How To Avoid A Holiday CATastophe

by Deborah Angrave


Okay, I confess.

I'm a Christmas-aholic. I LOVE the holidays. I go all out to decorate. My home becomes a Yuletide vision to challenge even Martha Stewart on a good day.

At the same time as I am reveling in the holiday splendor, I remain aware that December presents some rather unique dangers for my cats.

So here is my personal list of potential hazards and some of my own solutions to minimize holiday problems.

Christmas Trees

One of the most common concerns for the feline owner is that dang ole Christmas Tree. Beside the problem of a cat climbing the tree (Timber-r-r-r!), the sap can also be poisonous if eaten. And remember if the sap gets on the fur the kitty IS likely to lick it off. Cats will also chew on pine needles and they aren't called "needles" for nothing. Imagine what swallowing a needle might do to the inside of a delicate throat or tummy. Pine needles and broken ornaments can easily puncture your cat's intestines. And string-type objects such as tinsel is a very attractive snack to some cats. If eaten, tinsel can ball up into a blockage or wrap around the intestine and cut off circulation.

So, here are a few tips to cat-proof your Christmas tree:

  1. If possible, set up your tree in a room that can be closed when you're not home.
  2. Cover the tree stand. Tree resins and preservatives in the water can cause gastrointestinal problems.
  3. Put a hook in the ceiling above your tree and attack a cord from the top of your tree to the hook. This will prevent your tree from falling over.
  4. Because most cats will practice their boxing ability on those decorations dangling within paw-reach, place only large heavy ornaments near the bottom of the tree. Nothing breakable. Nothing small enough to swallow. Attach the ornaments to the branch securely.
  5. No tinsel

Plants

Holly berries and leaves are very toxic to cats. And the poinsettia sap and leaves can cause severe gastric upset to your kitten. Other holiday poisonous plants include mistletoe, Christmas rose, narcissus bulbs, amaryllis bulbs and English Ivy.

  1. All dangerous plants must be kept out of reach of your cat
  2. hang holly, mistletoe etc. well above cat jumping height

Fire

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire... " Nothing is as lovely as a flickering fire in winter. But cats are way too fascinated by all that flickering, so keep a sturdy screen, preferably of glass, in front of the fireplace. Ensure it is secure and there is no way a cat can open it or get around it.

Candles

Candles and potpourri warmers also present a hazard, so keep them out of your cat's reach. Take special care not to leave lighted candles on your dinner table unattended. Food is a special temptation and an even the wisest kitty can singe a tail in passing near an open candle flame

Cords

Holiday light cords pose a special threat to cats who love to chew.

  1. always unplug the electrical cord when not in use
  2. bundle cords together
  3. run the cords through PVC piping or the special corrugated flexible piping available from furnishing and hardware stores
  4. as an alternative, coat the cords with stick deodorant. Cats find the taste disgusting. :-)
  5. duct tape the cords to the floor or baseboards

Presents & Wrapping

Many cats just love a nice chew on wrapping paper and ribbons. While a soggy corner on a present is of no great problem, some wrapping paper may contain toxins that are harmful to cats. Kitties have been known to start chewing on a long ribbon and just continue to swallow it down like a tasty bit of spaghetti. The ribbon can ball up and block in the intestines or tangle around the tongue. Avoid emergency surgery by exercising some precaution.

  1. Keep presents away from your kitty
  2. no ribbons, especially long curly ones
  3. take care to dispose of all wrapping immediately after its opened

Food

As Oliver Twist would say, "Food, Glorious Food!". But holiday foods can pose a special threat to the well-being of your cat.

  • fatty and spicy snacks can lead to an upset stomach
  • Small bones or chips from fish or fowl can lodge in or pierce the throat, stomach or intestinal tract
  • fried dishes, gravies, and poultry skin also can cause severe gastrointestinal upset
  • Cakes, cookies and candies can upset the gastrointestinal tract, leading to diarrhea and vomiting
  • Chocolate contains a powerful stimulant that can cause nausea, diarrhea, even death.

With so many holiday treats that can pose a problem for your cat, there are really just three rules to follow;

  1. NEVER feed you cat ANYTHING other than his regular food or a specific treat made for your pet
  2. Never leave food uncovered on tables or countertops if unattended
  3. Keep garbage can lids tightly closed at all times

Cigarettes

The nicotine in cigarettes can be poisonous to your cat. Even if you don't smoke, you may have guests who do so be sure to dispose of all ashes and butts quickly.

Visitors & Guests

Perhaps the most wonderful part of the holidays is the opportunity to invite friends and family into your home to celebrate the season. Because some of your guests may be unfamiliar with cat behavior, you will need to take some extra precautions.

  1. double check your cat's whereabouts when opening outside doors to guests
  2. Remind your guests to watch for pets under foot. Even the nicest cat doesn't like being stepped on.
  3. Remind guests not to grab or chase your cat... no matter how much they may love to hold him. Wait for the cat to CHOOSE to say hi.
  4. Children may be intimidating to your kitty, so supervise their "visit" with your pet.
  5. The best idea is to simply lock your kitty away in a quiet room during party times.

With just a little knowledge and touch of foresight,
both you and four-footed furry friends can have a safe and happy holiday.


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