend of Spookley, the Square Pumpkin. Mistletoe first appeared in, I think, 2019, in his own animated* Christmas adventure with Spookley and friends at Holiday Hill Farm.  This is, of course, a children’s story and is, of course, from Disney (but so is Doctor Who these days – Disney is getting classy!). Here’s the trailer on Youtube:

*actually Mistletoe the cat first appeared in this story in a book by Joe Troiano “The Legend of Mistletoe and the Christmas Kittens” about 10 years before the Disney version.

More about mistletoe…  lots of mistletoe info on the main website here 
And, if you want to grow your own, take a look at the mistletoe grow-kits available (and on offer for the rest of this month) to order from the English Mistletoe Shop here.