The Cat Doctor: Cat-Proofing Your Holidays

We are pleased to share this guest post from The Cat Doctor.

We love our cats and we love the holiday season, but sometimes the two do not mix well. Philadelphia’s feline veterinary practice, The Cat Doctor gives tips on celebrating a safe and cat friendly happy holiday season.

Subway Kitty is VERY interested in her new tree

Cat-Proofing Your Holidays


The holiday season is a time most people associate with gifts, savory foods, decorations, boxes wrapped with ribbons, the smell of pine trees and baked goods, and gatherings of friends and family. What people don’t often consider are the dangers holiday decorations and gatherings can pose to their feline family members.

The Cat-Proof Christmas Tree

Ahh, the smell of a fresh-cut tree, the glimmering lights and decorations… to your cat, this is a jungle gym with all kinds of neat toys hanging from it! The number one rule of Christmas tree decorating with cats is NO TINSEL! It’s shiny and eye-catching, so cats are often drawn to it, but tinsel can cause serious problems for kitties. Cats who ingest tinsel face the risk of intestinal obstruction or stricture, which is life-threatening. The same goes for tinsel garlands. Ornaments small enough for cats to fit in their mouths should be avoided as well. We recommend avoiding ornaments that hang on thread, and instead opt for wire (again, to avoid ingestion.) Clamp the end shut as tightly as you can to keep the ornament firmly on the tree (and out of kitty’s paws or mouth.)

Cats are very attracted to tinsel and garlands, but these can be very dangerous!

When setting up a tree, make sure it is securely in the base so it doesn’t tip, and anchor it to the ceiling with wire as well for added sturdiness. If your ceiling is high enough, place the tree on a table–cats will be less likely to climb the tree if the bottom is off the ground. Make sure your cats can’t get to the water in the tree base; additives to keep the tree fresh can be toxic to pets, and even plain water will eventually grow bacteria that can make your kitty feel ill. Make sure all electrical cords are secured well and not dangling where your cat might be tempted to play with them.

Cats are very curious about flames. Make sure your kitty isn’t able to access any burning candles.

Take care lighting a menorah or any candles around a cat. If you are unable to watch your pet while the candles are lit, either keep the flames enclosed behind a barrier of glass or out of reach of your pet. Not only could your cat injure herself attempting to investigate the flames, but she could start a fire if she knocks a candle over. If you can’t keep your cat away from the candles, consider electric lights instead.

Toxic Holiday Plants

When most people think of toxic plants and the holiday season, they immediately think of poinsettia plants. Poinsettias are mildly toxic to cats, causing stomach upset and vomiting, but mistletoe, all types of lilies, daffodils, and holly plants are much more dangerous. It is best to avoid these plants altogether for the safety of your cat. Pine needles are also mildly toxic, though most cats leave them be; if you have a cat who likes to ingest plant material, it might be best to go with a synthetic tree if you celebrate Christmas.

Holiday Gatherings

Holiday gatherings can be loads of fun, but there are things cat owners need to watch out for! Many traditional holiday meals involve poultry, the bones of which are a choking and obstruction hazard for cats. Alcohol and chocolate are also often present at these meals, and are both toxic to our pets. Make sure your adventurous kitty doesn’t scavenge unattended plates!

Diamond helping us get into the holiday spirit!

If your cat is shy, you might want to give her a quiet place in the house that isn’t being used by visitors so she can feel secure. Feliway, a synthetic feline pheromone that can help reduce anxiety, is helpful during these times as well. Make sure your cat has access to food, water, and a litter pan without having to navigate through a crowd.  Even if your kitty is generally more adventurous, she might benefit from a quiet place to avoid noisy, crowded situations.

These are some basic things you can do to keep your kitty safe during the holidays. Have a happy and safe holiday season!

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Cat-Proofing Your Holidays was originally published November 30, 2011, at The Cat Doctor site. Reprinted with permission.

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