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How to cope with a cat during the festive season.

Important things to remember for cats at Christmas

  • Keep an eye on your Christmas tree. Christmas trees for cat owners can be a nightmare – especially if your cat likes to climb!
  • Festive plants like poinsettia and berries found in holly and mistletoe are poisonous to cats, so keep them out of reach
  • Tinsel and other decorations can be dangerous if they are swallowed
  • Festive foods are often poisonous for cats – from chocolate and raisins to onions and garlic
  • Cats can feel stressed and anxious at Christmas time. Make sure you give them space and a safe place to hide.
  • Watch our video to find out more about keeping your cat safe during the festive period

Wondering how to keep your cat safe at Christmas? With unfamiliar hazards in the form of decorations and food, it's important to be aware of the dangers and to prepare accordingly. Watch our festive video on decorating your home to make it safe for the cats in your care.

Christmas trees and decorations hazardous to cats

If you’re a cat owner, it won’t surprise you to find that cats love Christmas trees. Some cats are keen climbers, and a lit-up tree presents a challenge they won’t be able to resist. Others are attracted by sparkly decorations. 

If you’ve purchased a real Christmas tree and your cat tends to nibble or lick, you’ll need to be mindful of your cat ingesting any parts of it. Some oils produced by these trees can be toxic, making your cat very unwell. Fertilisers and plant food can also be harmful to cats. You’ll also need to make sure you pick up any fallen needles to save them injuring delicate cat paws.

Decorations also present hazards for cats at Christmas. Hanging baubles can look like fun toys for felines, and glass baubles in particular can shatter easily. Tinsel can cause serious illness if ingested due to the blockages they can cause. It some cases, this can even be fatal. 

Christmas lights can also be dangerous to cats and should be used safely. Cover any wires leading to the tree by using plastic or cardboard tubes, and also switch your Christmas lights off at the mains when you’re not home.

How to make your Christmas tree cat-safe

Our guide on Christmas trees for cat owners ensures your cat is kept safe, and your tree stays intact

  • Make sure your Christmas tree has a sturdy base, or secure it with weights to stop it from toppling over
  • Display any hanging decorations closer to the top of the tree, out of the way of mischievous paws
  • Avoid using glass baubles, or any decorations that may break easily
  • Always switch your Christmas lights off at the mains when you’re not around
  • Be careful with tinsel – if your cat eats it, it can cause serious harm
  • Don’t place any presents for your cat under the tree, especially if they contain catnip – it will just entice them further
  • If your cat is particularly playful, make sure you supervise them when they’re near the tree

Poisonous plants at Christmas

There are a number of festive plants around this time of year – from beautiful poinsettias to lilies and flowers adorned with berries. You might be tempted to display them in your home or to give them as a gift. What you might not be aware of is that many of these plants can be toxic to cats, causing illness and in some cases, even death.

Which Christmas plants are poisonous to cats?

  • Lilies (even small amounts of pollen) are very dangerous to cats – whether they are brushed against, licked or drink the water the flowers are kept in. All lilies are poisonous including easter lily, tiger lily or Oriental lilies
  • Poinsettia plants can cause stomach irritation
  • Berries from mistletoe and holly can cause poisoning if ingested
  • Amaryllis plants can be toxic to cats
  • Dumb cane or leopard lily (Deiffenbachia) can cause mouth irritation
  • Contact your vet urgently if you know or suspect your cat has eaten any poisonous plants

See more: Dangerous plants

Festive food poisonous to cats

While you might be tempted to provide your feline friend with delicious treats during the festive season, keeping them away from human food is a big part of keeping your cat safe at Christmas.

Onion and garlic can be poisonous, whether they are cooked or raw, so keep your cat away from kitchen counters. Raisins and grapes are also toxic to cats, even in small quantities. With chocolates and sweets doing the rounds at Christmas time, cats can be keen to try them too. It is important to remember that chocolate is poisonous to cats, even in tiny amounts, and should never be fed to cats. 

See more: Feeding your cat

What should I do if I think my cat has been poisoned?

