Holiday Safety Tips for Cats


A little common sense goes a long way toward keeping cats safe during the holidays, but some holiday hazards take even the most seasoned cat parent by surprise. I thought it couldn’t hurt to review safety measures to protect your cats from harm so everyone can have a safe and happy holiday season.

Christmas trees

I’ve been fortunate that none of my cats have never shown much interest in our tree, but I know many households are not so fortunate. If you have curious kitties who might want to climb your tree, consider anchoring it to the wall or ceiling to keep it from tipping over. Don’t hang ornaments on lower branches to avoid temptation, or only use non-breakable ornaments. Never use flocking or fake snow, these products are toxic to cats. Drinking the tree water tends to be more of a problem for dogs than cats, but if you think your cats might be tempted, don’t add preservatives, and change the water frequently to avoid collection of bacteria. Better yet, have some sort of barrier so your cats can’t even get at the water.


Most holiday decorations are not feline-friendly. Tinsel, glass ornament and ribbons can all be life-threatening if ingested by your cat. Whether lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines, even tiny fragments can cause dangerous blockages that may require emergency surgery. While real candles are lovely, I don’t recommend them around cats. If you absolutely must use them, never leave a burning flame unattended. Battery operated candles may not have quite the same effect as real candles, but they’re much safer to use around cats. Electric Christmas tree lights may prove irresistible to curious cats, and chewing on bulbs and cords can cause electrocution. Never leave your tree lights plugged in when you can’t be in the room with the tree.

Holiday plants

Even though poinsettias get a bad rep each holiday season, they’re actually not very toxic. They do contain a milky sap that can irritate the mouth but if signs develop they are usually mild. Other holiday plants are much more dangerous: mistletoe, especially the berries, is extremely toxic. The most severe cases can cause low blood pressure, stumbling and even seizures. Lilies are deadly to cats. Holly berries can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, lethargy and death.


While human noses may love the scent of potpourri, it can be overpowering to a cat’s much more sensitive sense of smell. Liquid potpourri may cause irritation and corrosion of the eyes, mouth, throat and esophagus.

Holiday foods

While it’s perfectly fine for most cats to get a small piece of ham or turkey as a special treat, many of our holiday foods are not safe. Cooked turkey and chicken bones can splinter easily and get lodged in or perforate your cat’s esophagus or digestive tract. Onions and onion powder can cause anemia and vomiting.

Parties and houseguests

You shouldn’t be having parties and houseguests this year, but if you are (hopefully after all parties quarantined and/or tetsted prior to visiting) unless your cat loves visitors, provide a safe space for her during parties. A quiet bedroom with food, water, some comfort items and a place to hide will reduce stress for your cat. Make sure houseguests know the rules of your home, especially whether your cat is an indoor cat only or whether she’s allowed outside, so there will be no accidents.

This post was first published December 2016 and has been updated.

11 Comments on Holiday Safety Tips for Cats

  1. B. Kosel
    December 14, 2020 at 12:06 pm (1 month ago)

    Good information, but house guests are a no no due to COVID 19. Let’s all have a safe holiday and stay home with our fur friends, so we will be here next year to look after them. Stay safe; isolate!

    • Ingrid
      December 14, 2020 at 12:12 pm (1 month ago)

      You are, of course, absolutely right, and I’m going to revise that section of my article. Stay safe!

  2. Caren Gittleman
    December 14, 2020 at 11:42 am (1 month ago)

    Fabulous tips…the candle one resonates with me. I LOVE real candles but ever since the year my Angel Bobo accidentally singed the tip of his tail, I NEVER, EVER use real candles around cats.

  3. Janine
    December 14, 2020 at 7:06 am (1 month ago)

    It’s alays good to get these reminders. Thank you!

  4. Christina
    January 11, 2017 at 6:16 pm (4 years ago)

    We don’t bother with the christmas tree anymore because of this exact reason. They just can’t resist playing with it.

  5. Raine
    December 24, 2016 at 2:36 am (4 years ago)

    Thankfully I’m a very private person so I don’t have guests, I go to my mom’s on Xmas eve. I haven’t had a tree in over six years, with seven kitties I’ll hang some favorite ornaments up high but that’s all. Thank you though as these are all excellent tips. Happy Holidays everyone.

    • Ingrid
      December 24, 2016 at 6:19 am (4 years ago)

      Happy Holidays to you, Raine!

  6. Aimee
    December 20, 2016 at 12:37 pm (4 years ago)

    I have fake trees that I put up each year, and I spray them with bitter apple spray – one chomp was all it took, and the cats and trees have been safe 🙂

  7. Sue Brandes
    December 20, 2016 at 9:36 am (4 years ago)

    Thanks for the post. I try to be careful so my kitties can’t get hurt.

  8. Janine
    December 20, 2016 at 8:57 am (4 years ago)

    I don’t even put up a tree anymore because I have a couple of mischievous cats.

  9. Louise
    December 20, 2016 at 1:25 am (4 years ago)

    I have had cats allergic after chewing on natural trees, with their lips becoming fat. Anything is a play toy to a cat. I also encourage any cat owner to cut the handles off of their play bags. One of my former cats ran with the bag around his neck and it caught on a chair leg, scaring him terribly.


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