Holiday Dangers for Cats
The holidays are a time of comfort and joy that make those long winter nights bearable. They are filled with sparkling lights, delicious food, and celebration with family and friends (well, maybe not so much this year). However, all the things that we associate with the holiday season can be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for our furry family members, especially cats.
Here are some holiday dangers to watch out for when celebrating this year.
Imagine if you were a cat and once a year your owner brought home a giant tree for you to climb that was covered in hanging toys. What a treat! Unfortunately, Christmas trees present some serious dangers for felines.
First of all, cats are always tempted to climb trees, which can potentially cause a tree to fall over, harming the cat or causing damage to the living space. If your kitty is drawn to tree climbing, make sure you secure your tree to the wall to prevent it from toppling over during their adventures.
Another source of danger is dangling Christmas ornaments, which look like toys for your cat to bat around. Chewing on or ingesting ornaments can cause injury or gastrointestinal obstruction. Even if your cat doesn’t ingest anything, broken ornaments can be sharp and lead to serious injury. If you have a cat who likes to play with ornaments, keep a one to two foot section of your tree ornament-free at the bottom. This will stop them from accessing potentially harmful decorations.
Tree water can also be dangerous, since it may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach pain if ingested. Since tree water often sits and grows stagnant, it can also become a breeding ground for bacteria, which can make your cat very sick.
If your cat insists on climbing the tree, drinking its water, and wreaking havoc on your ornaments, it may be necessary to limit their access to the tree by placing it in a room that has a closable door, or keeping your cat in another room of the house when you’re not able to supervise.
Tinsel on a tree can evoke images of a beautiful, icy woodland for us, but for your cat, it is a shimmering, hanging toy that is just asking to be played with. This alluring type of decorative string can get tangled around paws, cut off circulation, and cause pain. If it is wound tightly, it may even cut into your cat’s skin. Tinsel is also easy for your cat to carry around in their mouth, which may result in accidental swallowing, gastrointestinal obstruction, and surgical removal. It is better to avoid tinsel all together, but if you feel you must have it on your tree, make sure your cat doesn’t have access to it.
Gift giving (and getting) is one of the best things about the holiday season, but gift wrap can be a serious danger for cats. Like tinsel, ribbon is a fun “toy” that can cause injury and require surgery if ingested. Gift bags can also be dangerous. They may be a fun hiding place for your cat, but pets can get their heads or extremities caught in the handles, resulting in anxiety or injury. Keep your gift wrapping materials in a safe spot away from your pets.
Flickering candles can seem like a fantastic toy to a cat. They may try to bat at the flame, eventually burning themselves or knocking over the candle, which could result in a fire. A curious cat may try to sniff the flame to see what it is, singeing off some of their whiskers in the process. Never leave a lit candle around an unattended cat, for their safety and your own.
We all love decorative seasonal plants, especially their ability to make a home warm and festive. Unfortunately, many of these plants can be toxic for our furry friends.
- Poinsettias have a reputation as “poisonous” for cats, but they aren’t usually lethal. The plant has a sap that can cause irritation of the mucosa and GI issues.
- Holly and Mistletoe can also cause GI trouble and irritation of the mouth when ingested in small amounts. If a cat eats a large amount of these plants, it could potentially cause cardiovascular or neurological issues.
- Amaryllis is a plant with beautiful blooms that is very popular around the winter holidays. Eating the leaves and petals most often causes nausea, hypersalivation, excessive drooling, and vomiting. However, the bulb part of the amaryllis can be extremely toxic and ingestion can lead to tremors, seizures, and weakness.
- Lilies are also popular in flower arrangements during the holiday season, but these can be life threatening if ingested by your cat. Early signs of lily ingestion may include vomiting and nausea, or there may be no signs at all that your cat isn’t feeling well. However, eating lilies can lead to kidney failure and possibly death. If you suspect that your cat has eaten a lily, have them seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Electrical cords are another string toy to your cat. To make these even more appealing, they may have beautiful glowing, or even moving, lights on them! Cats can chew on these cords, potentially causing electrocution. Even if your cat doesn’t hurt themselves, they may damage the cord, leading to an electrical fire. Hang lights where your cat cannot access them and hide or secure any dangling wires.
The holidays are filled with scrumptious food and it can be tempting to share with our furry friends. Most cats aren’t really interested in foods that we normally think of as toxic, like chocolate or garlic, but they are definitely interested in holiday turkey or roast beef. Fatty foods like these can cause vomiting or diarrhea, and foods that are high in sodium can also make your cat extremely sick. It may be tempting to feed your cat some whipped cream from your holiday pie, but many cats are sensitive to lactose (the sugar in milk), and dairy can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
If you do choose to share a small amount of holiday food with your cat, make sure the ingredients used are cat safe.
Visiting friends and family are the best part of the holiday season. This year, we may not be inviting people into our homes as much as in previous years, but if you are still having guests over the holidays, it is important to keep in mind that this can cause stress for your cat. Cats aren’t used to people invading their space and all the noise and excitement of the season can sometimes be too much for them. To keep cats calm and safe, make sure you have a separate and quiet space they can retreat to when the celebrations become overwhelming. Keep this room closed off to visitors and make sure your cat has their favorite toys, a cozy sleeping spot, food, water, and a litter box available.
Also, be sure that doors are not left open when guests enter or exit your home. A terrified cat may bolt out the door when no one is looking.
Most importantly, make some time for your cat during all of the holiday craziness. Snuggles and love can go a long way toward reminding them that they are safe.
If you are the one visiting for the holidays, consider leaving your cat at home if possible. Cats who aren’t accustomed to travel can be anxious when put into a carrier. Find a pet sitter or boarding facility for your cat and do your research long before you leave. Make sure you have someone you trust, so that both you and your cat will feel comfortable.
If you have to take your cat with you, make sure they have a safe and comfortable carrier that is the right size. Take them for a test drive in the carrier to see how it works. This is very important for pets that don’t travel much. If your cat has never been in a car before or only goes for short trips to the veterinarian, you will want to know if they get car sick or suffer from anxiety on a longer ride. Doing this in advance will give you time to contact your veterinarian and get advice if needed. Your pet may require medication to help with car sickness or need to skip breakfast on the day of travel. Either way, your vet will be able to help.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks
Nothing says “Happy New Year!” like the festive burst of fireworks. For cats, these noisy explosions can be terrifying. If you have a cat that is nervous, be sure to give them a quiet spot to hide before the clock strikes midnight.
Nothing ruins the holidays like a trip to the veterinary emergency room. With awareness and a little planning, the holiday season can be safe and fun for you and your cat.