If you are worried that your cat might have eaten something toxic, contact the vet immediately. If you’ve registered with your local veterinary practice, you’ll be able to visit them during the Christmas period – all practices must have an emergency service available.

If you know what it is that has poisoned your cat, take the packaging or item in question to show to your vet. 

If your cat is having a fit, keep them in a dark, quiet room without any furniture or objects close to them so they can stay safe and call your vet immediately.

See more: Poisoning

Should you dress your cat in a costume for Christmas?

It’s tempting to involve your cat in the festivities by buying a fun outfit or fancy dress costume – after all, there are numerous images on the internet of cute cats dressed up in Santa suits or as elves. While it might be fun for an owner, however, it can make your cat feel very stressed.

Cats Protection strongly advises against dressing cats up in any form of clothing or accessories – whether that means putting them in a fancy dress outfit, santa hat or antlers. Costumes like this can restrict your cat’s movement, making them less able to express their normal cat behaviour, such as grooming or stretching.

On top of this, the risk of an outfit being caught or snagged can result in injury to your cat. Tinsel, ribbon or gift ribbon are all potential hazards and should all be avoided. They are all easily ingestible and can cause great harm if swallowed or if they become caught around your cat's neck or limbs. 

Putting your cat in an outfit may also have an impact on their behaviour too, leaving them feeling threatened or unsettled. Your cat may become distressed while having an outfit put on (they might have wide pupils, flatter ears or freeze), and this could result in a reluctance to be held or stroked in the future. Instead, enjoy the festivities without dressing your cat up and you’ll have a much more content kitty.

Stress and anxiety for cats at Christmas

Christmas can be a stressful time for cats, especially those who are particularly nervous. A strange atmosphere with lots of unfamiliar people coming and going, and a house filled with unusual smells and sounds can be unsettling for many. Others may become disorientated by moving furniture and excessive cleaning that happens around Christmas time.

If you’re worried about your cat getting stressed over the festive period, there are some ways you can make them feel safe.

  • provide a hiding place somewhere quiet so they escape the chaos
  • offer an additional litter tray away from busy areas
  • use a pheromone diffuser to help calm them
  • a special, quiet room where they can be left undisturbed

See more: Stress in cats

Leaving your cat over the Christmas period

If you’re heading off on holiday or visiting relatives and friends over the Christmas period, you might be concerned about what to do with your cat while you’re away. There are two options – either booking them into a cattery, or having a cat-sitter look after them.

Getting a cat sitter

For most cats at Christmas, the best solution is to get a cat sitter. Cats are used to their own environment and keeping your cat at home will ensure they feel less stressed. You could choose a friend, neighbour or family member who can visit at least twice a day, making sure your cat is safe and well-fed. Alternatively, you could book a professional pet sitting service to look after them.

Before you leave, make sure you leave your emergency contact details, as well as the details of your vet, enough cat litter, food and medication for the time you’re away.

Download our cat-sitter checklist for everything your sitter needs to know about your cat – from their dietary requirements to their medical needs.

Download the cat-sitter checklist

Booking your cat into a cattery

If your cat isn’t able to stay at home, you might want to consider booking them into a cattery. You’ll need to begin looking for a cattery in plenty of time, especially around the Christmas period. Most catteries need prior booking and you will need to leave time to find a cattery to suit both your cat and you. Remember: keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date.

Before you book into a cattery, make sure you visit to see what the environment is like. Here are some things to check when you’re there:

  • Is the cattery licensed with their local authority? Ask to see the licence

  • Is there any way your cat could escape the cattery? Having double doors or a safety corridor prevents cats from disappearing

  • Is your cat kept separately from other cats in their own pen?

  • Do the cat pens have heating and are they easy to clean?

  • Is there space between each pen, so cats can’t see one another?

  • Are food and water bowls and litter trays clean and tidy?

  • Is the cattery comfortable with administering any ongoing medication your cat needs?

Have a chat with the cattery about taking familiar food, cat litter and a comforting item that smells of home with your cat – it can help them settle into their environment.

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