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Keeping your cat safe at Christmas

Christmas can be a hazardous and stressful time for our feline-friends. Read our top tips on how to keep your cat safe and happy during the festive season.
Added on: 16 Dec, 2016 Posted by: Sandra James 7 min read (1169 words)

In this guide:

Christmas tree tips

For many cats and kittens, Christmas trees are an exciting new toy that requires investigation. You will need to make the tree as unattractive as possible to deter your cat from it! Wrapping aluminium foil around the base can act as a deterrent, and citrus and menthol scents can also put cats off.  Decorations that are not so shiny will also be less attractive.

  • Position the tree somewhere that your cat cannot easily try to climb.
  • The pine needles of real Christmas trees can cause injury to your cat if stepped on or, if ingested, can damage your cat's intestines. If you are concerned about this and want to have a real Christmas tree, you could consider purchasing one of the non-drop varieties.
  • Your cat could also become ill by drinking the water used to keep real trees alive.
  • Artificial snow can be toxic to cats if ingested and should be avoided. Cats can be attracted to it because it tastes very sweet. However, once swallowed it can cause severe kidney damage and can even be fatal.
  • Invest in a good quality, heavy base which will prevent your Christmas tree from toppling over, or place weights to secure it at the bottom. 
  • Tinsel and other hanging decorations can look just like cat toys but can be very dangerous for your cat. It can cause intestinal damage if ingested, which will require emergency surgery and may even be fatal. Make sure tinsel and other tree decorations are placed high enough so that your cat cannot reach them.
  • Secure your decorations to the tree as tightly as possible so that your curious kitty does not easily knock them off.
  • Snow globes can be extremely toxic to cats as they can contain ethylene glycol, commonly known as antifreeze, which is highly toxic to pets. If the ornament breaks and the liquid spills out, there's a real risk your cat could lick it up or swallow it while grooming if it's on their fur. Be sure to check what chemicals your snow globe contains and keep it well out of the reach of any curious cats.
  • Tree lights should only be placed on the higher branches of the tree so that your cat cannot get tangled up in them or receive an electric shock. If you use electric lights, be sure to cover any exposed wires leading to the tree with plastic or cardboard tubes. Switch lights off at the mains when you're not around to supervise your cat. Battery-powered LED lights are also a good option instead.
  • Do not place any presents for your cat containing catnip under the tree – it will only entice them in! Consider setting up a play area for your cat with some new, interesting items close to the tree to keep their attention elsewhere.

Decorating tips

  • Holly, Poinsettia, and Mistletoe can be toxic to cats causing an intestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhoea if eaten.
  • Lilies are far more dangerous and very toxic to cats, even fatal. Even small quantities of lily leaf or pollen can be dangerous.
  • Dieffenbachia (dumb cane or leopard lily) causes irritation of the mouth and can be toxic, as can all plants of the Lilium and Hemerocallis family (such as Easter Lily, Tiger Lily or Oriental Lilies).
  • Keep candles away from areas that your cat could access.

Contact the vet immediately if your cat has eaten any poisonous plants.

Christmas food tips

  • Don't give your cat any leftovers from the Christmas dinner. Cats have sensitive digestive systems that can't cope with rich or fatty foods high in salt. These could cause gastrointestinal problems in your cat. Feeding your cat a few pieces of cooked meat such as turkey or chicken is fine but ensure there are no bones present. These can splinter and also cause intestinal damage.
  • Another danger to cats is meat string – any string is a real risk to cats due to the blockages it can cause in the intestine, but string laced with tasty meat juices provides even more of a lure to hungry felines!
  • Avoid edible tree decorations.  Many of these, in particular, chocolate, can be very toxic for cats, especially the dark variety.

Christmas ingredients poisonous to cats

The ingredients of some human foods are toxic to cats. Avoid feeding any of the following foods, even in small quantities:

  • Onions and garlic can sometimes be poisonous, whether cooked or raw - so don't let your cat lick up gravy.
  • Raisins.
  • Grapes.
  • Chocolate.
  • Alcohol can be dangerous in small quantities, so wipe up any spillages quickly.

Human medicines dangerous to cats

  • Lock away your medicines – paracetamol is highly toxic to cats.
  • Keep pills in a secure drawer or cupboard, and never leave any open packets lying around.

Contact the vet immediately if you think your cat has eaten something dangerous.

Stress and anxiety for cats at Christmas

With so many visitors, changes and new smells, Christmas can be extremely stressful for cats, particularly the nervous ones.  

Try to avoid:

  • Excessive cleaning and moving furniture about. This can disrupt your cat's important marks of scent around the home, leading to anxiety.
  • Other animals coming into the home.

Help alleviate your cat's stress at Christmas by providing:

  • A quiet area (with a litter tray) for them to retreat to when it all gets too much.
  • A constant supply of fresh drinking water.
  • Sprays or diffusers which release comforting pheromones may also help, such as Feliway.
  • Familiar items such as blankets or toys if they're staying away from home.

If there are any new animals in the home, ensure they're kept in separate rooms. If you're leaving your cat with a cat sitter or a cattery over the festive period, be sure to provide them with up to date emergency and veterinary contact details.

Be sure you're also aware of household hazards for cats.

Sandra James

Sandra James

Owner & Founder

The Cat Butler was set up by Sandra James in recognition of the fact that a stay in a cattery can be unsettling for many cats and also their owners.

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