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.
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.
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.
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.