The holidays are an exciting and busy time for everyone including your cat. Your cat may enjoy the smell of the roasting turkey and be overjoyed at the new climbing post, the Christmas tree. But the holidays can also make your cat nervous or skittish with strangers and sudden changes to their environment. You need to remember to be observant of your cat’s behavior and dangers associated with the holidays. The following are holiday hazards for your cat to avoid during this festive season.
- Christmas Trees
Cats love to climb and jump so the Christmas tree may look like the best climbing tree to your cat. Climbing the tree is not a good idea for a number of reasons. The main reason being that it could fall over causing your cat to injure itself from the fall or from broken ornaments. Cats also may be tempted to chew on the needles which are not digestible, irritating to the mouth and can be slightly toxic. Be cautious to not allow your cat to drink the tree water. The water can have preservatives, pesticide, fertilizer and other agents such as aspirin that help keep the tree fresh thru the holiday season.
Artificial trees can also be a problem with age. They become brittle and small pieces of plastic or aluminum may break off and be ingested by your cat leading to irritation or possible intestinal blockage.
Solution: The following options may work for you but most cats will be able to jump, wiggle and get around any barrier placed between them and the tree. Install a baby gate in the doorway to prevent entry for your cat into the room with the tree. Another option is a low-lattice fencing around the tree and securing it so your cat can’t knock it over. Trees positioned near a wall can be given added stability by using hooks and rope. When not at home to supervise place your cat in a separate room away from the tree to keep him out of trouble. To discourage your cat from drinking from the tree stand use a covered tree stand.
- Holiday Plants (ranked from most to least toxic)
Lilies, Amaryllis, and other plants in the lily family – All parts of these plants are toxic, including the pollen. Ingesting the plant has been linked to kidney failure, cardiac issues, and gastrointestinal signs and death.
Mistletoe – Is very toxic to animals. Ingestion may cause vomiting, severe diarrhea, difficulty breathing, shock and death within hours of ingestion.
Holly – The berries and leaves of many species of holly may also be poisonous. Signs of exposure are generally mild, and include vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea.
Poinsettias – Are not very toxic to pets but do contain a milky sap that can irritate their mouths. Signs of ingestion are usually mild.
Check out the full list of poisonous plants.
Solution: It is safest to not have poisonous plants in the house with your pets. If you decide to have holiday plants as decorations keep them out of reach of your cat and be observant for any evidence of damage to the plants.
- Electric lights and wires
Electrical wires are temptations for cats to chew on which can lead to electrocution, serious burns, unconsciousness, and death.
Solution: Conceal all wires with pet-proof covers or firmly tape cords to the wall or floor with electrical tape. If your pet has a habit of chewing on items, not placing lights on the bottom of your tree is a good idea.
Cats are great jumpers and are able to find candles, no matter how far from the edge of the counter you place them. Candles can lead to burns or can be knocked over creating a fire hazard. Make sure your carbon monoxide and fire detectors are working whenever using candles.
Solution: It is safest to not have candles in the house with cats that tend to knock objects off of surfaces or who are overly curious of items. If you decide to have candles as decorations keep them as far out of reach of your cat and be observant of your cat showing any interest in bothering with the candle. You can also find flameless candles at most retail stores.
Cats are curious and enjoy playing with new objects, especially anything hanging like ornaments and tinsel. Ingested broken ornaments can lead to lacerations or cuts. Inexpensive ornaments may contain heavy metals or other dangerous material that if chewed on can be toxic. Any ornamentation ingested, including tinsel and hooks, can lead to intestinal blockage.
Solution: Same as for #1
Be aware when giving gifts of food that your cat may be tempted to get to the yummy treat under the tree by chewing thru the wrapping and packaging. This can lead to gastrointestinal issues and ingestion of foreign material. Gifts can also cause problems after every thing has been unwrapped. Wrapping, ribbons, small toys and toy pieces may be ingested after everything has been unwrapped.
Solution: When giving gifts of food it is best to keep the wrapped present in a spot away from where your cat may decide to investigate farther. Be prompt at picking up used wrapping paper and ribbons after opening gifts and keep a close eye on your cat around new toys.
During the holiday season it is important to remember your pet’s safety. If an accident does happen, be prepared with contact information for your veterinarian. If poisoning is suspected seek medical attention immediately and contact The Animal Poison Control Center so your veterinarian can be prepared to treat your pet with the best medical care. With some care, you can help minimize the dangers during the holidays and make the holiday season safe and enjoyable for your cat.
Meghan Burnell AS,