With Thanksgiving barely over, many people are racing full speed ahead toward Christmas. For the next several weeks it becomes a mad rush of shopping, decorating, baking and all the other fun and hectic activities associated with the holiday season. Since there are so many changes that take place in the household during this time of year, take a few minutes to go over the checklist below to make sure your pet stays safe and happy.
When you place a tree in the middle of your living room, your cat may think you have created the ultimate in environmental enrichment. Make sure the tree is secure and won’t topple over. If possible, leave the tree up undecorated for a day or two so your cat gets used to it before adding all those hard-to-resist ornaments.
If you’re having trouble keeping the tree from toppling over due to your cat’s insistence on climbing it, try using picture wire to secure the tree. If there’s a picture hanging behind the tree, remove the picture and attach the picture wire to the tree and then to the wall. After the holiday, when you take the tree down, no one will see the hole because the picture will be back in place.
If you have a live tree, cover the water reservoir with netting or use Sticky Paws for Plants (available at pet supply stores and online) in a crisscross pattern across the opening. It’s important to prevent the cat from drinking the water in the reservoir. Water additives used to preserve tree life are toxic to cats.
Lights and Wires
To reduce the chance that your pet will chew on electrical wires, coat the wires with a bitter anti-chew substance before wrapping them around the tree. Make sure lights are secured around branches and not dangling in order to reduce temptation.
Dangling ornaments can be hard for a pet to resist. Don’t decorate the very bottom of the tree to reduce the temptation as a small pet walks by. Don’t use ornament hooks which can cause internal injury if chewed or swallowed. Instead, secure the ornaments with green twist ties so they’ll stay securely on the branches.
Don’t use it. This stuff falls so easily from the tree and can be swallowed by your pet. Tinsel can get tangled in the intestines and cause a blockage. Both tinsel and ribbon can cause choking.
Place candles well out of a cat’s reach and never leave a lighted candle unattended. To be safest, consider using the battery operated candles. These candles look as good as the real thing (with a realistic flicker) and are much safer.
Gifts and Wrapping
Avoid leaving gifts under the tree that have long ribbon tendrils or other decorations that your pet could chew.
Holly and Other Holiday Plants
Many holiday plants can cause vomiting and intestinal upset. If you’re decorating with live plants, make sure they’re well out of your pet’s reach. To be safest, use artificial plant decorations.
With lots of people coming and going it can be easy for a small cat to slip out the front door. When you’re going to have lots of company, keep your cat in a room of her own so she’ll stay safe. This will also prevent her from getting stepped on accidentally or from becoming stressed by any unwanted attention or handling. If your cat isn’t used to all the extra noise, it will also be beneficial to have her safely tucked away in a separate room.
Chocolate is toxic to cats. If you plan on placing chocolate candy or other chocolate food out for your guests, make sure your cat can’t gain access to it. The fatty, rich foods that are typically served during the holiday are also dangerous as they can cause intestinal upset. Other toxic foods typically found in holiday recipes such as garlic, onions, grapes, raisins and many spices are also dangerous for your cat to ingest. If your cat tends to be a food thief, keep her in a separate room while this food is being served. If your cat loves to socialize with guests make sure everyone is aware that kitty isn’t allowed to be fed any food from the table.
Keep your pet away from any alcoholic drinks. Some people think it’s funny to allow the pet to drink a little alcohol but it’s VERY dangerous and can be fatal.
If you plan on buying toys for your pet make sure they’re safe. Despite the image you may be used to seeing of a kitten playing with a ball of yarn – it’s not safe. Don’t give your cat any toys for solo play that contain yarn or string. The only stringed toys you should ever use are the interactive fishing pole toys where you’re right there controlling the action. Additionally, make sure all parts of a toy are safe. Pull off any glued-on pieces because they usually aren’t secure enough and will end up getting swallowed by your pet. If you have a dog, keep in mind that he may be able to easily chew up any small cat toys you’ve bought.
As an experienced cat owner you’re most likely very aware of keeping your medication out of kitty’s reach. If you have guests who are staying overnight, however, they may not be as aware so instruct them not to leave small pill bottles out and to absolutely not leave any loose pills or other medication sitting out.
Watch for Stress
As wonderful as the holiday season is, it also can be a very stressful time, and your pet can be just as vulnerable. Don’t get so busy and caught up in the holiday that you miss any warning signs that your cat isn’t handling things well.
We’re sorry but Pam is unable to respond to comments. If you have questions about cat behavior you can find many answers in the books by Pam Johnson-Bennett as well as in the articles on our website. If your cat is displaying a change in behavior, contact your veterinarian because there may be an underlying cause. This article is not intended to be a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care.